There are busy days. The kind where waking up at 5a still feels not early enough. The kind that sees you leave the house before your spouse awakes and has you coming home after they are long asleep. These days happen. I try to keep days like this to a minimum. But coming up very shortly is a brutal busy day. I see it there on the calendar and I know it’s gonna cost a lot to live it well.
I was telling a friend about this unbelievably busy day as a way to get a laugh. His response wasn’t what I was expecting. There was no witty jab. There was no head nod of understanding. Instead, there was a question.
“What do you say no to?”
It hung out there in the air with no attempt to bring it back. No funny quip afterward to lessen the sting. The slap and then the stare.
What do I say no to?
The question that is a dozen questions. Am I a people pleaser? Am I saying yes to things that I shouldn’t be saying yes to? Am I saying yes to too many people? Are there any boundaries in my life to help me say yes less? Do I say yes out of guilt? Do I say yes for fear of not being liked?
Then the harder questions. If I say yes to all this other stuff, what have I said no to by merely being unavailable. Saying yes to three hours on Saturday is saying no to a bike ride during those three hours. Saying yes to doing work on my day off is saying no to watching a movie with my wife after the kids go to bed. Saying yes to one thing is always saying no to another. What am I saying no to by saying yes to everything else?
The question implied much, but it asked only one thing. What am I saying no to? Upon reflection, I came to realize that there were no items in the no category. Not a one. There is nothing over there protecting me from my own soft heart.
How do I go about finding what things to say no to? I had to start backwards. What do I want to say yes to? What hobbies, habits, people, and projects do I wish to truly spend my life upon? They have to be given some kind of priority. If I know what I want to say yes to, then everything else can go into the no category. Saying no to the good in order to say yes to the better.
For example. Health is important. For me, vitally so. I have been eating poorly and being inactive for a decade now. But there has never been time for the gym. Why? Because I am saying yes to other things and no to the gym. So, I have made health a priority. Now I am up at 5:15a every morning. The gym and my health have a place of priority. It gets the yes. Which means I am saying no to breakfast meetings. I am saying no to early morning coffees. I am also saying no to late-night board game sessions so I will actually wake up when that early alarm goes off. This one yes has brought into my life so many no’s.
I have said yes to the better and no to many smaller good things.
This is true relationally, physically, spiritually, and even economically. What do I want to say no to? If I want to say yes to getting out of debt, then I must be saying no to new debt! If I am saying yes to a vacation in December, then I am saying no using my vacation days in September. If I am saying yes to dinner around the table with the family, then I am saying no to fast food, no to eating out, no to being gone during dinner time.
What are you saying no to?
What do you want to say yes to?
Are you willing to say those hard no’s to live out the great yes?