I have a history of backing out of things. I would like to think that most of these decisions were sound and that there was a reason that I decided to not pursue whatever course of action I was on.
There was a time when I would have reflectively said it must of been fate or meant to be, because otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today. Well of course I wouldn’t…I would be somewhere else reflecting on a completely other decision that I didn’t take. You see, when there are choices to be made – you are always picking one over the other, so you could argue that you could always wonder “what-if”.
It’s all very Inception-like.
So yes…history of backing out of things…missed application deadlines, cancelled interviews, emails of introduction not sent…you name it. If there was any type of increased uncertainty factor associated with the decision, I likely chose the safe option.
Clearly this has served me well insofar as survival and employability goes, as I am still alive and have a job. However, I did reach a point in my life where I decided that I was tired of wondering how things might have gone if I had done the hard thing. And I vowed to say yes to every opportunity that came along.
Oddly enough it was much easier than I thought. I started saying yes and then figuring out how to do whatever it was I had agreed to. Fake it until you make it, they said. It was a lot easier than you would think to fake it. It still is.
And so I went on. Saying yes – getting projects, getting interviews, changing jobs, changing employers, joining groups, learning new skills, meeting new people…all because I started saying yes.
At the organization where I work there are 10 values that are widely shared and referenced, but the one that stands out (and is coincidentally relevant to this blog post) is “Think yes first”.
You would think that this value was just for me – that those words practically glowed on the posters when I read them. That music played in the background. That my life’s purpose was suddenly clear to me in a way that would make one of Oprah’s “ah-ha” moments pale in comparison.
And yet, it was the opposite. I had this really unpleasant taste in the back of my throat that made me realize that I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into whether I should say yes, but only that I needed to say yes.
In the beginning, I had to do this. I had to get beyond the inertia that was threatening to overtake me and just get moving. However, I realized that once I got going, I didn’t spend very much time thinking about whether the next offer was the best one for me or whether I had the time, energy or interest.
And an unintended consequence of saying yes first is that people expect you to say yes. In fact, the expectation was so strong that many people actually misquoted the value when pointing out “I thought you were suppose to Say yes first“.
I can assure that in those moments, I am not thinking yes first. Perhaps a few other two word combinations, but none are them are very affirmative.
So now that a few years have gone by and I am a more experienced person from all that saying yes, I am starting to shift gears again. I am no longer driven to accept every opportunity that is presented to me, I don’t have the same need to prove I can do it to others, and quite honestly, it some times boils down to I just don’t want to.
So is this a lack of motivation? Low engagement? Laziness? I don’t think so. I prefer to see it as maturity, awareness, and above all the realization that you can’t fucking do everything.
Saying no may be harder to do, but saying yes all the time is only easy in the moment, then it just becomes exhausting.
I still don’t believe that it’s fate that guides the choices that I make and I know that I will wonder about the choices that I didn’t take; however, I know that I am now in a better position to consider whether I should say yes to any future opportunities rather than assume that I have to.