We’ve all been there. The pressure to say yes to yet another thing. We don’t want to let someone down. We dread the thought of disappointing someone. And we convince ourselves that “it” won’t take that much more effort, won’t last that long, or won’t be that difficult when we know it will be all three of those things.
Saying yes feels good in the moment but is often followed by an almost immediate sense of “what did I just do?” Whatever high we were on when we said yes has now become a burden and regret. No one wins because it usually means doing more stuff with less time.
In fact, learning to say no may be the most important personal, professional, or leadership development tool one can have.
When I was younger, I never felt the freedom to say no. I had the sense that I would miss out on an important opportunity if I did. The paradox is that I probably diluted the value of some of life’s experiences because I said yes too many times. I wish I could say that I’ve learned my lesson, but I still find myself, at times, saying yes more than no. As part of the leadership team of a fast paced, rapidly growing organization, this is problematic. To maximize my effectiveness, I must be good at protecting the most important parts of my role. Otherwise, I risk becoming a bottleneck and obstacle to further growth.
I get to spend a great deal of time with church leaders. Many of whom are incredibly gifted and passionate about what they do: local church ministry. I can tell the ones who understand the power of no and the ones who are fearful that no might signal the end of their ministry at a particular church or, at the very least, fear it will limit their impact potential.
Ron is onto something. Being a pastor himself, I hope more church leaders give credibility to the idea of saying no from time to time. This is what will give you the margin that will keep you fresh, vibrant, and full of ideas and energy.
Looking at your schedule today, what can you say no to? How will you use that margin?