Sunday, May 24, 2015

It's OK to just say 'No'

Last time in this column we talked about saying, "I don't know" if we really don't know. 
It's also OK to say "No" when a request doesn't fit in with your priorities. 
What the heck does that mean? 
I think I'm getting a grasp. It's about organization. 
We can try to do everything. That's a common desire of youth. 
I recently heard students who were in the top 10 of their graduating class talk about their student activities. Many were in a number of clubs and on sports teams in high school. 
One said, "I think I have been in other clubs, but that's all I can remember." 
The case can be made that youth is wasted on the wrong people. That's not just a line from "It's a Wonderful Life." 
As most teens come to understand, it's a big, wonderful world out there and we want to experience as much of it as possible. 
Isn't that also behind the bucket list middle age folks talk about? People have a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket. 
One problem with trying to do it all is that it ends in frustration. You can try to ride everything at the amusement park and go home feeling like you have had a really fun day; but how awful to spend your life that way and at some point realize you've done a lot but accomplished little. 
There is a scene in Peter Benchley's novel "The Deep" when the female lead is upset because her boyfriend has a lot of T-shirts from various places around the world but hasn't really done much of lasting consequence. 
Another problem with trying to do it all is that eventually you realize you don't have enough energy to do it all. You are forced to set priorities.
One of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was $3 and told me to go downtown and buy a calendar appointment book. 
"You have too much going on and I can't keep track of it all," she said.
I was in high school and drove my folks' 1965 Dodge Coronet 440 to Andy's, "the store of a million items." 
That day I bought my first appointment book. I used one every year until I discovered Google calendar. 
I was 16 at the time and it revolutionized my life. 
If we can't be in two places at the same time and we can't do it all, we have to prioritize and that is part of personal organization. 
One man said, "If I won't let other people spend my money, why should I let them spend my time?" 
Good question. Yet, that's what we do. 
Like Ado Annie, too often we "cain't say no." Yet we must. 
How can we find the courage?
Realize that if we take on too much, we will invariably not do our best and let someone down, usually someone we care about and respect. 
Realize that we are as important as other people. I don't think I have ever offended anyone by saying no to their request. They might have been disappointed but not as disappointed as if I had made a commitment and then let them down. 
I have started to practice this, by the way. 
Not long ago I resigned from a very worthwhile organization, one which I joined 30 years ago. I paid my dues each year but I have not attended any meetings or supported the organization in any other way for probably a decade. 
So, instead of sending in my dues this year, I wrote a nice note giving my resignation.
It won't be the last time I say no, I promise you. 

And, it's rather liberating! It's good to know I am doing a better job of drilling down instead of juggling.