Learning to Say No

On of the hardest skills I’ve had to learn over the past few years has been saying no. Time, energy and life itself are all finite resources. Saying yes to something almost always means that you have to say no to something else.

To quote from Michael Stanier’s the Coaching Habit:

A Yes is nothing without the No that gives it boundaries and form.

Over the past few years my yes-es have been piling up while still clinging to a bit of everything. My shelves are packed with books about teaching and linguistics. I can’t quite bring myself to admit that I’m probably never going to teach English again.

My bookmarks are mostly programming tutorials. I still haven’t given up my dream of someday switching careers in that direction.

These gnawing doubts in the back of my head make me worse at my actual job as a UX Writer. Using my background as a teacher makes me a better mentor to new writers. A bit of technical know-how comes in handy. These are the boundaries and form that I need.

Even on a more mundane level, it helps to consciously understand that saying yes is saying no. Saying yes to a conversation with someone should be a no to my phone, notifications and distractions.

It’s taken me until the cusp of middle age to learn this lesson on a deeper level. Now’s the time to figure out what I want out of life, what I’m going to say yes to, and conversely what I’m going to step away from.

You can’t have it all.