Lately I’ve noticed that there is somewhat of a conflicting message on whether to say yes or no to new opportunities. If you are focusing on “work life balance,” the message is to say “no” more often. If you are focusing on personal or professional growth, the message is to say “yes” more often. Here are a few thoughts on how to think through your situation and each opportunity that comes your way.

First, assess why your immediate reaction to new opportunities is usually “yes” or usually “no.” If your immediate reaction is usually “no,” is it because you’ve been saying “no” for so long that you don’t even think about it anymore? Do you say “no” because you’re afraid? lack confidence? accept your limiting beliefs as truths? (“I’m not good at speaking in front of groups.” or “I can’t take any time away from my family.”) Be careful – after you say “no” to someone a few times, they’ll stop asking because they assume your answer is always going to be “no.” Of course, there are good reasons to say “no.” The opportunity might not interest you or maybe you need to wrap up some other projects before you have time to commit.

If your immediate reaction is usually “yes,” why? Is it because you want people to like you? you don’t want to let anyone down? fear of missing out? Be careful – if you’re stretched so thin working on things you don’t really want to be doing, you won’t have time for opportunities you  really want to be involved with when they come along and you could burn out all together. Some good reasons to say “yes” include that the opportunity sounds fun or interesting or that it is a wonderful growth opportunity.

Once you have an understanding of why you are currently a “yes” or “no” person, you can be more conscious of what you’re really feeling when presented with an opportunity. Instead of giving your usual answer, pause. What is your body’s (gut or heart, however you like to think of it) first reaction? Is it excitement or dread? For example, you could be offered a chance to spend a month working in a foreign country and your very first physical reaction might be excitement. Remember that…because the next response comes from your brain. Your brain’s job is to keep you safe, so it is going to run through all the potential downsides (where will you stay? who will you know? who would watch your pets? etc.) You have to be conscious of your thoughts and counter all the downsides with the potential upsides (your company is paying for the travel, it’s a huge growth opportunity, an adventure, there are friends, family, and professional services to help you handle things while you’re away.)

Obviously each person’s circumstances are different, and some people are naturally more inclined to say “yes” while others say “no.” But the point of this post is that we should at least be conscious and deliberate in our responses. Understand why your initial response is usually an immediate “yes” or “no.” Question it. One of my favorite sayings that applies here is “nothing changes if nothing changes.” We have to question our thoughts and behaviors if we are ever going to grow and change.


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