Monday, July 30, 2012

The Art of Saying Yes...

In the last post, I talked about the importance of learning when to say no.  In this post, I'd like to discuss the art of saying yes.

My problem is that I often times say that three-letter word too much.  Being over-enthusiastic in my agreement to do things usually leads to a mountain of work and obligation not easily scaled.  On the other spectrum, saying "no" too much can cause just as many problems.  It's all about creating a harmonious balance that works for you.

I've developed another list to help me address whether or not I should say yes or not.

Can I realistically take on this project?

What does "realistically" mean though?   Do I have enough time, money, or resources?  My biggest roadblock to agreeing to new projects these days is having a lack of time.  My cup, my plate, my pots and pans overfloweth.  It's hard to tackle everything already, which makes me less likely to take on new projects and feel good about doing it.  Time is not the only resource to consider.  I once took on a commission to make bracelets for a bridal shower.  In theory, it should have been relatively painless.  But in the sample I gave the bride, I used a (rather rare and hard-to-find) vintage component.  I only learned of the difficulty in locating the pieces after I agreed and I pulled my hair out (so to speak) trying to find more.  Had I been realistic about the amount of pieces, I might have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Do I really want to do this project?  Do I need to do it?  Will this project be good for me?

It's important to be honest with oneself and really ask if they actually want to do something or not.  Is the task unpleasant?  Is it something that can be left undone?  Guilt is a big element of why I begrudgingly oblige myself.  But it really isn't fair.  It's not fair to me, the projects that are already up in the air, or even to the project that I've taken on out of guilt.  Saying "yes" to projects that you feel good about is a step in the right direction – making things more enjoyable and easier to do.  With that being said, there are certain tasks that must be done.  Avoiding them only makes it worse.  And in these cases, it's time to take a look on the bright side and try to find the joy in the task.  It's not always easy.  Albert Camus wrote about the Myth of Sisyphus and how after he gave into the inevitability of his fate, he found a weird sense of joy in his labors.  For the things that we must do, even if we don't want to do them, it's important to find something good about them that we enjoy in some small way to make it easier.

The first time I told someone about the "Will this project be good for me?"  They instantly said, "That's self-centered."  And perhaps it is a little.  But to be able to better help others, it's important to consider oneself first and really take care of what you need.  But asking yourself if it'll be good for you, isn't necessarily bad.  If you help an elderly person cross the street, it might be good karma.  If you eat your greens, it'll give you vitamins and minerals.  It's not just about personal gain or money, but can encompass a lot of different aspects.  For instance, sometimes taking on a lackluster job might not seem like a good idea, but getting in good with an editor or creative director might open up opportunities further down the road.

Will this project hurt others?

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it's not always so obvious.  It's not always as easy as asking yourself if you'd dump radioactive explosives in a children's park or not.  There came a time when I was encouraged to endorse a safety procedure that would help eliminate toxic environments in classrooms.  This on the onset was great!  I was fully onboard and willing to do whatever I could to help.  But as it turns out, the person who was spearheading this project was what I consider to be a toxic individual.  They were overly aggressive, manipulative, and demanding... basically a bully.  They created a negative environment and would encourage others with their attitudes to be mean and say hateful things.  It was hard to see past the "get-it-done charisma" and recognize their toxicity for what it really was.  Once I was able to identify the truth, it was hard for me to vouch for something that seemed to good to be true... when in fact, it was based on alienation, personal agendas, and a megalomaniacal ego.

Can I actually do it?

This one might seem like another no-brainer.  But I think it's a harder question than it might seem.  It's hard to see oneself as only human.  I wrote about that previously and how it's healthy to accept limitations.  I think that while it's always good to strive for the stars, sometimes a dose of practicality will help focus a project and result in a better outcome.  I'm totally guilty of biting off more than I can chew and expecting superhuman results.  But had I refined my original intent, I might have saved a lot of time, frustration, and needlessly expended energy.

The underlining message to "The Art of Saying Yes" is knowing yourself better, being honest, and learning to be more discriminating in the things one says YES to.  Saying "Yes" isn't a bad thing... but it should be governed judiciously.  If not for yourself – for those that you've said it to.


kathyd said...

well said .
thank you
kathy d

Michelle Mach said...

I especially liked this line in your post: "My cup, my plate, my pots and pans overfloweth." It makes me think of an overflowing sink filled with soapy water and dirty dishes. A great visual of how life can be all mixed up in the kitchen sink and we need to sort it out for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying your posts and meditations on 'saying no & yes.' Things change for us too, in cycles- so it makes sense to ask ourselves these wonderful questions at different times in our creative evolution. thank you!!

Andrew Thornton said...

kathyd, it's my pleasure to be able to share this part of my journey with others. I am lucky to be able to talk about things like this and have people listen.

Andrew Thornton said...

Michelle, I should have taken a picture of the sink you just described to go along with the post. I had the PERFECT example until just recently. My sink very nearly overfloweth with all the dirty dishes quite literally!

Andrew Thornton said...

Tara, you've hit the nail on the head. This is just the tip of the iceberg. What I'm doing now is making way for bigger things and was highly necessary for me to be able to focus and ready the way.

Thank you for sharing in on my meditations on dealing with the mundane. Putting things in words has really helped. I feel like the process that I was trying to explain is kind of like doing lifting... can one bare the weight comfortably? Or will it strain one's back? The more you lift and the more regularly, the more one can eventually carry. It's kind of like that. "The Art of Saying Yes" might very well have been titled, "Can I Carry This?"!

Thanks for reading!

Cynthia Thornton said...

I've been saying 'no' all to often lately. Its just easier for me right now.