You know those people who arrive early and leave late because they just don’t want to miss a single thing? You know, the ones who grab every opportunity that tries to get past them. The ones who hate to say no. Yeah, I’m one of those.
If I had it my way I’d be doing absolutely everything and loving every second of it. But the fact is that a) there physically isn’t time to do everything that you want to do as well as everything that you need to do, and b) no one’s that good. So eventually we need to learn how to make saying “no” a positive thing. Some people are more at ease with this than others. I personally have a fairly strong dislike for having to make a decision that means I may miss out on an opportunity, even if it’s because I’m doing something great at the time. But we all have to find a way of making peace with the things that we just can’t do.
In my opinion there are three main elements to being happy saying “no”: it involves careful thinking, honesty and courage. If you have the luxury of being in the position where you have two (or more) tempting offers to choose between, you really need to carefully think about what saying “yes” to each one would entail and what effect saying “no” to either would really have. There’s no point in painting yourself into a corner and leaving yourself stuck once the opportunity has passed. On the flip side, being stuck can sometimes leave you open for other opportunities. In that case perhaps saying “no” requires a leap of faith – faith in your decision being the right one, even if you’re not sure at the time.
It also takes courage to jump in the first place. If we’re too afraid to make that decision then the likelihood is that we’ll never have to make it – the opportunity will pass or other factors will make the decision for us, often regardless of what we actually want.
You also have to have the courage to be honest; to be honest about what you can and can’t do, what you really want or what will be best for you. In this profession you need to be really truthful with yourself (and the people offering you the opportunity) about your capabilities and your suitability for certain roles – you can quickly get caught out when exaggerating your skills and mud like that tends to stick. You also need to have a realistic view of how much you can take on before compromising the quality of your work. It doesn’t matter how many jobs or roles you have on your CV if you were too tired or distracted to do them well.
Finally, you need to be certain of what it is that you really want and whether or not the opportunity presented to you is actually going to serve that, or if it’s going to hinder it in the long run. You can always tell if someone genuinely wants a job or believes wholeheartedly in what they’re doing. You have to want something for the right reasons and if you’re honest with yourself and find that perhaps that seemingly good opportunity just doesn’t interest you, you may have to face the fact that you probably won’t put in that 100% that someone who really wants it would.
If you can confidently say that you’ve thought about these things then whatever decision you make will be the right one in the end. On the up side, having to say “no! means you’ve already said “yes” to something, and that’s always a good sign! We can all take comfort in the fact that there’s no ‘right’ way to go; every journey will take us somewhere. We won’t simply cease doing because we turned down one thing. It just means that we will be able to say “yes” to something else.