Last month, I accepted a four year volunteer term for one of my City’s commissions, which means that I now have an evening commitment twice a month, as well as a lot of reading and studying to do before each meeting. While I’ve been working on simplifying my life and generally reducing my regular commitments, this opportunity came along and I couldn’t say no.

I’m passionate about my city and the long term goals our City Council has laid out, especially in regards to affordable housing and the environment, and so I welcomed the opportunity to play a bigger role in how things look in the future. I simply had to say yes. Yes to helping to shape the future of the city where we are raising our son.

What It Means To Say Yes

There are a million and one things I want to do with my time – cooking, gardening, running, working, adventuring, hosting, volunteering, hiking, camping, teaching – but there are only so many hours in the day. While I am good at saying no to things I really don’t want to do, it is a lot harder to say no when it is something I really do want to do. But when I do say yes to something, it fills a time slot in my precious days. When I worked as a park ranger on the weekends, I said yes to a second income, paid time out on the trails, and an opportunity to teach people about our local plants and animals and history of the parks.

The job included perks like taking family out for canoeing for free

However, saying yes to those weekends meant saying no to truck camping trips, long runs, mornings at church, and hosting dinner parties at our house. Eventually, I decided I needed to say no to something I loved – my park ranger job – in order to say yes to some things that I valued more.

While I occasionally do feel some bittersweet longing for my park ranger days of leading nature walks, I look at our full weekends and have never once regretted walking away. It was an amazing weekend job for 6.5 years, but life moves on, and our time as a family is too important to me. I’ve said no to the parks job in order to say yes to walks in the park as a family. I’ve said no to an extra paycheck in order to say yes to homemade pizza for my son’s birthday.

While there is quite a bit written on the power of saying no*, I have never had trouble saying no to things that don’t bring value to my life. For me, the rub is really when there are multiple things I’d like to say yes to, but simply not enough time to do them all. My parks job was never a negative in my life, but there came a point where it filled space that didn’t allow for other positives instead that mattered more to me.

Too Good To Say No

My new deal is that something has to be too good to say no to, not simply good enough to say yes. Any time I say yes to one opportunity, it means that I have to say no to something else down the line. I’ve said no to working my second job. I’ve said no to working full time. I’ve said no to expanding our garden. I’ve said no to training for another half marathon. I’ve continued to say no to very good things, in order to have the ability to say yes to others.

Sometimes that space in my life means saying yes to a park date with my son on a sunny spring afternoon. Sometimes it means the ability to pack up the truck and go camping for that weekend. And sometimes, it means committing to long meetings at City Hall twice a month for four years. I will continue to keep that space in my life – to continue to say no to good things – in order to be able to say yes to only the very best things.

Another quick weekend away

In all parts of my life, I’m working on keeping that standard when it comes to adding new commitments. Something might sound fun, but unless it is absolutely too good to pass up, I will say no, in order to keep space for the things that I have to say yes to. My new meetings are late in the evening, and they mean I’m up well past my bedtime, but it’s an honor to serve and something I will make room for in my life no matter what.

I can’t predict the future, but much like our pursuit of financial independence without the drive to retire early, I want options in my life. I want to choose what is very best for our family, outside of financial and time constraints. In order to have that flexibility, I have to continue to be as cognizant of our time as I am of our money.

*Mrs. Adventure Rich and Young FIRE Knight have both written some great articles recently about the power of no and the importance of offers you can’t refuse. They got me thinking about my philosophy about what I say yes to, and I highly recommend you check out both of them.

What is your approach to what you choose to say yes to? Have you ever said no to something great to make room for something even better?

73 thoughts on “The True Cost Of Saying Yes

  1. I love your perspective on this! I’ve written before about the power of saying no, but saying yes can be equally positive if you are saying yes to something you truly love and want to make time for.

  2. This is excellent, Angela! As I said on Twitter – I am going to use this line going forward and see if it makes a difference for me – “something has to be too good to say no to, not simply good enough to say yes.” I say yes way too often. The people pleaser in me struggles terrible with NO….

    1. That’s the thing about it – once you realize saying YES is actually saying NO to something else, you have more backing to turn something down if it isn’t perfect.

  3. i think you have it. there is only so much you can stuff into that 5 pound sack of time, especially if the yes’s are going to get the attention they deserve. that truck camping looks just great, by the way. it was very parallel when i had extra overtime dollars coming in. i said no to buying almost everything unless it was on something spectacular. it really was just saving up for the right opportunity.

    1. That’s true as well – you can pile up the things you say yes to, but you won’t be able to devote the fair amount of time to them if there are too many. Something I’m still working on, to be sure.

  4. Excellent post! It’s so hard to balance when to say yes and when to say no. Whenever I feel overwhelmed in life, I reevaluate the things I am saying yes to. A few years ago, I quit a job that I loved because it required full-time hours and I was unable to sacrifice that many hours per week away from my children. It was such a hard decision! But letting go of the job I enjoyed allowed me to say yes to library storytimes and picnics and lunches with my husband and chaperoning school field trips and extended visits with neices/nephews. Totally worth it!

    1. What a perfect example! I like to ask myself also which I would rather keep of a couple of different choices, which helps make it clear which matter most.

      1. This balancing act really didn’t kick in for me until we had our daughter. Now, I have to consider what’s most important on any given day: work, family, sleep, chores, exercise, hobbies, etc. It’s rare to have a day where I can fit it all in, but I strive for it to balance out over time. (This is why I’ve also said no to training for another half marathon at this point in time. It’s just not important enough right now to prioritize over all those other things!)

      2. Maybe in a few years we can train for one together 😉 I do miss my regular long runs, but I sure to appreciate my Wednesday ones at least.

  5. Really nice perspective on the flip side of saying no. How to enthusiastically say yes to only the most important things! Have you ever been in a position when you couldn’t say no to more than one thing and had to choose between them?

    I used to dance 6 days a week until a knee injury. I was down about it for some months until I decided to suck it up and use the opportunity to try other hobbies. It’s worked out well. I’m afraid of going back to dance though the same way in case I get sucked in and can’t say no… I want other things too, like blogging. Is there such a thing as fear of wanting to say yes?

    1. That makes a lot of sense. I’m someone who has a hard time letting go of something once I’ve committed to it, so it’s definitely easier to say no than getting stuck down the line when it’s just too much.

    1. Apparently this was perfect timing for this post then! 😉 It wasn’t something I knew was in my top priorities until the opportunity showed up, but I’m sure glad I kept a little space for it! Though it does mean less sleep on those days 😴

  6. Thank you for the shout out!!

    I love your positive view of it, making sure to only say yes to the things you really care and are passionate about.

    By being more selective with what you say yes to, it also can help to free up space for when those perfect opportunities do arrive!

    1. Thanks for writing your post, because it’s what got me to finally commit this to paper. And I still need to work on creating more space in my life 🙂

  7. I sometimes struggle with not being able to say yes to more things. It’s hard having to make sacrifices for things that would be personally rewarding for the good of your family at times. But I still do it because anything worth having is worth a little struggle and family is definitely worth having.

    1. The cost of having young kids, to be sure. I’m starting to see a little more space now that he’s 3, but it will get better as they get older for sure!

  8. This was great! I’m with you, I can EASILY say no to stuff I don’t want to do (haha), but there are so.many.things I want to say yes to! Hopefully the things I’m saying yes to right now will allow me to have a lot more flexibility to say yes to other important things in the future too! Congrats again!

    1. And young kids certainly make it more difficult, because our time is so much more limited. Pre kid I still had very little down time, but in a different way.

  9. I go back and forth between wanting to yes to more things and needing to say no to make some time for myself. I tend to be very introverted so forcing myself to say yes to things (especially social stuff) is often where I need the most practice. I rarely regret doing such things but I always dread it until I’m there.

    It’s for sure a fine balance of pushing yourself enough but not too much.

    1. As an extrovert, I have the opposite problem – there’s always SO MUCH I want to do, but not enough hours in the day. So I have to choose carefully.

    1. I struggle with saying yes too many times, so part of this post is to stay accountable and limiting myself to what I want most.

      1. Agreed, I just have to listen to my own advice more 😉

  10. Time is an ever elusive beast isn’t it? Good for you for being so thoughtful about how to use it. It is so easy to just let it slip by without question until it is too late to do anything about. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. (Speaking of time… ONLY 3 MORE DAYS! 😀 )

    1. That’s the goal, though I’m definitely guilty of piling on too many things into my life. You, my dear, are a YES, no matter how busy I may be though 😘

  11. I have chronic fatigue, so I definitely have to choose my yes-es very carefully. When I say yes to doing something it often means saving up my energy the day before/of. So I may have to put my life on hold to do something, which means it really has to matter (or that I really can’t get out of it). I mainly say yes to important stuff like actually socializing with people (I work at home, my husband is on disability). But even that has its limits — mainly because I have my own. Still, one of the few silver linings — much as I hate to use that term for something as so unpleasant as a chronic illness — is that I’ve learned to say no to a lot more things because they simply weren’t worth my time/energy.

    1. ❤️❤️❤️ certainly a good reason to be so mindful of it. My aunt has RA/fibromyalgia and I see her making those kinds of choices all the time.

  12. I like how you broke down how powerful saying yes is. When I was single and had no real responsibilities saying yes was a no brainier for the most part. But today with so many responsibilities and commitments, it’s very tough to say yes to stuff that will fill your time and take away the commitments I was suppose to have. Just a few weeks ago, I was offered to go to a baseball game with some co-workers after work. I would have loved to say yes but I was already looking forward to go home, have dinner with my family and put my son to bed. And plus, even if I had gone to watch the baseball game, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it very much because I would have been too worried about my son crying because I wasn’t there.

    1. A family sure throws a wrench into how many things you can say yes to! I just turned down something similar for the same reason.

  13. It sounds like a great opportunity and something that you really want, so you’ll make it work. Smart and resourceful people always find a way.

    I don’t really have a standard approach to what I say yes to. Once in a while something will come up that is too good or too tempting – as is the case with your new opportunity. in those cases I just go with my gut I guess, The gut is usually right

    1. That’s the thing though – I’m having to limit to JUST the too good or too tempting. “Good” doesn’t cut it, or I’d be overloaded.

  14. It’s pretty amazing how busy life can be. I want to say yes more, but there just isn’t enough time. Good post.

    1. Even true when you’re “retired” from a full time career. Even going from full time to 80% for me quickly got sucked up with other things.

  15. “I will continue to keep that space in my life – to continue to say no to good things – in order to be able to say yes to only the very best things.”

    A great article and a valuable lesson. This is something that Mrs. FFP and I are still working on fully adopting. We both tend to be people-pleasers by nature, but a major work-life imbalance for several years forced us to learn how to begin saying no when needed.

    Kudos on stepping out and into the responsibilities of a City Commissioner! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from serving as a township Precinct Delegate and Treasurer of our HOA, it’s that public service is a major responsibility and a severely under-appreciated one when done on a volunteer basis.

    The world would be a better place if more people were passionate about making a difference. Kudos for prioritizing the future of your community above other ways in which you could invest your time! I look forward to reading about your involvement moving forward.

    1. Thank you! I’m pretty excited about the opportunity, though it definitely isn’t a small commitment!

  16. Saying yes is a commitment especially when it’s a long term undertaking like yours. I think one has to thing about that carefully and make sure you enjoy it and will stick with it if you do say yes. Nothing wrong with saying no sometimes too :).

    1. Very true. And saying no does get easier the more often you say it 🙂

  17. “My new deal is that something has to be too good to say no to, not simply good enough to say yes.” I like this a lot. This can even be made more general. Like I wont eat these chips because they are not good enough to say yes to. I wont buy this blouse because, great as it may be, its not good enough to say yes.

    1. That’s been my philosophy on clothes for YEARS even before my buying ban. It worked quite well at stopping me from buying something just because it was a good deal.

  18. Your park ranger job sounds really nice and relaxing, but yes, family time is more important. It has been pretty painful to have to say no to so many trips with my girlfriends because of baby…. Balancing being a mom, work, family, wife, and serving your community is a lot of work! Good on you for saying yes to something that you thought very consciously about saying yes to.

    1. It does get a bit easier as the kiddo gets older, but I still find myself say no a lot, especially to evening and overnight opportunities. There will come a day that he won’t care if I’m around for bedtime, but we aren’t there yet.

  19. I can relate to THIS! Not all that long ago, Mrs. Cubert and I were invited to join our neighborhood board. Although this was just a once a month commitment, the meetings were three hours long, and after a long day of work, quite draining.
    After a year, I resigned while the Mrs. hung on to finish out her two year “term”. I continued to volunteer – where I felt I could add more value, vs. debating about the type of shade devices our park needed, or which band to hire for the summer festival.
    I suppose I could’ve said “no” at the outset, but I figured I had more Leslie Knope in me at the time than what I truly did.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been to enough of the meetings in a non member capacity to have an idea of what I’m getting myself into, but it isn’t any small endeavor. Helps that since I work 6-7 hours a day, even a 3 hour meeting doesn’t put me over the hours I used to work as a full time employee.

  20. I can certainly relate to this one. Somehow I’ve n en OK at this in my personal life (at least recently), but awful at it at work. I think that you, like me, absolutely hate to break an agreement. At work, there are sooo many agreements between people to get things done. I’ve found myself overcommitting and saying “yes” to doing too much to where I can’t get my usual work done. I’ll try to remember this post next time I’m in that situation.

    1. I hear you there. Work is especially tricky because once you’ve said yes to something, it is really hard to back out once it’s clearly too much.

  21. I really think saying yes is the secret to growth in your career, your family, your entire life. Sure you have to be reasonable but unless you are constantly stepping out of your comfort zone you are getting smaller instead of bigger. And while I hear people say “if it isn’t a whole heart yes then it is a no” I do not believe that. Nobody ever has a whole heart yes to something outside their comfort zone, that’s impossible. I have no trouble saying no to stuff that feels like, meh. But if it is scary with a hint of promise then I’m all in because every good thing I’ve ever gotten started like that. Great post, there is no easy answer to setting priorities in life especially if you are a positive person, like you, where most of what you look at seems positive. Imagine how much better your life is because your cup of opportunity is over flowing, unlike someone who does nothing and enjoys nothing.

    1. That is very true – I’d rather have the problem of saying yes to too many things (and have too many good options to choose from) than the flip side of doing nothing and enjoying nothing.

  22. This is a great post! I am struggling with something related at the moment–I am involved in a volunteer organization that I love, but it’s pulling me away from some other things and involves a lot of travel. I don’t want to bail on a commitment I made, but it’s not currently serving my needs.

    1. How long is the commitment for? If it’s short term, I’d probably stick it out. If we’re talking years, perhaps not.

  23. Lol, finally getting around to reading this. Nice post Angela! Your article reminded me of a recent book I just finished, “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. He talks about the tradeoffs of saying yes and no, just like what you went through. That Essentialists say no to just about everything, to try and focus on their craft and only say yes to those things that is aligned with what they are trying to achieve lol. How is your yes and no journey almost a year later?

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