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.
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.
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?