The Art Of Saying No

One of the best single piece of advice I have ever gotten was this: “You can do anything but you can’t do everything.”

This was given to me by one of the mentors at Seattle Pacific University, at registration day. The context was talking about the many opportunities we were going to have as students and how to pick and choose the opportunities that made the most sense for us.

This advice has kept with me, even 13 years after receiving it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to have so many opportunities, whether it be volunteer opportunities, sports, gaming, tutoring jobs, math teaching jobs, even got offered a social media marketing position at a gaming company once.

All that being said, even though many of these opportunities were good, they may have not been the right thing at the right time. I believe wisdom is doing the right thing for the right reasons, and it’s hard to dial that in if we are always saying “yes” to every opportunity.

My tendency growing up has been to try and fill my life and time with every good opportunity that I come across. However, this often has lead to burnout, stress, and ultimately, anxiety. 

I like to say that I may have time to do all these things, but not the brain space. There’s always “time” to do things, but that doesn’t mean your brain and heart can mentally and emotionally handle all these things.

It also depends on each person and what they and their family can handle. I’m a person that when I commit to something, I put forth 150% of effort into it. I go above and beyond what is expected and try to become the best person I can be in that role.

Because of this, I can only commit to X amount of things at the same time in my life. I’m not a person who can do 10 things and only do them at 50%. I’m someone that wants to do 3 things and do them very, very well.

Now that I know this about myself, I have to say no to a lot of opportunities. Many of those opportunities I would have jumped into just a few years ago. But I’ve learned the art of saying no.

And that’s hard. It fills me with stress and anxiety sometimes that I made the wrong decision, but then I realized, where God has me right now, is where I’m supposed to be. 

I think the reason why it’s hard for me to say no sometimes is I don’t want people to think I’m lazy. That is the one thing I don’t want people to ever think about me. So I push myself so hard sometimes that I just crash and burn. Social media does not help. People might see “Oh she’s at the coffee shop again being lazy” but they don’t know that I’m forming friendships and relationships at the coffee shop. I’m creating content for the coffee shop Instagram and creating content for my own website. I might be planning for AWANA or coordinating with my 3-4 different groups I interact with each week.

So I have to forget what people might think on Instagram. That’s not my full life! I also think and plan all the time. Just this morning, I had to reign in my thoughts for the week. I like to plan nearly every hour of my week. So now, I’ve been trying to force myself to do rest days and not to plan something for every week. Like today, Saturday, we have one thing on the schedule. That gives me the ability to do a bunch of different things, whether it’s relaxing with a video game or writing a blog. 

I also am the main coordinator of my friend groups. I’m the one that sends out the reminder for board game night, coordinate climbing schedules, AWANA leaders, family events and more. I’ve always done this, even in college I was the main bridge with all the different groups we did homework and hung out with.

That’s another reason I have to say no sometimes. Because I fully invest in the friendships and relationships in any aspect I dwell in. If I’m at the climbing gym, it’s not just a workout, but it’s me being a listening ear to a friend’s health issues. It’s encouraging the kid whose trying to make the team. It’s giving feedback to the routesetters to their routes.

Same thing in any thing I do. And so I have learned for myself. To commit to those things that are really important. There’s a lot of great things one can do in their life. And each season is different too! Passions change. Opportunities change. People change. You change as you grow older. 

So I guess the lesson is: don’t be afraid to say no. Seek out wise people in your life to help you make decisions. Pray and seek God’s Word. Know your limits. And you will be much more joyful, at peace, and have the energy to do what you’re called to do.