Knowing When To Say No

Articles

Knowing When To Say No

March 15, 2012

I tried to be perfect;
I tried to do it all.
But I should have known
that I’d soon hit a wall. 

So many responsibilities,
so much to get done.
Did I really expect
to thrive in the long run?

I wanted to take classes
and teach myself guitar.
I wanted to run my own business
and be a shining star.

I continued with my lifting
and played some rugby, too.
I sacrificed sweet sleep
and always felt like poo.

Friends would ask me for a favor
and I never could say no.
“Sure, I can help,” I’d chirp…
but it’d be a bad idea, yo!

This seemed eerily similar:
putting too much on my plate.
I remember back in high school
I couldn’t handle all this weight.

I recalled having a meltdown
and then I had one more.
The pressure was too much;
everything felt like a chore.

So now I’ve come to realize
too much is, well, too much.
For the sake of my own sanity,
I ought to release my clutch.

If I want to keep on going
Then something’s got to give.
I need to lighten up my load
If I want to really live. 

Isn’t it ironic
how we want to be great at it all —
but in our attempts to do so
we kind of suck in the long haul?

Okay, so obviously I’m no poet, but I hope you can get the gist of what I’m trying to say. I know your bucket list is probably a mile long – but you can’t tackle it all at once. In a society where we as individuals are lauded for our accomplishments, it’s easy to feel the pressure to do more, achieve more, and simply be more.

Hey! How are you?
Are you afflicted, too?
With this disease known as Perfectionism
And a million things to do?

Alright, alright, I’ll stop. (For now.)

I know the prospect of being the best at absolutely everything seems exciting. You want to run a sub-4:00 marathon. You want to deadlift three times your bodyweight. You want to lean out until your skin is paper thin and the DEXA scan reads that you carry less than 10% bodyfat. You want to get straight A’s. You want to take six classes at once because, by God, they’re being taught by Nobel prize-winning professors! You want to pursue a Ph.D. and work a full-time job at the same time. You want to be the best mom out there and bake the yummiest cupcakes and raise the cutest kids.

You want. You want, you want, you want.

But you can’t. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.

This was hard for me to grasp, and I certainly didn’t want to admit it. We all know it’s virtually impossible to be objective with ourselves. (Cue: “Does this dress make me look fat?”) It’s difficult to gauge whether we’re straddling that line between too much and not enough or if we’re subtly and slowly drowning.

It’s like a switch. One moment, you feel so overwhelmed that you can’t recall the last time you weren’t anxious and panicked.  Switch. The next, you’re sitting idly at your desk with just a few minutes to breathe – and that’s when (switch) you convince yourself that you’re lazy because you should be doing something right now, for crying out loud! So maybe you take on another project to tackle, and before you know it, you’re knocking back energy drinks as you grit your teeth and try to brush off the feeling of exhaustion that’s rising up from deep down in your very bones.

It’s Okay to Quit

It’s true. I think it’s naive to believe that you should never quit anything regardless of the circumstances. There comes a point where you have to take your health into account and put yourself first for once. I know – you might say that you are putting yourself first by trying to do everything. But ask yourself this: who are you really doing it for and why? If there was no one out there to impress, no one you felt like you had to prove wrong, no one to out-compete, would you still be working yourself into the ground? I think not.

It’s okay to give up. Take into consideration what’s at stake for you. If you wake up every morning and your heart already feels heavy before your feet have even touched the floor, something’s wrong. If you find yourself incapable of relaxing for even a few minutes because you feel guilty about enjoying some downtime, something’s wrong. If your to-do list only appears to be growing longer and longer as the day goes on, something. is. wrong.

There’s no shame in admitting that you’ve done too much or that you perhaps shouldn’t have begun in the first place. Some journeys were not meant to be embarked on at this exact moment in your life; leave it for another time.

Get Out of Your Own Damn Way

I read a book for class this past weekend called What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig (pick if up if you have a chance – it’s a short but powerful read about your path to success), and I was particularly struck by one concept. The Rule of Three states that you should only take on a maximum of three goals at once. The U.S. Marine Corps and other military services have been practicing this for years. [Tweet “Being responsible for just three main things allows people to maximize their effectiveness. “]Anything more than that – even four priorities – and productivity plummets.

Understand that some priorities simply don’t go together. They may contradict one another by principle or they may both demand tremendous chunks of your time. Do I want to focus my energies on getting strong in the gym, or do I want to spend more of my time out on the rugby field? If you’re a new parent, is it realistic to expect to learn how to program at the same time? Prioritize. If you insist that all eleven of your goals are equally important, you haven’t done enough thinking and you clearly don’t understand what you’re getting yourself into.

In theory, point B (encompassing goals 1 through 11) is an awesome place to be in. Yes, you want to be there – you want to be there so badly! But the cost… ahh, the cost. You didn’t realize that you can’t just leapfrog from point A to point B, did you?

What’s most important to you? No really, what’s actually most important to you? I found myself asking this question repeatedly over the past few weeks. Things had been going extremely well with my fitness endeavors, I was about to purchase my very first guitar, I was feeling strong in the gym, I was having fun in rugby, I was keeping up with my classes… but damn, I was exhausted. All the time – and it showed. I remember telling a friend several times that I felt like my mind wouldn’t stop racing and I felt perpetually frazzled. As the hours would go by in the day, I would find myself getting increasingly stressed out, as I would be left with that much less time to do everything.

I know I wrote this article
on how to win at life,
but sometimes I can’t even see
I’m not taking my own advice.

Le’sigh.

I thought about what it was that was taking up so much of my time and if it was something I’d be willing to continue. Classes… sure. Staying on top of my business… that’s a given. Writing these articles… wouldn’t give it up for the world. Rugby… oof. Rugby.

I just didn’t know anymore. Especially in light of the fact that a new-found venture (yet to be revealed) between myself and a friend would soon demand nearly all of my attention, I knew something was going to have to go. And as much as I enjoyed rugby, I realized that it simply didn’t make it to the top of my priority list.

Yesterday I sat down with the coach to share with him the news. Yes, it was hard. There’s something about verbalizing that you’re quitting that makes what you’re doing that much more difficult to swallow. Is this really happening?

Though I’m upset that I wasn’t able to stick it out with the rugby team through the remainder of the year, I’m proud of what I made myself do. My Big Girl panties have done me good. Four years ago, my stubborn self was not willing to let go of a single responsibility I’d taken on for myself. Today, I can recognize when I’ve crossed the line and I need to reign it in. I live in a world where I’m constantly surrounded by high-achieving superstars; it’s too easy to feel like I need to stay ahead of the crowd.

But I knew I had to prioritize, and prioritize I did.

At the end, ask yourself,
“What’s really best for me?”
Is it keeping others happy
and chugging pots of coffee?

If you’re grumpy, stressed, and pissed
from sun rise ’till it’s dark,
perhaps you should reconsider
how you want to leave your mark.

I know you want to be
the one that’s so reliable,
but to be in two places at once –
is that really viable?

There’s power in saying no
when you know what’s best for you.
I urge you to have the courage
to say no sometimes, too.

…aaaaand I’m done.

13 Comments
  1. Victor 7 years ago

    Yay for quitting! I feel that the culture at Stanford reinforces us to never give up and take on a shitload of responsibilities. As a result, we sacrifice our health and well being to keep all those things afloat.

    Also…
    http://i.imgur.com/wnNYu.jpg

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      hah! that made me smile 🙂

  2. Clement 7 years ago

    I perfectly understand how you feel. It’s hard to have to pick and choose and also to admit that you’ve made a mistake. I’ve experienced almost exactly what you have. To share this with your readers is admirable and commendable. Too often, we don’t face the fact that we have to narrow our focus, that we’re not superman (or woman). I look forward to reading about the success you’ll have by choosing to direct more focus towards the goals that truly matter to you.

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      Thanks for your support, Clement!

  3. S.I. 7 years ago

    You make your point clearly and I admire your honesty as you talk about the things that impact your life. I think the key is understanding what makes you happy – and then having the discipline to go after it consistently. Realizing that you do not need to impress anyone and don’t have to prove anything to anyone is one big step toward finding inner peace…

  4. Blackout 7 years ago

    Awesome post and you make a strong point. I never believe in quitting just because the going gets tough, but if it begins to effect the things that are more important to you and your life then those things most go and you must learn to say no.

  5. Brian 7 years ago

    Indeed, all that really matters in life is one’s health, real friendship, and contentment driven by passion. Everything else pales in comparison.

  6. Daniel Kreger 7 years ago

    Excellent, Sohee. Even the poetry! 😉 I’ve had to prioritize over the last six months as my focus on shedding the fat has been threatened time and time again. Every time I’ve made the decision to keep my biggest focus at the top of the list. And it has been worth it. Saying no is a critical part of saying yes…and actually being able to carry through on “yes”. So, good job. It will be worth it.

  7. Torrello 7 years ago

    No more Rugby 🙁
    At least you get to keep your ears though 🙂

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      No kidding! My shins need a rest as well.

  8. Brian 7 years ago

    Definitely a good lesson to know and live by. At high level schools like Stanford there is definitely a prevalent mindset to do ‘everything’ – I know, I’ve been there. I remember reaching the ‘must prioritize’ point my senior year after not sleeping for 3 nights straight. I took that lesson to heart in grad school and was much happier for it.

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      Oh yeah, the pressure here is insane. The Duck syndrome (appearing calm on top of the water, but frantically paddling with your feet underwater where no one can see) is especially prevalent.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

PREVIOUS POST
«
NEXT POST
»

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending
©2019 Soheefit. All Rights ReservedPrivacy Policy & Terms of Service