Will I Never Learn?

You would think that after 51 years on this planet, I would have learned when to say “No.” Haven’t I said “yes” and been sorry enough times? Haven’t I said “yes,” only to say “never again” once I realize what I’ve gotten myself into? So why, a couple of weeks ago, did I go against my better judgement, and agree to a huge accompanying assignment for someone I don’t know, an assignment that keeps growing by leaps and bounds, and is turning out to be nothing less than a nightmare.

I’ve been flagellating myself over this decision ever since the first rehearsal, when I could see what an exercise in frustration this job was going to be. So I was really interested Patti Digh’s most recent post over at 37 Days. It’s about developing your own set of criteria to help you make decisions, criteria that you can use when someone offers you the opportunity to run a charity event, or enter a marathon, or accompany 20 voice students during a three day competition. Criteria that you establish, based on what is most important to your life, so that you can make intelligent decisions about the way you spend your time.

What a fabulous idea, especially for someone like me, who has real difficulty saying “no.” For the past couple of years, my life has often felt completely out of whack, with too much time being spent on activities that keep me away from home, and prevent me from doing things that enrich myself personally. Yet I always seem to fall into the trap of accepting one more gig, or joining one more committee, or taking on one more big project at work. Wouldn’t it be great to have a written set of criteria that any new project must meet? And wouldn’t it be great it I committed myself to abiding by those criteria when deciding whether or not to accept a project?

Without too much thought, here are some of the questions I’m going to ask myself the next time someone calls me on the telephone with a proposal. Patti advises writing them down on a piece of paper which you carry in your wallet. That way, you’re never tempted to say “yes” without first considering what’s most important to you.

  • My number one criteria would definitely be timehow much time is this project going to consume? time that I could be with my family or doing something healthy for myself…
  • Do I care about the people involved, and do they care about me? Will this project help me enhance and strengthen existing relationships or provide an opportunity to create new ones?
  • Can I learn and grow in a positive way? Will this project help me enhance my abilities in any of my fields, or help me learn a new skill?
  • Is this going to be fun? Is this project going to help me enjoy life while I’m participating in it? Will I get a positive feeling from participating?
  • Will this help someone else? Can I impart some lesson, or provide some worthwhile service to someone?
  • Is there a monetary reward, and is it commensurate with the time and effort involved? Will it help me provide for some aspect of my future, or make me feel satisfied with the way I’ve been compensated?

How does my current project stack up to this list?

  • It’s certainly far too time consuming
  • I didn’t know any of the people involved, and I don’t see any long term relationships emerging from it
  • I will likely feel a sense of growth and accomplishment as a muscian, since the musical aspects are quite challenging, but I’m not sure the process to this growth is a positive one
  • It is not fun (and it isn’t often that I don’t have fun playing the piano!)
  • I am helping the students, and I always feel good about that
  • The money is good, far better than the usual fees, but still not commensurate with the time and effort involved

Hopefully, from now on I’ll be able to make more informed decisions based on what’s important to my life now. The beauty of this list is that it’s your own, and it can change depending on the way life changes.

But for now, I have to go practice…sigh.


11 thoughts on “Will I Never Learn?

  1. I love Patti’s advice as well. You’ve applied it here beautifully. I believe for many of us, this is an ongoing challenge and hard lesson to learn. Much peace & love, JP

  2. I am a fan of 37 Days as well. And I hope the end is in sight for this commitment you’ve taken on.

    The thing that usually gets me hooked is when I know I am the logical choice, that other people have stepped up to the plate before me and I feel it is “my turn.” But I think deep inside we know when we are overextending ourselves and we don’t listen, and oftentimes when I’ve taken something on because “it was my turn,” I’ve ended up dropping away completely from that group or area of my life as a result, and that is sad.

    Although some see it as deceptive, I read years ago about scheduling in time for yourself on your calendar, and I’ve found this helpful. When I’m really busy and know my mind and body need to have a day or two off, I will schedule “me” time in on my calendar–maybe for half a day, maybe a whole day, maybe even an entire weekend. AND I let my husband know about this “me” time as well so he does not accept commitments for us as a couple. When I first started doing this, I felt guilty telling people I had other plans, but over the years it has proven to be a real life saver. When I see those times blocked off on my calendar, they allow me to anticipate the “me” time (seeing the light at the end of the tunnel) and it makes getting through work and life commitments more enjoyable because I know my reward is coming.

  3. It’s a good idea to have written backup when the voice in your head makes you feel guilty for saying no. I’ve gotten better at saying no, but not with the uneasy feeling I get in the aftermath. Will this current project be done soon?

  4. I’m sorry that this “yes” is such a drag on your creative, home time. These are all wonderful tips but I’d like to add one I borrowed from Oprah. ALWAYS say “can I get back to you on that?” first. I’m really bad if caught off guard 🙂


  5. Hope this project has a merciful end in sight! I have written down the criteria for myself – I need it not only because people ask me for more of my time now that I am not working – but I also tend to over volunteer myself. By the time I say yes to being asked AND offer myself up – well, all that time I was supposed to enjoy creating, being with family — poof! But I did do well for this time my daughter will be spending here – it’s just open time for her and I to do as we please.

    I wish for you a clear calendar with endless hours to create, love yourself and others and put your feet up an watch the clouds go by!

  6. It’s a shame that you had not these criteria in place before commiting to this assignment..saying NO can be liberating.I am learning to say No and put myself first.Enjoying the task at hand most important.

  7. Sigh.. I hope that this commitment brings you some joy – I know that playing with the children usually does.
    That is a wonderful list to keep with you and refer to when you’re asked to commit to something. The hardest part for me: I feel guilty saying ‘no’. It’s something I’m working on because saying yes all the time is not good at all.

  8. and the best news is that like anything else…the more you practice, the better you get at it (saying NO, that is 😉

    and i love star’s idea of scheduling time for YOU on your calendar

  9. I am late to the party, precisely because I have had difficulty saying no – and have just hosted three sets of guests in less than three weeks. I have, however, recently cut back on some writing projects that weren’t serving any real purpose, in order to concentrate on finishing my book on deadline. Thanks for the wise words and link to Patti’s advice about saying no when necessary.

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