Learn the slow “yes” and the fast “no”


A clear “no” can be more graceful than a vague or noncommittal “yes.” Greg McKeown

Think carefully before you make commitments. Don’t be impulsive. Your time, energy, and resources are being requisitioned, so respond slowly. When pressured to make a quick decision, make no your default answer. Only say yes after you’ve had the opportunity to fully analyze the situation and come to a wise decision.

If your answer is not a definite yes, then it should be no.

We all keep either a physical or mental to-do list (at least, I hope you do). That’s how work gets identified, organized, and prioritized. We also need to maintain a fictitious “not-to-do-list” which will help us avoid the trivial many. For every one item placed on your to-do list, there might be two opportunities which you should decline.

In Greg McKeown’s terrific book, Essentialism: The Essential Pursuit of Less, he wrote, “Nonessentialists say ‘yes’ automatically, without thinking, often in pursuit of the rush one gets from having pleased someone. But then comes the pang of regret. Eventually they will wake up to the unpleasant reality that something more important must now be sacrificed to accommodate this new commitment. Of course, the point is not to say no to all requests. The point is to say no to the nonessentials so we can say yes to the things that really matter.”

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

4 Replies to “Learn the slow “yes” and the fast “no””

  1. Don, thanks for this thought. Saying no can be hard though, particularly without some clear guideline or reason. Having clear personal or professional objectives and guidelines for decisions can make no decisions easier–the questions are pre-answered.

    1. Phil, as always, your comments are insightful. Having clear goals does make saying “no” easier. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  2. Don,
    I resonate with the comment about being ‘often in pursuit of the rush one gets from having pleased someone.’ My resistance to always being the pleaser is hardening in my mid-sixties, but I pray that He will show me the way.
    May He bless you and the SBC musicians this weekend.

    1. Thanks, Hugh. I, too, struggle with wanting to please people. We had a great open rehearsals today with two performances tomorrow. I miss you singing in the choir. Don

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