In the past, I’ve written about my struggle with learning to say “no”, and given that I like to make quick decisions (and can readily laugh about it), I’ve finally come up with a process to help me make smart decisions. It’s quite simple, which is why it works for me: I boomerang any request for 48 hours so that I can think about it before I say yes. Then I put it through an “Is it worth it?” screening – you’d be surprised how few things make it through the screening.
But I still stink at saying no, in part because I really want to believe that I can still say yes to everything that I find interesting, especially professionally interesting. I do not like the notion that just because I have three young children, a marriage that I care about, a family to run, a business to run, and university classes to teach that I can’t take on more challenges.
Inevitably something goes wrong. Usually I don’t save the best of myself for my children and husband, who definitely deserve it as much or more than my business colleagues. And when it goes wrong, I feel really, really bad about it – it is my 1 thing.
The other day, as I was feeling really bad about this, I got the biggest sense of relief I have ever felt about my inability to say no.
For years (and I mean years), I’ve beaten myself up about not being able to learn from my mistakes. As I just mentioned, I’ve created a process for how to say no and evaluate opportunities. I’ve worked with coaches and talked to other women who suffer from the same “syndrome”.
It was during one such conversation with a woman, fellow business owner and mother to two teenage boys, that I finally “got” it.
I asked her in frustration, “When am I ever going to learn? I mean, how many times do I have to get hit over the head with the proverbial frying pan before I get it?”
She asked me if I had read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Of course, I replied. And she then asked me if I remembered that in the book Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Yes, I said. So, why would it be any different for you to master the skill of finding the perfect balance between your work and your life and what you can or cannot say yes to?
And suddenly I felt relieved. It wasn’t that I had missed this lesson along the way, or that there was something wrong with me. This is a process, and it is going to take me every one of those 10,000 hours to get there!
That, my friends, is relief at last. When you feel like you can’t learn or master something, ask if you’ve put in the 10,000 hours yet – and then give yourself a break.
Frederique is passionate about helping women take their businesses to the next level of growth and success. As founder and CEO of Her Corner, she applies her entrepreneurial spirit & management consulting background and business operations expertise to give women the springboard they need to move forward.