Years ago, I was a student assistant to a university administrator who was nicknamed “The Iron Butterfly” (not to her face, of course). She had a fabulous philosophy that I took to heart the minute I heard it at the tender age of 20:
“The answer is always yes, unless there’s a compelling reason to say no.”
This mantra provided me with many opportunities in my twenties. It encouraged me to jump in when I was unsure about the risk. So “yes” to applying for that job I never thought I could get, “yes” to taking courses way outside my comfort zone, and “yes” to skinny dipping in some Canadian lake at Midnight. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Back then, the only compelling reasons to say “No” fell under the following topics: Death, dismemberment, or possible jail time. So “no” to drugs, “no” to skydiving, and “no” to anything else illegal (except skinny dipping).
In my forties, though, it’s become apparent that saying yes to absolutely everything leaves me feeling that my life is a mile wide but an inch deep-- certainly scattered and probably not very productive!
The times they are a’changin. I am learning to focus on what fits in with my professional and personal goals, and weed out what doesn’t. I have to give myself permission to say “maybe”, or-- the harshest word in the English language-- “No”. Such a hard lesson to learn!
I guess I naively assumed that my life philosophy would last me - you know- my entire life!
And as I write the concluding sentence on this blog post, I have my other professor’s voice in my head reminding me about the word “assume.” Lesson learned.