It seems like everywhere I go, I am encouraged to ‘say no’.
Setting boundaries for my kids, paring down my to-do list, retreating from commitments in order to reduce my stress.
But I’m just not sure it’s for me.
I think that some of my greatest distress comes from not saying ‘yes’ enough.
The guilt I feel while working at night, remembering when my kids wanted to get all their swim stuff down in the garage (for some reason) and I didn’t stop what I was doing to make it happen. Hearing about the political discussion that I didn’t attend and wishing I had been there. Missing friends I haven’t seen. Wondering if I wouldn’t have been better off pushing a little harder, to do a little more.
Because less sometimes means missing out on valuable opportunities. Sometimes what we’re saving ourselves from is perceived strain, and what we’re really denying ourselves are exciting options.
I think this is true from our nonprofit organizations, too.
I’m not denying that organizations can’t get overburdened, or that mission drift isn’t real, or that nonprofit leadership doesn’t need to be sensitive to reasonable workloads and meaningful investment in staff well-being.
But we tend to operate from a scarcity mentality, assuming that any new thing we take on has to mean giving something else up, despite evidence that, for example, expanding services to a new area can mean new donors and new volunteers, such that overall capacity is enhanced, or that adding critical services in one area can improve outcomes of another service, rendered somewhere else.
We almost always ask, when faced with choices about how to proceed, “Should we do this OR that?” when the best question may be “How can we position ourselves to do both?”
We almost always assume that every resource we possess is finite, despite knowing in our core that human potential is anything but.
And, in an effort to ensure that we aren’t taking on too much, we may end up doing too little, and denying ourselves the chance to say ‘and’.