By Jimmy Warden
There are a lot of things that we do in our lives that we often don’t want to do. There are times where these less than ideal actions are necessary, but there are also times where we don’t have to do the things that we don’t want to do. When this is the case, we end up causing ourselves a lot of unnecessary suffering. There is always going to be some form of suffering in our lives; whether it’s making sacrifices today for a better tomorrow, going through the grieving period of a lost loved one, rebounding from a relationship that has ended, trials and tribulations at our workplace, arguments with significant others, physical injuries, depressive or anxious episodes, and many other events. With that said, it is vital for us to try not to add to this inevitable suffering and challenge by constantly doing things that we don’t want to do. Therefore, if something isn’t your jam, there’s no need to put it on your toast.
The analogy that serves as the thesis for this post is an analogy that recently came to me in a meeting that I had at work yesterday. The premise of the meeting was to figure out whether or not our school district was going to move forward with a learning management system that we’ve been using or if we were going to think of looking at a different system. There was a lot of feedback data that we were using to inform our decision about whether or not we were going to decide to continue with the system. Needless to say, it seems we are going to continue with using the system next year, with the caveat that it can be used as desired. Therefore, people that prefer using the system can use the system for posting content, grades, and communicating with students and families; and those that did not find the system user friendly can continue using their preferred methods of content posting, grading, and communication.
This meeting then made me think of things on a grander scale (big surprise, I know). It made me think specifically about those things that we do on a daily basis that we genuinely dislike doing. Why do we do these things? Often it’s because we feel it serves a purpose like helping others or even helping ourselves. You know, the things that we say yes to doing verbally and externally, even though our inner voice is telling us no. I’m sure you even thought of a time like that right now where internally you didn’t want to do it, but your voice vomited out yes. Now the true question is, is it worth it? If the suffering is indeed worth it, and you feel that the reward for gritting your teeth through something that you’re not genuinely wanting to do is worth the struggle, by all means, please continue to do it because there is also a lot of meaning that can be found amidst struggle. However, if you’re constantly finding yourself saying “why do I keep doing this to myself?” after you finish doing whatever that thing is that you keep doing, it might be time to reconsider your options.
This is where the power of the word ‘no’ can come into play. We tend to say ‘yes’ to a lot of things, even when our daemon tells us not to, because we don’t want to look like a bad person. We want to be seen as someone with high character and someone that’s willing to take on a lot of responsibility, but then again, is it genuinely worth that constant struggle? If it’s not, that’s when we need to start putting our foot down on certain offers. We owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying we should all be sitting on our couches, saying no to everything, and eating Hot Cheetos, because none of those actions would be self-care, but rather we should really try to seek some more balance in our lives. The biggest reason why we feel discombobulated is because we overbook ourselves. We say yes to everything so we can be seen as reliable and trustworthy individuals, two character traits that are of high value in our society. Unfortunately, this way of living will eventually lead to not having enough time to do the things we love to do or engage in any self-care habits. Sure, we may be seen as someone that can be relied on, but at what cost?
It seems more and more these days people are more overworked than before due to the constant answer of yes. I’m here to say that we need to start figuring out better systems of filtering out yes and no answers. A way that I have started filtering my yes and no answers to others, or even to myself, is if my internal voice or conscience immediately says no in response to a question to doing something; I just don’t do that thing. That way I can just move on from the back and forth dilemma of “should I do this or should I not do this?”. This helps remove some of the unnecessary struggle that I don’t need to be facing. On the contrary, if it’s an immediate yes from my inner voice or conscience then I do that thing. This will bring a bit more joy into my life because it’s something that I genuinely want to do and something that I’m enthusiastic about.
If the question that’s posed makes me contemplate for more than a few seconds I start to weigh out the potential outcomes of both decisions. If the outcome has more positive potential outcomes than negative outcomes, I do it. If it seems saying yes will be more costly from the negative point of view, I don’t. There are many scenarios where the decision isn’t as cut and dry as this, so I also try to keep in mind the people involved (if it’s more than a ‘me’ decision), and I also think about what I can do for those people. If it’s just a ‘me’ decision, I try to think about the “multiple versions of me”. I think of both present me and future me. If it helps both present and future me, I go for it. If it hinders present me and future me, I try not to engage. If there’s a bit of conflict between present and future me, I think of how it will help future me. If the positives for future me outweighs the plight of present me, I usually do it. Decisions like this are often sacrifices that I make in the present for a smoother future. It could be as simple as putting my laundry away immediately after I fold it when I don’t want to. It could also be a bit more complex like sitting down on a Sunday to try to think about my weekly schedule. Not always something I want to do, but that sacrifice of time on Sunday makes for a much better week. On the contrary, if the decision will help present me and doesn’t help future me (mostly in the form of impulsive or short-term pleasure) I try to stray from it. However, if the aftermath of saying yes isn’t too pricey, I do say yes to those things every now and again.
With all of this being said, when it comes to the decision making process of what we want to say yes to or what we want to say no to, we really need to know ourselves. We need to know what are things worth suffering for and what are the things that aren’t worth suffering for. We need to know how our yesses will serve ourselves and others and we need to know how our no’s will help or hinder ourselves and others. That’s why we need to know what we enjoy doing and what we don’t enjoy doing. That way we can start saying yes more to the things we want to say yes to and saying no to the things we want to say no to. So if it’s not your jam, don’t bother putting it on your toast.