By Jimmy Warden
There are a lot of things that we have to do in our lives that we don’t want to do. There are times when these less-than-ideal actions are necessary, but there are also times when we don’t have to do the things that we don’t want to do, yet we do them anyway. 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 or family, physical injuries, depressive or anxious episodes, etcetera. With that said, it is vital for us to not 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; and those that did not find the system user friendly can continue using their preferred methods.
That meeting made me think of things on a grander scale (big surprise, I know). It made me think specifically about those things that we do daily 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 helping ourselves. You know, the things that we say yes to 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 something, but your voice vomited out yes. Now the true question is, was it worth it? If the suffering was indeed worth it, and you feel that the reward for gritting your teeth through something that you’re not didn’t want to do was worth the struggle, by all means, please continue to do that because there is also a lot of meaning that can be found amidst said struggle. However, if you’re constantly finding yourself saying “why do I keep doing this to myself?” after you finish doing that thing you haven’t wanted to do, 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 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 legitimate 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 highly valued 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 listening to my internal voice (or conscience). If it immediately says no in response to a question about doing something, I don’t do that thing. That way I can move on from the back and forth dilemma of “should I do this or should I not do this?”. This helps remove unnecessary struggles 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 say yes. If saying yes will be more costly to me, I say no. 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 outweigh 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 plan my week ahead. That’s not always something I want to do, but the 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.