Before You Say Yes: Steps to Avoid Over-Extending Ourselves.


“Are you on your way?”

Seeing these words on my phone screen filled me with the dreaded “Oh #%&!” feeling. Here I was sitting in a Zoom meeting with a master teacher, who had volunteered to advise me and a few colleagues on our journey to earn National Board Certification, when I remembered that I had agreed to man the video camera at my daughter's soccer game which was starting in 10 minutes! I apologized profusely, explained my mistake and faced the fact that rather than sneaking onto the sidelines as planned, I would have to show up with my tail between my legs.

Speaking of tails, because I was running late, I couldn’t stop at home to let my puppy out. So after filming the first half of the game, I handed the job off to another parent and jetted home. I made it back during the next quarter to find that a high school student, the sister of a player, was managing the camera while she chatted with her friend in the background. Opps! Feeling breathless and exhausted, I took back over.

The next day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that by overextending myself, I had let down the people to whom I made promises: my colleagues, my advisor for National Boards, my daughter’s soccer coach (and maybe even my puppy). So, I came up with the following plan to make sure that do not agree to do things unless I can give them my all.

Steps to take before saying “Yes”

1. Take an honest look at my calendar. What is going on that day? Do I really have time to get from point A to B? Can I truly give the task the time it needs and deserves? Sometimes our digital calendars can deceive us because they make it look like there is just enough white space between events to make them both happen. We have to really think about all that it entails. That brings me to step 2…

2. Envision myself doing the thing. What am I doing? With whom am I interacting? Does doing this thing require skills I do or do not have? While envisioning, pay attention to step 3...

3. Does the task bring me joy? Am I smiling? Do I want to be doing it? Look, time is precious so we have to be particular about how we spend it.

Considering Intention

About a day after making this list, I listened to Oprah explain how she considers intention before making a decision. In her book with Dr. Bruce Perry called What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, Oprah explains that she learned from Gary Zukav that the outcome of your experience is determined by your intention going in.

Maybe if we ask ourselves these three questions, we will keep ourselves from committing to things that do not align with our intentions. While my intention was to help out my daughter’s soccer team, what I really wanted was to be fully present while watching her play. Worrying about the camera kept me from truly enjoying the game.

I have yet to fully try out my 3 steps but I am hoping that by talking and writing about them, I will be more likely to put them into practice the next time I catch myself jumping to say “yes” to a request or offer. Stay tuned….

2 thoughts on “Before You Say Yes: Steps to Avoid Over-Extending Ourselves.”

  1. The ideas here are so good for those of us who have a hard time saying no. I am learning as I get older to be more discerning about the commitments I make. Family is always first. I love how you realized that helping with the camera removed your attention from your daughter (who is the very reason you were there in the first place). I hope you continue to find ways to be intentional. It’s an every day process.

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