Leaning In and Leaning Back: Saying Yes and No (and Not Feeling Bad About It)

Our world deserves more (burn-out free) you. Also - no sponsorship here, just cool murals.

Our world deserves more (burn-out free) you. Also - no sponsorship here, just cool murals.

When it is it time to say “YES” to that next big opportunity and when is it time to take a step back and recharge? How do you do one without feeling bad about the other? And what do you do when you’re on the fence about an opportunity and can’t decide what to do?

If you had asked me these questions a few years ago, I would have probably stopped you after the first sentence and said something along the lines of:

“Always say yes! You never know what’s coming your way and where it’ll lead!”

Me saying yes to all the things. Source:    Giphy

Me saying yes to all the things. Source: Giphy

And while this line of thinking was arguably true, I was not entirely trustworthy when it came to leaning in and leaning back. I had a bad history of acting like a hungry person at a buffet when it came to new opportunities and (spoiler alert) this led to some serious burn-out.

Over the years, I have learned to think differently about what I give my time to. We all have a finite number of hours in the day (as does Beyoncé) and the opportunities we say “yes” to are equally as important as the ones we turn down. So, without further adieu, here is what I have learned about when to lean into a new opportunity and when to lean back into relaxation (or a patio chair, your call).

Checkpoints for When to Lean In

1. You are genuinely excited AND you will enjoy yourself

It’s amazingly easy to bypass this checkpoint when wrapped up in the initial excitement of “new”. But this check is number one on this list for a reason! Your time (especially the time you have outside of work, friends, family, and other commitments) is limited. Make sure your new opportunity sparks interest and adds value to your life in addition to fun.

Can you say “sparks joy”? Source:  Giphy

Can you say “sparks joy”? Source: Giphy

2. You have time/ you are willing to give up time or another activity to make time

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, heat flows from hot to cold, saying “yes” to something means saying “no” to something else, whether intentionally or not. So be intentional. Allocate time upfront for your new adventure instead of cramming it in with everything else. Future you will thank you... and so will your stress levels.

3. You believe you will do a good job

You are already one step ahead if you are excited about an opportunity and you have the time to dedicate to it. These two elements can be the difference between success and disappointment because they ensure that you have the foundation necessary to meet your own expectations and desired quality of work. As Charles Darwin put it on zeal (passion) and hard work (our willingness to dig in even if it means sacrificing other things): 

“I have always maintained that, excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work; and I still think there is an eminently important difference.”

When to Lean Back
(and Not Feel Bad About It)

1. You Are Burnt Out

Are you familiar with our friend burn-out? If you are feeling low on energy or if your motivation has ghosted you in recent days/weeks/months, you may be more familiar than you think, and it might be time to re-evaluate your time commitments. Recovering from burn-out is highly personal and comes down to recognizing what will give you the right energy to get back on your feet. 

Do you need to chill or do nothing for a bit? 

Do you need a hard break from a certain activity? 

Do you need to feed off others’ energy or get outside accountability? 

Use these questions to gather data on your current state of well-being so you can make an informed decision about a new opportunity and/or what you already have on your plate. The last thing you want to do is ignore how you’re feeling and forge ahead anyway; that is a one-way street to shame spiral (do not pass GO or collect $200).

2. You Are Saying Yes Out of Obligation

Your life should be full of activities you want to do, not activities you think you should be doing. Obligation to a group, person, or yourself for the purpose of the infamous “resume builder” is a trap that can leave you feeling like you no longer have time in your life for the things you actually enjoy. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this blog, it’s that our interests bring us WAY more success in the long term than a resume builder ever could. So if you find yourself at the leaning in vs. leaning back crossroad, there is only one more question to ask: “what do I want?” That should tell you all you need to know.