to do listIt is admirable to be the kind of person who makes time for others. There are far too many people who are unwilling to give up their time and effort – perhaps even money or other physical assets – to help others. Being the kind of person who answers Yes when someone in need calls out to them is one of the finest characteristics a human can have.

But saying Yes by default can be a huge mistake.

Even when the cause is good, burning yourself out and stretching yourself too thinly over different tasks will not end well. For you or the people you’re trying to help.

And not every cause is good. Many people will ask you for help in doing something you don’t want to. Something you don’t approve of. Most people will ask for your time and, even if they want you to join in with something harmless or frivolous, you might simply have something better to do. Maybe someone has asked you to do something you know will hurt someone. Maybe someone has asked you to go to the pub when you really need to be working. Or when you feel like having some time to yourself.

Saying Yes to the wrong requests, to the wrong people, to so many things that you can’t cope with all the responsibility is not worth it.

No matter how worthwhile the majority of your Yeses, being unable to say No when you need to can do serious damage to your good reputation.

Sometimes, you just want to help as many people as need it, want it, ask for it. Sometimes, you know what you’re about to do is a mistake, but you struggle to say No because you’re so used to not having to.

Those times, you need to take a step back, gather up all the stones you can muster and refuse.

Remember what’s important. Remember all the reasons you wanted to be the kind of person who answered Yes when people asked for your help. Keep them in mind every time someone asks for your time or your energy.

Does what they want you to do live up to those standards? Does helping out with this particular thing help make you that person you wanted to be?

Or not? Is it going to be a waste of time you could be using better? Is it going to further a cause you don’t agree with?

If the answers to these don’t satisfy you, then keep them in the forefront of your mind next time someone asks you to do something you don’t particularly want to do. Use them to make sure that everything you do is your choice and yours alone. Use them to resist the manipulations and pressure that some people will try to put on you.

Use them as motivation to do the right thing every time.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen.