As a dentist mentor, I am the first to promote the power of “yes.” Embracing new challenges, meeting new people, and learning new techniques will help you grow as a dentist and as a person. However, there also comes a time when “no” is the right answer. Like most dentists, you’re a people pleaser. You’re a perfectionist. You want to help those who need your help. When you say “yes” to everything, you’ll end up burnt out and exhausted. You may even lose your passion for what you do. Learning when to say “yes” and – just as importantly – when to say “no” will help you keep your life in balance.
What Do You Want to Achieve?
All too often, we spend our time saying “yes” to the surface things, the things that don’t bring us any closer to our ultimate goals and deep seated desires. Many times, we don’t know exactly what it is we want, and, as a result, we spend our time saying “yes” to various commitments that don’t make us happy or help us progress. I encourage you to define your goals in life. Don’t do this in a rush. Mull on it for a few weeks. Journal. Talk to your loved ones. Seek assistance from a dental coach. As you discover what it is that you really want in life, make a list. This list can (and should!) contain intangible goals, such as “love,” “peace,” and “true compassion.” It can also contain tangible, even material goals. For example, “a trip to Europe,” “a faculty position,” or “a new car” would all be fine goals to include on your list.
Drop What Doesn’t Help You Move Forward
Once you have defined your life goals, take a look at how you are spending most of your time. Be specific and honest with yourself. Keep a detailed journal, breaking down your time by hours, or even minutes. After one or two weeks, go back and look at your journal, comparing it to your list of goals. What do you spend most of your day doing? Do these things actually contribute to your life objectives? You may be saying “yes” to some things that are certainly worthwhile but that do not help you on your personal life journey. For example, speaking at a college event is admirable and important. However, if you have no teaching aspirations, and your speaking engagement kept you from attending your son’s school play, perhaps it is time to learn to say “no.” Alternatively, if you spend all your free time babysitting your nieces, and you don’t have time to pursue the ongoing training you desire, it may be time to set some boundaries for yourself.
Learning to say “no” doesn’t mean being catty or stingy with your time. It simply means learning to define your values and find greater balance in your life. After all, to find a balance with “no,” you have to say “yes” quite a bit, too.