So here it is: a little test I devised for how to make a decision about almost anything, notwithstanding that there can be no formula that works for everyone all the time. I invite you to test-drive it, and let me know what you think.
But first a little background: I’m just a girl who can’t say no, but at least I’m in recovery. Everything I get offered, every possibility I think up just sounds like too much fun to pass up, yet for the last five years, I’ve been repeating this mantra: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
After my last crash into the ground that played out in two rounds of antibiotics, a bout of vertigo, some miniature anxiety attacks that morphed into insomnia — all at the tail end of doing too much for too long — a dear friend said to you, “You need to think up five questions to ask yourself before saying yes to anything.” I have, and in fact, the five questions turned to six, and then I realized the questions weren’t enough: I needed to score them from 0 (NO NO NO NO NO) to 5 (this is the greatest thing since soft-serve ice cream). Are you wondering, “Do I bake 42 cupcakes for the preschool tomorrow to fill in for someone who backed out?”, “Should I present at a conference far from home just because I will be in the area at a family reunion at the time?” or “Do I take on the extra gig, obligation, opportunity, meeting, presentation, etc. just because I could?”
So score yourself accordingly on these questions: 0 = no way in hell; 1 = pretty negative; 2 = a little negative; 3 = eh! not great, not awful; 4 = a little positive; 5 = stupendous!
- MINE: The biggest question of all: Is this YOURS to do? Is doing this part of what your life, your soul, your essence is calling you to do at this moment?
- TIME: Is the timing right for doing this in your life, or will you be just recovering from doing too many other things? Or do you have enough time to do it the way you want to do it?
- TEAM: If you’re working collaboratively, will you be part of a time aligned with your own values? If you’re just showing up to do something with others, is it organized with integrity and thoughtfulness, and good communication between the organizers and you?
- HEALTH: Does doing this bring you home to yourself in body and mind, or further out to field? Does this compromise your physical, mental or emotional health? Does it come at a time when you’ll be more vulnerable and need to take better care of yourself (such as after organizing a big event)? Also, does this add to your health in a positive way? Or does considering it make your stomach hurt?
- LIVELIHOOD: Does this add to your right livelihood — the Buddhist term of making a living without doing harm (and by extension, contributing to your community and living out your life’s gifts)? Even if it doesn’t pay money, does it enhance your livelihood in other ways, or does it distract from how you live out your vocation and avocation?
- LOVE: Do you love doing this? Are you working with, visiting with or playing with people you love? Is it in a place you love or would love to get to know?
Now add up your scores, and aim for at least a score of 20 before you say yes. Big caveat: If you get a lower score than that, but your heart drops because YOU WANT TO DO THIS SO MUCH! then see if you can change some of the elements involved to make it a higher score (get people to help, stay in a nice little B & B on the way, travel with a bag of chocolate, dark chocolate so that it’s good for your health, etc.).
Looking back on projects I’ve done in the last year, I realize the ones I’m most happy I did all had pretty high scores. The ones that made a paper towel out of me didn’t. At the same time, it’s important to realize that you can score something high in advance and afterwards discover that it garners a lower score (the conference wasn’t what you thought, the car brought down, the team you were part of disintegrated because of external factors). Life does that, and there’s no way to have control, but at least this may be a tool for having a little more informed consent about what you and I choose to do. In any case, let me know how it works for you!