Saying no gracefully is hard. I used to have a hard time saying no. This might resonate with most of you. I said yes a lot. Because I could help. Because I had the skill set and experience to do so. To help others is why I became a physician. But with that noble end goal, we are taught we are supposed to be of service, but we are not taught now to preserve ourselves in the process. Instead, we are told we are not supposed to be selfish with our time. We are supposed to give and give.
Part of the difficulty in learning to say no lays in the fact that for so many years I was hustling and building my private practice. When you’re growing, you feel compelled to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. You feel that you must say yes in order to continue the forward momentum.
So I said yes to every request for a lecture. I said yes to squeezing in and triple booking patients. I said yes to volunteer my time for non-profits and my community.
I tried to become more and more efficient with my time so that I could pile on more. I became a master of time management. I prided myself of being able to do it all.
And, though I loved every one of those opportunities, as was inevitable, I became burned out. I became resentful of these things I had said yes to. There was no longer any joy in doing them. They became commitments instead of opportunities. I felt unfocused and scattered.
So, I course corrected and created systems that would take the uneasiness out of saying no. Take a listen.