How to Say Yes to Opportunity When Saying Yes to EVERYTHING Gets in the Way - Forever We
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How to Say Yes to Opportunity When Saying Yes to EVERYTHING Gets in the Way

How to Say Yes to Opportunity When Saying Yes to EVERYTHING Gets in the Way

The Dilemma

School started just two weeks ago. Are your kids already coming home with armloads of homework, parent meeting invites, and practice schedules? 

Join the club!

With every new email and memorandum from school, we’re adding events to our ever-trusty family Google calendar.

All these obligations—the things I have to do—are getting all mixed up with my opportunities—the things I want to do.

The Question

So how can we keep the things we have to do in check so we have time for all the things we want to do? Well, there’s a few options:

  1. We can put a limit on our obligations. (Say no to everything!)
  2. We can maximize our opportunities. (Say yes to everything!)
  3. We can turn our obligations into opportunities.

I really like this last option because it gives me control over how I not only manage my day, but also organize my life.

Organizing my day in light of the opportunities placed in front of me gives me a new framework for keeping my attitude in check. I used to be afraid that all my obligations would sabotage my freedom to create new things, experiment with ideas, and shape my world. But now I know that the only thing keeping me from a full life (not simply a filled-up one) is my own perspective about what that looks like.

Yes, we have to pay our bills.
Feed our kids.
Keep our house.
And accckkkk—do homework!

But I don’t have to do those things with a heavy heart. I don’t have to be a slave to my calendar or my checkbook. I get to choose what matters.

Working it Out

A couple of years ago, I attended a retreat that walked me through a helpful exercise. We divided a sheet of paper into four quadrants, and in each of the four quadrants wrote the following phrases:

  • Must Do
  • Can Do
  • Should Do
  • Should Not Do

The point was that there’s a lot of things I can do and some things I should do. There’s also a lot of things I should not do (either because I’m simply no good at them or because the energy required to do them prohibits me from doing the things that better suit me) and then there’s that beautiful list of things I must do because not only am I good at doing them, but I love doing them.

The “should dos” are my obligations.

The “must dos” are my opportunities.

I used to get bogged down saying yes to everything that came my away. After all, I told myself, “If I can do it, why shouldn’t I?

Finally, I realized that “because you shouldn’t” is a perfectly logical answer.

Exhaustion is not a status symbol.

My Story

Many years ago, I was the chair for a committee at our church called “Sisters of Support.” Whenever someone was ill or had a baby or there was a death in the family, the “Sisters of Support” would respond with a meal. I oversaw a huge committee that brought together teams of women throughout our tri-county area, but as our church grew, the needs grew with it. Rather than burden the women on my committee when there was more than one meal request in a given week, I would often fill the need on my own. I enjoyed being in my kitchen. I liked to cook. But over time, I twisted what was originally my obligation into a fake opportunity. By keeping the needs of the community from both our church and our committee, I was depriving others an opportunity to provide for these families, and I was trading precious meal-time with my own young family to travel far and wide delivering meals that could have been taken by someone else. The “Sisters of Support” was a good thing, but the time I spent managing it wasn’t what was best for me or my family.

Your Assignment

Do you want a life filled with more meaning?
Time to foster richer relationships?
Space to dream about a brighter future?

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to remind us how obligations and opportunities work hand in hand to shape our best life now.

I just love clarifying questions, and Andy Stanley has a good one for prioritizing opportunities. He says we should ask ourselves, “Will saying yes help my family, grow my business, or enrich me personally?”

In every season, this question may yield a different answer. People aren’t static, after all. Health issues, financial crises, physical moves, and other environmental factors all influence how we make decisions. But for now, in this season, how will you respond?

In the comments below, please feel free to share your best practices for managing obligations. Is there something good that deserves a resounding “no” from you so that you can respond with a resounding “yes” to something better? We’d love to hear from you, and we’d love to encourage you! 

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