Career, Family, Finding balance

Saying, “No.” It’s easier said than done.

Last week I made one of the most difficult decisions of my career: I turned down the opportunity to co-chair a national conference for senior professionals in my field.

This time last year, I would have accepted without hesitation. So what changed?

The simple answer, I suppose, is my priorities. But that answer glosses over the complexity of competing priorities that working moms face on a daily basis (children, marriage, extended family, work, ambition, volunteer obligations, self-care, etc.) and the intentionality of the process I went through to make the best decision.

Easy to say…

Back in March, I wrote about the importance of learning to say, “no” to taking on new commitments as a way of reducing working mom guilt. Later that month, I followed up with a three-step process to make more room for joy:

  1. Identify Your Prorities
  2. Consider the Opportunity Before Committing
  3. Get comfortable with saying, “no.”

I am the quintessential Type A personality. I have always placed a lot of value on accomplishing things; not just doing things, but doing them perfectly and on time (or early if possible). I have always believed that with enough determination I could do it all! I viewed anything short of being Mother of the Year, named to a 40 Under 40 list (running out of time on this one) and achieving world peace as some sort of failure and I do NOT fail. But I am slowly learning that a life lived for accomplishment is empty and meaningless, completely devoid of joy. So instead of weak and unaccomplished, I am choosing to re-frame saying “no” to opportunities as wise and discerning.

…Harder to do!

Step one was fairly easy for me to check off the list. I have known for about a year that God is currently calling me to:

  1. serve in our church
  2. connect with my family
  3. advance the mission of TCU in my current role

I had even walked through steps two and three a couple of times successfully, but since developing this three-step process, I had yet to have a truly tantalizing opportunity come my way. And that’s when things started getting tricky.

When I received the extremely flattering phone call to serve as a co-chair for the conference, I was smart enough to follow my own advice to ask for some time to consider the the opportunity. I prayed about the opportunity, and I didn’t get a discernible answer. I spoke to my husband, and he gave me some things to consider, but as my biggest career cheerleader, he told me that he would support me in whatever I decided. I consulted my boss, who also gave me some things to consider and told me that she would support whatever decision I made.

I went back and forth between knowing that this commitment didn’t fit into one of the three things that I am currently called to do (and was in direct opposition to number two) and trying to rationalize that I might learn some best practices at the conference that could benefit the advancement of TCU. Because here is the problem: I love to speak at conferences. I have had the privilege of presenting about higher education fundraising nationally and internationally for seven years. At one point I was traveling five or six times a year to present at conferences and doing online webinars in between.

Enter: Accountability Partners

After a week of heated internal debate that was seriously beginning to hinder my ability to get a good night’s sleep, I woke up realizing that I need to respond to the offer. As I prayed about the situation that morning, I wasn’t offered an answer; I was offered people. I immediately picked up my phone and sent a group text to my Rooted Sisters, the amazing working mamas who study the Bible with me on Monday nights and do life with me every other day of the week.

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My Rooted Sisters

They all responded with a slightly different version of the same answer: it’s very flattering to be asked, but you know you’re not supposed to be doing this.

I realized they were right. More importantly, I realized that I had known it all along. I politely declined the offer within minutes of our conversation and have felt an incredible sense of peace about my decision. I stuck to my plan to prioritize God, my family and my job over networking, ambition and flattery in the face of an incredibly tempting opportunity.

And who knows? I still have another five years to make that 40 Under 40 list.

 

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