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.

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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