How Do You Decide?

How do you decide what’s “yours to do”?

I’ve got an invitation in my e-mail box to do some writing for someone. It’s a paying gig, which is a rare and wonderful thing… though let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not much. And I try not to break it down by the hour.

I’ve written for this outfit before. It’s not hard stuff, and I believe in what they’re doing, but it’s not exactly what I want to be focusing on right now. There are two large projects I want to work on that I really feel energy for, but there’s no deadline on them, and if they take a little longer because of side projects, well, nobody will care but me (and perhaps my writing group).

The invitation came right before I left, so I mulled it on my trip. As often happens, I came home from our travels invigorated, and resolved to be intentional about the things I take on, to avoid doing things just because they’re expected of me by others. Again I link to the Christian Century and the article about the power of travel.

Our church also suffered a sudden, unexpected loss of a pillar member while I was away. I will miss T and her caring spirit. Such losses always invite us to consider our lives and make course corrections if necessary. Life is short and we are each irreplaceable.

So this morning I started to write a “no thanks” e-mail… and then something stopped me. I started to think about how the project really wouldn’t take that much time, and it’s far enough out that I could plan my time to get it done and also work on my personal projects. It’s a slightly different focus than the work I’ve done for them before, which makes it enticing. Besides… I’m a writer. I serve a church part-time so that I can work on projects just like this one.

Those are all valid points, but I wonder if they are really what stopped me. Maybe I stopped because of fear. Maybe I am worried that if I start saying no to stuff, people will stop asking. Or maybe it’s ego—I want to feel important and needed. Or maybe it’s competitiveness—they’ll ask someone else and like his/her stuff better.

First John talks about “testing the spirits” to see if they are of God. If I am leaning toward yes, and and that comes from a place of trust and joy, then I want to go that way. If I am working primarily out of fear or shadow stuff, then I want to check that. Unfortunately, most decisions are a muddled mix of both.

Interestingly, Bruce Reyes-Chow (the former moderator of our denomination) just announced today that he’s letting go of two projects he’s been working on. I admire his discernment and am sure it was tough. I believe in saying No when it allows you to work on the larger Yes, but discerning what that is isn’t easy.

How do you decide to say no to worthy invitations? How do you determine what’s “yours to do”?

8 thoughts on “How Do You Decide?

  1. marciglass

    I’ve been thinking about that recently too. But sometimes the invitations I receive are more things I think I “should” be doing. Recently I’ve said no to serving on a committee. I’ve said yes to plenty of other things, but this particular “no” was hard to give. I felt guilty for making a claim for myself.

    If something is not going to be life giving to me (or the people I serve) I say no. And I hope that leaves me with the time to say yes to the right things.

    Prayers for you and your discernment!

  2. Jules

    This is timely. I recently got two invites for some work. I said yes to one after much–and I mean days of–waffling. The second came earlier today, and I still have no idea what I’ll do but must let others know very soon.


  3. Roy Howard

    Howard Thurman’s advice has been go-to guide for me for years – “Do not ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive because what the world needs is people that have come alive.” So when I have make yes-no decision about a project, I think about “aliveness.” Is something that makes me come alive, and may have a chance to help others come alive? Unless it is an obligation over which I have no say; I’m trying to say no to those things that have no sense of “coming alive” for me.

    The second image that I often use as a guide is Jesus’ notion in John’s gospel of necessary pruning for a vine to grow well and bear fruit. Periodically I ask myself what needs to be pruned, realizing that usually means something good must be cut off for healthy growth (though not always.) Sometimes just entering a pruning season helps me to discard dead stuff to make room for life.

  4. Jan Lorah

    Just two weeks ago I resigned from a job that I have really enjoyed doing… but came to realize that by making myself available to do the “job,” I was not allowing myself to follow that which I have come to believe is my real calling. It was extremely difficult to tell my supervisor that I would not longer say “yes” when called in to work; I chose “no” to something that impairs my spiritual development, and be a good steward to the gifts God has bestowed upon me. Therefore, I have since become an advocate for saying “no” when it is for the better good.

  5. Mike Woods

    My litmus test is asking, will this decision make me better able to both give and receive love?

    Steven Spielberg only takes on projects that have some aspect to them that make him ask himself, “Am I going to get away with this?” He likes to find where his edges are.

    On a similar subject a good question to ponder is, “What is a life giving ‘No” that I have said recently?” Hopefully we don’t have to search too hard for an answer.

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