Written by Executive Director Claire Louge

A couple weeks ago, several of my team members and I went to Baltimore for the national conference of Prevent Child Abuse America. I love conferences for two main reasons: I get to connect with people who care about the same things that I do, and I get to be inspired by what other people are doing.

If you’re like me, when you come back from conferences or trainings, your mind buzzes with all the new things you want to do. New programs. New approaches. New policies you want to advocate for, or new practices you want to implement.

The more we learn, the more we know what we need to do. The more we learn, the more we want to do. And there is so much that could make a difference.

But here’s the reality that I have a hard time contending with:

We can’t keep on adding things to do without giving some things up.

In other words, if you say yes to something, you’ll need to – eventually or now – say no to something else. Because even if you have unlimited resources and unlimited people willing to do the work (what a dream!), there’s always a limit to time.

You want to do everything. But you can’t. So how do you choose what to say yes to?

I don’t have the perfect answer, but I think the best approach r is something like this:

You pick the intersection of what you care about, what you love to do, and what is needed.

And you do that. And you say no to the other stuff.

Way easier said than done, of course. Saying no is hard, especially if you’re passionate, motivated, and you don’t like disappointing people. And if you’re reading this, I bet I just described you.

But it’s your responsibility to say no. Because if you keep on saying yes, one of two things will happen:

  1. You will burn out.
  2. You will do nothing well, because nothing is getting your wholehearted attention.

Or both.

Embrace learning opportunities to get inspired, motivated, and connected. Use them to get clear on what you care about, what you love to do, and what is needed. And if something strikes you as needing more of your energy and attention, and if you want to say yes to taking on something new, think about what you’re willing to give up to make space for that commitment. Because you can’t say yes if you aren’t also willing to say no.