With college comes new opportunities. It’s the same throughout the rest of your life, so it’s up to you, the individual, to figure out what path to take on your journey. I don’t know why, but I believe that college students feel a need to never say “no” and always say “yes.” It seems there is this assumption that no other opportunities will happen again just because you said “no” once. Not only is this false, but in fact it can also be detrimental to your health. You will get run down and mentally exhausted quickly, which in turn will negatively affect your academics, mood, and participation in everything.
Between finding yourself and finding what interests you in college, everything can be so exciting that you try to find a way to incorporate all your interests onto your calendar. However, it is important to know when you can not commit to anything else.
Contrary to popular belief, saying no can be harder than one may think. Sure, it’s easy to say no to joining a sports team if you never played sports, or to say no to participating in a language club if you have no interest in that language. But it is much harder saying no to the things that sound interesting and saying no to opportunities you feel will benefit you. I believe the most important question to ask yourself is “Why are you doing this?”
It’s okay if the answer is not with your own interests in mind or if it’s because someone needs a favor from you. Yes by all means do something for someone else; but make sure not all your time is being in an organization or doing a commitment because someone else thought you would be great at it. If you feel that you cannot genuinely answer why you’re involved with something, then that may be a sign you should consider letting it go.
These are the other questions I ask myself and questions you should ask yourself when you’re not sure how to say no or if you should consider saying no:
“Can I do this at a later date?” Is it possible to defer this opportunity to next semester or next summer? If so, that may work better for you in the long run. If not, make sure it is something that you very much want to invest your time in now.
“Will this benefit me?” Yes, this is a loaded question, but you also have to think about it. Will this be the ONLY thing that benefits you, or is there a different activity you can pursue that would work better for you?
On a personal note, I once applied to be part of a team that made important decisions for a large population. I originally applied because I thought it would be cool gaining this experience for my future career. I was interviewed and eventually offered the position; however, I had to think if this was something I really wanted to be a part of on top of everything else I was doing at the time. In the end, I formally declined the position.
I was proud of myself. I won’t lie; it was challenging at first to let it go. I feared for a moment that I made a mistake, but I hadn’t. I had done what was best for me. Once I came to that realization, I kept moving forward. Know that it is okay to say no before you commit and it is better to decline when offered a position than to accept the position and resign from it during your term.
One thing that helps me tremendously is creating a mock schedule filled with everything I have committed to in a week. First, I enter all my classes, then add my job hours and from there I add in everything else I am involved in to see what a week in my life would look like. Having that visualization really helps me see what exactly I am getting myself into.
On that note, just because a commitment fits into your schedule does not mean you should commit to it. Having a blank period in your calendar is necessary so that you have alone time and flexibility with things that may pop up unexpectedly. It is good to be eager and motivated, but it is also good to take time for yourself and not feel bad about it.
Once I applied to be a part of this group, their meeting time worked for my schedule and I originally thought I could handle the amount of time I would have to give the group. Long story short, I ended up leaving the position because I did not have enough time to effectively get everything done even though it “fit” into my schedule. I learned that I can not overbook my calendar and that I need to leave blank space to breath.
During my time in college, I have come to the realization that saying no should not be thought of as a negative thing but as something that is beneficial to the individual. I have been able to save myself from unnecessary stress and overload simply by saying a two letter word. It is so important to remember that opportunities will continue to arise even when you say no.