My family loves teasing me about how, when I was a wee lad, I’d cry over the simplest decisions. Being forced to choose between a vanilla or chocolate ice cream cone caused a full-on existential crisis.
I like to think I’ve made progress in this area over the past forty years, but some decisions are still hard.
Although the choice of ice cream flavor doesn’t have as much gravity for me as it once did, the fact remains: The only hard choice is the choice between two good things. That observation comes from Roy H. Williams, and I just love it.
Unless you’re a monk living in a yurt in Tibet, I think we’d all agree that our plates are too full. Not our dinner plates, but the plates piled high with all of the tasks, obligations, and errands that keep us busy.
Long gone are the days of sitting on a rocking chair on your front porch shelling peas for supper. Who has time for that? Nowadays we run around like chickens with our head cut off (which is a reference that perhaps only a person used to shelling peas would really understand). Adultitis and self-help books and those glossy magazines in the checkout aisle of the grocery store trick us into believing that we should be able to get it all done.
And when we don’t, we hang our head in shame, defeated and overwhelmed.
Rubbish, I say!
We can do a lot if we put our minds to it, but we can’t do it all.
The truth is, and I hope you’d agree, that the only way out of this sense of overwhelm is to say no way more often.
Of course, this would be a lot easier if there were tasks loitering on our to-do list that we didn’t WANT to do and didn’t NEED to be done. Well, I just checked my list, and nope, none of those lingering about. You too?
And so we return to our dilemma of choosing between good things.
Volunteering at the local soup kitchen and spending time baking cookies with your grandchild are both good things.
Of course, it’s possible to do both. But what if you have thirty-seven other good things jockeying for position, all demanding to be done by Wednesday?
Let me give you a gentle reminder this week, dear reader. And as I do, I am reminding myself, too.
Saying no to a good thing doesn’t mean you’re making a bad decision, or that you’re a bad person.
It just means that it’s hard to choose between two good things.
It means you’ve gotten the memo that you’re human and can’t, in fact, do it all.
It means you’re sidestepping the lies of Adultitis and refusing to let the rest of the world run your show. As physicist and Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman says, “You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”
Ultimately, it means you’re being intentional about choosing the best thing for you, right now, in this season of your life.
My hope is that this reminder gives you the courage you need to say no to something good this week in order to say yes to something, um, gooder.
Even if it’s just a quiet afternoon to yourself with a chocolate ice cream cone.