Will I Never Learn?

You would think that after 51 years on this planet, I would have learned when to say "No." Haven't I said "yes" and been sorry enough times? Haven't I said "yes," only to say "never again" once I realize what I've gotten myself into? So why, a couple of weeks ago, did I go against my better judgement, and agree to a huge accompanying assignment for someone I don't know, an assignment that keeps growing by leaps and bounds, and is turning out to be nothing less than a nightmare. I've been flagellating myself over this decision ever since the first rehearsal, when I could see what an exercise in frustration this job was going to be. So I was really interested Patti Digh's most recent post over at 37 Days. It's about developing your own set of criteria to help you make decisions, criteria that you can use when someone offers you the opportunity to run a charity event, or enter a marathon, or accompany 20 voice students during a three day competition. Criteria that you establish, based on what is most important to your life, so that you can make intelligent decisions about the way you spend your time.

What a fabulous idea, especially for someone like me, who has real difficulty saying "no." For the past couple of years, my life has often felt completely out of whack, with too much time being spent on activities that keep me away from home, and prevent me from doing things that enrich myself personally. Yet I always seem to fall into the trap of accepting one more gig, or joining one more committee, or taking on one more big project at work. Wouldn't it be great to have a written set of criteria that any new project must meet? And wouldn't it be great it I committed myself to abiding by those criteria when deciding whether or not to accept a project?

Without too much thought, here are some of the questions I'm going to ask myself the next time someone calls me on the telephone with a proposal. Patti advises writing them down on a piece of paper which you carry in your wallet. That way, you're never tempted to say "yes" without first considering what's most important to you.

  • My number one criteria would definitely be time...how much time is this project going to consume? time that I could be with my family or doing something healthy for myself...
  • Do I care about the people involved, and do they care about me? Will this project help me enhance and strengthen existing relationships or provide an opportunity to create new ones?
  • Can I learn and grow in a positive way? Will this project help me enhance my abilities in any of my fields, or help me learn a new skill?
  • Is this going to be fun? Is this project going to help me enjoy life while I'm participating in it? Will I get a positive feeling from participating?
  • Will this help someone else? Can I impart some lesson, or provide some worthwhile service to someone?
  • Is there a monetary reward, and is it commensurate with the time and effort involved? Will it help me provide for some aspect of my future, or make me feel satisfied with the way I've been compensated?

How does my current project stack up to this list?

  • It's certainly far too time consuming
  • I didn't know any of the people involved, and I don't see any long term relationships emerging from it
  • I will likely feel a sense of growth and accomplishment as a muscian, since the musical aspects are quite challenging, but I'm not sure the process to this growth is a positive one
  • It is not fun (and it isn't often that I don't have fun playing the piano!)
  • I am helping the students, and I always feel good about that
  • The money is good, far better than the usual fees, but still not commensurate with the time and effort involved

Hopefully, from now on I'll be able to make more informed decisions based on what's important to my life now. The beauty of this list is that it's your own, and it can change depending on the way life changes.

But for now, I have to go practice...sigh.