Say Yes To What’s Most Important (By Saying No To What Isn’t)

By John O’Leary

This article originally appeared in Tips on Life & Love from Simon & Schuster.

My wife feels I do not put her before others. And she’s right: I do say yes to everyone. I retired early from a successful career so I could spend more time with my wife and children. Then about 18 months ago, I began volunteering for a nonprofit and now I find myself doing everything for the men and women we serve. How can I set better boundaries to make more time for my wife and kids? – P

John O’Leary: P, thanks for your great question and impact on the community. If we are honest about it, your question is one with which we all struggle.

Several years ago I had a meeting with a successful business owner. He runs a large and growing private business with all the challenges that come with it. He’s also is married, has five children, and significant responsibilities in the community. I asked how he did it all.

The gentleman stood up, walked over the a bookshelf, brought back a simple framed picture of a hierarchy chart. He said this keeps him focused on what to do next, and what to do later.

At the very top, for him, was God. Then his wife. Below her name were the names of their five children. Then his own name. Then work, community, friends. The final line was titled “everything and everybody else.”

He said this simple personal organizational chart freed him to say “yes” to things and people who are most important and “no” to things that are less so.

Frequently in life we can sprint around, do everything for everybody, serve, impact… and discover near the end that we were leaning our ladder against the wrong wall of success. My encouragement to you is to keep serving, keep inspiring, keep living your mission, but (you knew it was coming!) say “Yes” to your bride, “YES” to your kids, and “YES” to yourself first. Far from making you selfish, it will make you even more effective in the incredibly important work you do.

 

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