Mental Health Awareness week: What to say no to, and how to say yes
It’s mental health week and I want to share my personal reflections on how I manage my own mental health.
I recently chose the words “precision and impact” to be my guiding principles for 2022. I find it helpful to refer to them when faced with decisions that require focus. Simply put, they help me not get overwhelmed.
My definition of precision and impact is saying “Yes” to things that truly matter and saying “No, thank you” to everything else. These principles help keep my key interest areas at the heart of my actions, namely: my clients, team, and myself. I’m then able to figure out the positive and negative impacts a decision might potentially have on each of those areas.
Looking back, I’ve made some wrong decisions. Early in my UK career when I was single with no kids, I thought that I had no real reason to say no to travelling abroad for work or to working late hours and weekends — and I did both continually.
While at one organisation, I was told two days after joining that I would need to fly to Colombia for a project. The following day, I was on that flight! I did what I was told and quickly fell into a life where I spent the early part of my UK career travelling internationally. The silver lining is that I built my reputation as a global telecoms consultant, however the collateral damage was huge. I inadvertently put a lot of pressure on my teams to follow suit, and it came at the expense of not being able to properly form long-lasting personal relationships during that period of time. In retrospect, this precedent wasn’t the best for clients, nor were the personal impact and sacrifice fully appreciated by the organisation.
It’s not just about the confidence to say no, sometimes it’s about how and why you say yes, and doing it on your own terms.
In a more recent example, I was asked to do an executive update with very little notice. Using my framework, I quickly said yes to the update because it would: increase senior visibility for the team, be beneficial for the client conversations, and also be good for my career (as long as I did a good job of making that update!). Within this decision to say yes, however, I said no to producing any bespoke content. Even though it would have made my life easier and put me on similar ground to the other presenters (i.e. armed with swanky slides), content production would have put pressure on my team and taken them away from valuable client work. Luckily for my clients, my team, and I, the update went well despite the lack of swanky slides, and we now have increased support and commitment from executive leadership.
These are examples on two ends of the decision-making spectrum. Having a set of guiding principles makes the decision to say no less paralysing and undoes the presumption that saying no would jeopardise one’s career.
This week is mental health awareness week in the UK, and although my framework might not be for everyone, I encourage us all to think about the guiding principles we need to give ourselves a degree of self-care and protection from the ever demanding world that we all live in.