Addicted to “Yes”

Tanzi edit1

I have a serious psychological problem: I am addicted to saying “yes.” I have a full-time job and am involved as a volunteer in a number of organizations in my community, and I have family and friends and hobbies. I’ve pretty much always operated with the same M.O.: get excited about things and say yes to new projects until I reach critical mass, feeling stretched too thin and slightly resentful of not having enough downtime.

I would like to believe that this tendency comes from being such an interesting person that I am passionate about many things. Yet I fear that it actually means that I don’t really have a true passion for anything. I’m the community involvement equivalent of a puppy in the park, switching my attention to every new squirrel that runs by. Honestly, it’s exhausting. But worse than that, I often feel that there are so many things I have signed myself up for, that I don’t have the time to do any of them very well.

Lately, I’ve been paying close attention to women I admire, who are known for being the kind of women that get things done, well. What I’ve noticed is that they stick to two or three things, aligned with what they are really passionate about and say “no” to other opportunities. But… how do these women say no to so many good ideas and exciting projects?

This year I’m going to finally get a handle on this growing problem in my life. I plan to rediscover my passions, and structure my after-work activities to best cultivate those. I’ll try to say no to things that may be wonderful causes, but don’t quite align. To focus on my purpose.

What steps to recovery would you suggest to this “yes” addict?

*This post was written to the sounds of the Oxford American Southern Music CD Volume 16, featuring the music of Texas.


After spending several years working as an academic reference librarian and a community college library director, Tanzi Merritt shifted her career to become a tech company’s sales & marketing coordinator. She sits on a number of nonprofit boards, and, during her off-hours, obsessively watches documentaries, buys art, and frequents local craft breweries. Connect with her:

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