When (and How) to Say “No” To Opportunities - Deepstash
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Outsmart the pleasure principle

Outsmart the pleasure principle

We sometimes say yes to an opportunity simply because it is in the distant future and filling out our planner makes us feel more productive. Saying yes is also easier than saying no. It takes less time and requires no thoughtful explanation. But, when the event comes, we sometimes start to regret our decision.

Sigmund Freud famously referred to these short-term gains for long-term pains as the pleasure principle, our tendency as humans to seek pleasure and avoid pain. When we immediately say yes, we are met with a positive response from the requester, which makes us feel good. However, the pain shows up later down the line, when we actually have to follow through.


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Estimate the time (generously)

The next time you are asked to do something that initially sounds exciting, stop and think about how much less exciting work will be involved if you say yes.

Is the total time commitment something you can fit into your schedule? If it is, you considering saying yes with confidence, knowing you will be able to deliver.


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Adopt some hard rules

When developing your own rules, consider your strengths and the type of activities that energize you

For example, you may feel highly anxious attending networking events, but still recognize that building networks is important for your career. As such, you might set yourself a rule that you don’t attend networking events because they’re not beneficial for you, but instead, you proactively reach out to people for one-on-one conversations to build your networks in a less anxiety-provoking way.


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