By Nora Crosthwaite | Realtor, RE/MAX Concepts

I’ve been taught to say yes to opportunities. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I watched my mother attempt to balance her family life and her career at IBM. Whenever she had a new opportunity at work, she said yes. Whenever we needed her, she said yes. 

At school, saying yes was the norm. Do you want to join the Latin club? Yes. Do you want to join the National Honor Society? Yes. For me, this continued in college. Do you want to join the honors program? Yes. Do you want more hours at TJ Maxx? Yes. I’m sure you see the trend. 

And for me, this continued throughout my career.  

Do you want to take on this project? Yes. Can you travel to this meeting? Yes. What about getting a certification? Yes. And mind you, I continued to say yes unequivocally even as I became a wife and mother. 

Since becoming a business owner and entrepreneur, I’m finding that the "yes trap" is even more insidious. Left unchecked, these items can take over my business and my life: constant networking events/invitations, pressure to keep up on social media, and initiatives that resonate that I want to join or launch. How do you determine whether to pounce or to walk away without guilt?

Here are some of the reasons you might choose to walk away:

  • Does it fit in with your current grand plan?
  • Are you feeling obligated? Do you feel like you "should" take this opportunity?
  • Are you worried you will miss out if you don’t proceed?
  • What are you giving up if you don’t walk away?

On the other hand, there are other reasons why you might choose to pounce:

  • Is it scary? Does it require you to get out of your comfort zone?
  • Is it exciting? Does it resonate?
  • Will you regret the choice later if you don’t pounce?

I have walked away from two opportunities in the past year, and it has been invigorating. The first opportunity was a business idea to help Realtors like myself. I spent much of 2018 investigating this idea: I consulted industry experts, conducted surveys to gauge interest, etc. And then I walked away. Saying no felt like a failure. But I’ve come to realize it was a victory. Walking away allowed me to find the right opportunity.

The second opportunity was more personal. I had planned to compete again at a national level in tae kwon do this year, since the tournament would be nearby, and I’d be moving up to the 41+ age bracket. Again, I realized that it didn’t fit my criteria; I was pursuing this effort out of a sense of obligation, and I would give up too many things that mattered to participate. I walked away. 

Allowing myself the choice to walk away has enabled me to pounce on the right opportunity. What opportunities can you pursue if you learn to walk away?

Nora Crosthwaite is a residential Realtor at RE/MAX Concepts. She does business under Homes with Nora LLC, and specializes in educating her clients and inspiring action. Prior to becoming a Realtor, she worked in the software development field, implementing large-scale software, until she decided she wanted to impact clients directly. Outside of real estate, Nora volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, is on the board for FemCity Des Moines, and trains in tae kwon do with her daughter. She enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, and is a self-professed geek who catches all the Star Wars and superhero movies. Contact Nora via email.