There were, until recently, two books that had a profound impact on my life. The first is the King James Bible. I say that unashamedly. I realize it's quite vogue these days to ridicule the Bible and Christianity, but I do not think the "good book" has outlived its usefulness just yet. Indeed no other book has changed my life more than the Bible, and I will not apologize for saying so, though I am sure many would stone me for proclaiming such. But alas, these are the days of our lives.
The second book is 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey. When I read it for the first time, it was like one of those AH-HA moments in life, where your eyes are finally opened, and you smack yourself on the forehead for not having thought to read it sooner. So profound was its impact on me, that I usually listen to the audiobook once a year. In fact I have the book in three different formats I am such a fan!
I can now say that 'The Best Yes' by Lisa Terkeurst is a third book to add to that list of books that made a profound impact on my life, and I will likely read over and over again in the years to come.
The tagline of the book says: "Making wise decisions in the midst of endless demands". If I boiled down the book's contents into a single question it would be this: "If you CAN do something, does that mean you SHOULD do something?"
At first this might seem a bit nebulous. Is there even a difference between CAN and SHOULD? To many people the answer would be a resounding no! It has been my experience though, that those who answer that way generally profit from you following their instructions on life. By that I mean, there is usually a gross conflict of interest when a person tells me this. Usually the person asking me to do something knows I CAN do it. I am capable, trustworthy and it's POSSIBLE. But should I? If you ask them, the answer is yes. Why?
Because they want me to do it.
See the conflict of interest? Those people constantly telling you or I to do things are usually the ones that profit from it. You CAN work extra hours, so your boss would say you SHOULD work extra hours. You CAN run this ministry at church so you SHOULD run it. You CAN attend this family gathering, so you SHOULD do it. You CAN collect food for the hungry so you SHOULD do it.
But SHOULD you really?
'The Best Yes' is all about looking at the choices we make, especially as it pertains to commitments. It begs the question first of what you SHOULD be doing.
By SHOULD I mean, those things you feel called to do. For some, collecting food for the homeless IS a calling. They are good at it, but more than that their life would lack meaning and purpose without it. They are driven to do it out of a passion for the work, a desire to see people fed and taken care of who are less fortunate. For me, it's writing and teaching my adult bible class on Sunday mornings. I love writing. Writing Fiction stories, novels, this blog. Heck, even emails are fun to me sometimes. And I love the camaraderie and fellowship and friendships that have grown from my work on Sunday mornings teaching young adults the Bible. (Plus as an added bonus, nearly every week I get to WRITE up a Lesson, so it's a win-win).
But have you ever wondered about the things you're called to do, the things you SHOULD do, and stacked them against all those things you do simply because you CAN do them? Would you be more effective doing what you SHOULD do, if you did less of what you CAN do?
Oh man, this is where it all hits the fan. Because if we focused on those thing we SHOULD do, and did less stuff for others that we CAN do, people will be ticked.
Yes they will.
'The Best Yes' focuses on making choices that empower us to focus our best on what we SHOULD be doing. It offers a step by step approach to decision making that helps us to understand the true importance of what others ask from us, and align them to the passions that drive our life.
I can't spend this entire review defending the book, nor will I attempt to. Some reading this will likely dismiss it offhand, saying it's selfish, self centered, etc. Terkeurst goes to great lengths to say these passions you have should not be self centered, but let's face it, if you're going to tell someone you can't do something for them they want you to, even if you tell them it's so you can focus more on something else positive you feel called to do, they're still going to say you're being selfish.
Terkeurst tells a story in the book that is all too familiar in my own life. She talks about getting guilted into a commitment at church because, she CAN do it, so she SHOULD do it. Then when the commitment became burdensome and her children were born and growing up, in a moment of weakness she went to the ministry leader and said she was struggling to keep all the balls in the air. The Ministry leader responded, saying: "I'm tired of hearing you complain about having young children all the time. I just want you to figure it out and get this stuff done."
Eventually Terkeurst got to a place where she had to evaluate her own life, especially when it comes to her writing (something again I can relate to). If she was going to be a writer, then there was work to be done, sacrifices to be made, prices to be paid. The first of which came down to looking at her schedule and coming up with a hard and fast writing time. And then the phone rang and a friend wanted her to bring her kids to hang out during writing time. She COULD do that. But SHOULD she? Was she going to be a writer, and write, or go hang out with friends?
And would the friend understand being told no?
'The Best Yes' was like a slap in the face for me, or an Ice Bucket Challenge if you will. Every single chapter felt as though Terkeurst had been following me around for the last 5 years of my life, and then decided to write a book about all the things that had made me so miserable. I'm not joking here.
In my day job I am a software developer for a major regional bank. I make decisions all the time, and work on large projects with budgets deadlines, scope of work, requirements etc. I am moderately good at my job, and have had some success in my professional career.
And yet I have found it increasingly difficult to make choices in my personal life. At the grocery checkout line, I will freeze up being asked if I would like my milk and OJ bagged up. Do I? We could always use the bags, but isn't it bad for the environment? What should I do? Oh the humanity...
Thus Terkeurst's book about making choices, resounded as something of a revelation for me. She talks about common problems in decision making, like making things too complicated, searching for the perfect decision, quantifying your decisions, considering the implications of decisions, all things I have struggled with.
To me, there's a lot of fear involved in decisions. For one thing, I get crippled by the desire to find the perfect decision. The one decision I can make where I will be happy, my family will be happy, my friends will be happy, and ultimately I will have no regrets.
Sadly, those decisions do not exist.
She points out that all decisions have regret. 100% of the time, the decisions we make have some form of regret. Therefore trying to find a decision that has no regret is a fool's errand. She uses a simple (non-combative) example for large parts of the book. A friend walks up to her and says: "Here try a sip of this wonderful Starbucks coffee"
Can she? Yes she can. Should she? Hmmm
By walking through the process of identifying regrets, she explains how she could take a drink and eventually become a double-mocha-latte-frappachino-soy-grande-thingamagigger fanatic herself, or she could simply say no thanks and walk away. Her reasoning for this is that she does not crave what she's never had. For a guy who has an addiction to just about anything ever made with sugar, this came as something of a revelation in itself.
But she identifies the regrets by saying if she declines, she has a short term regret of passing up on the drink. But she skips the long term regret of buying a $5.00 coffee three times a week for the rest of her life, and the additional 5000 calories each week that she will either need to work off on the treadmill, or simply gain the weight and regret the weight gain.
She quantifies the decision by figuring out what I just listed, counting the calories and everything else that's going to go along with the risk of getting hooked on that sugary coffee drink of heaven.
The book deals with things like Analysis Paralysis, disappointing others, and dealing with the backlash that comes along with saying no to other people. One of the chapters is entitled: Overwhelmed Schedule, Underwhelmed soul.
I would venture to say that represents the feelings of many people in the world today.
One last thing about this book. It is written specifically to women. However it spoke to me in such ways that I didn't mind when the author said things like "Being a Best Yes Girl." I didn't care at all.
Each day we make decisions that are tough, and it seems that as we get older and our responsibilities increase, we only have tougher decisions to make. 'The Best Yes' seeks to equip its readers with the tools to ask yourself what you SHOULD be getting involved in, not simply what you COULD be getting involved in. It challenges you to ask yourself how you're spending your time, because that is after all, how you're spending your life.
But what about more 'controversial' decisions. How about the lady at church who asks you to bake some cookies for the church bake sale? SHOULD you do that because you CAN? What if you're already busy? What if you need to help your kids with schoolwork? To the bake sale organizer, none of that matters as long as you bring your cookies. But does it matter to your kids, if you're screaming at them to hurry up, so you can get to the store, rushing here and yon in order to get everything ready, pulling all the joy and peace from your house because you CAN make cookies?
Or SHOULD you simply say no, and have peace in your home?
Thus the controversy boils like a witches brew. Because if you follow out this thought this might mean that perhaps there should be less bake sales at church. Less overtime, less commitments. But aren't these things good things?
Terkeurst deals with that as well, understand and accepting the pressures of choosing between two 'good' options. This is where the 'best' really comes into play. Evaluating what is the best use of your time.
And all of us, who try even a little to be productive human beings, must surely wonder if we are being true to the best use of ourselves and our time.