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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Bryan M.

by Bryan M.

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Life Hacks

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One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from my time in OT school has been the power of “no”. Although one of the first words humans learn how to use, it’s ironic that “no” has seemed to be one of the hardest words for me to implement regularly. Probably a combination of being raised as the child of immigrants and inherently being a people pleaser, I became accustomed to making my default answer to questions “yes” because I wanted to leave a good impression with others, jumping at any opportunity presented to me. I wanted to please the people around me, grow personally and professionally, and ultimately become better in any way possible.

I first noticed this tendency of jumping to “yes” when I was in undergrad at USC, and have seen it carry over to my time in graduate school here at Chan. As I started finding my footing in various student organizations, classes, and work, I found myself saying “yes” to any opportunity that presented itself to me. “Can you take on this leadership role that has a vacancy?” “Yes, absolutely, I would be happy to.” “Can you cover this shift for me?” “Sure, I could use the extra money.” “I’m running short on time for the project; could you finish the last part I couldn’t do on top of what you have already done?” “Sure, whatever works for the group.” “Do you plan to pursue more education once you graduate?” “Yes, I think that would be in my best interest.”

Many think that jumping at any opportunity presented leads to growth and development. And although that may be the case in many situations, I tragically found that it is not always the case in every situation. I found that as I took on more and more responsibilities, I was starting to become burnt out, fatigued, dispassionate, and complacent. I was spreading myself too thin, setting unrealistic expectations for myself just because I had the opportunity to do so. I was regressing, or, as I colloquially coined this personal phenomenon, “regr-yes-sing”.

This year, I made the goal to prioritize my own personal health and well-being, and that came with the understanding that I could only accomplish that by saying “no” to some opportunities. What I have come to realize is that saying “no” is completely okay! Understanding personal limitations is a huge part of maturation, and it’s something I’m happy I’m finally coming into.

Somewhat inadvertently, by saying “no” I’m actually saying “yes” to other things. I’m saying “yes” to my well-being, my friendships/relationships, my mental/physical health. By saying “no”, I’m finally giving myself permission to take a step back, acknowledge how hard I have worked, and relax so I can keep going later on.

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