Chleborad: How I learned to say ‘no’


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In the second edition of Living and Learning, Opinion Editor Will Chleborad found himself overcommitting to school, clubs and friends during his early years at Iowa State. 

Will Chleborad

Editor’s note: This is the second part of “Living and Learning.” You can find the first part here

Halfway through freshman year, I found myself in a jam; I overcommitted to all sorts of clubs, organizations and friends. I had a serious problem with not being able to say no.

I remember when I went to ClubFest on central campus during that first fall semester. I was one of those people who walked around bewildered at the number of clubs and organizations at Iowa State. I had a list of clubs that I had written down beforehand; organizations that I knew I was going to join. That list was only three or four clubs, though. The week after I was supposed to casually stroll around the event, my email was blowing up. More than 20 different clubs or groups had my name and contact down. I felt that since I had spent a few hours at Club Fest and personally talked to almost every group, I shared my information with, it would have been rude for me to brush them aside. 

For the following two weeks, I miserably tried to fit in multiple different club meetings every day. I wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere right out of the gate, and unfortunately, that meant not being able to say no. 

During those two weeks, I developed a poor mindset for school, that it was more important to socialize than to keep up with my studies. Suddenly, instead of doing my homework and studying, I was finding more clubs to join as well as applying for as many leadership societies and positions as possible. 

At that time, I felt that the most important thing for me was to make friends and be liked by as many people as I could. I exhausted myself by keeping busy with things that didn’t matter. 

Looking back now, I see that I sacrificed building quality relationships by trying to accumulate an enormous number of friends. Unfortunately, this pattern continued beyond just that first semester, but becoming aware of these negative habits continues to help me today. 

A word of advice for anyone continuing to struggle as well. Envision yourself in five years. Is this club or friend group still part of the picture? Do they make a difference in or impact the goals that you are navigating towards? If the answer is no, reconsider what you are putting your time and energy into.