Why I Turned Down a Book Offer

Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD

Licensed psychologist and wellness consultant

A journey from automatic yes to mindful decisions 

This week brought with it a significant decision – turning down a book offer. This wasn’t just any decision; it came after months of proposal edits and engaging in meetings. Since making the decision, I found myself immersed in contemplation, reflecting on the journey that led me to this decisive moment.

I’ve always prided myself on being decisive, often finding clarity in choices where others might see complexity. However, in discussing this recent decision with my own therapist, I realized something pivotal: in the past, this would have been an automatic ‘yes’ for me, without a moment’s hesitation. Recognizing this was more than an eye-opener; it was a profound awakening.

For too long, I’ve navigated life using external validation as my compass, allowing it to dictate my decisions. But as I journey through personal growth and work towards healing certain unhelpful thought patterns, I’m learning to re-evaluate what deserves space in my life.

Discovering Clarity Beyond Striving

Tara Mohr’s recent musings (in her newsletter) on the theme of striving struck a chord with me, echoing my own evolving perspective on decision-making.

In her words: “Many of us are recognizing: we are done pushing ourselves too hard. We are done buying into the compulsive pursuit of more, more, more that keeps us from savoring what’s already here.

But what remains when we step away from relentless pursuit, she wonders.

There’s that stunning haiku by Mizuta Masahide (1657–1723):

Barn’s burnt down

Now I can see

the moon.

What is the moon that we can see, the light that we can come to know, when the barn of striving has burned down?

These lines resonated deeply with me as I navigated my recent decision. It was a process of shifting focus from the relentless building of the proverbial barn to the serene luminosity of the moon. In craving that gentle light before darkness falls, I realized that my willingness to endlessly construct and achieve was waning. The never-ending cycle of building, striving, and achieving can eclipse the quiet, essential moments of light that are not perpetually available.

This realization was instrumental in my choice. The pursuit of constant achievement, symbolized by the barn, often obscures the tranquil, ephemeral beauty of life – the moonlight. It was in this understanding that I found the clarity to make a decision not driven by external metrics of success, but by a deeper, more introspective understanding of what truly enriches my life.

Photo Credit: Robert Golub

The Path to My Decision: A Journey of Self-Discovery

Embarking on the decision-making process for turning down the book offer was a journey in itself, one filled with introspection and revelations. Here’s how I navigated these waters:

  1. Recognizing the Power of Choice: Initially, I hadn’t fully grasped that this was indeed a decision, with the real option to say YES or NO. It seemed straightforward until my husband began posing critical questions. His insights illuminated the potential sacrifices and loss of those precious moments of light that would come with saying YES. It was an eye-opening moment – a realization that the power of choice was truly in my hands.
  2. Seeking Diverse Perspectives: In a departure from my usual approach, I opened up to a few trusted individuals about my uncertainty. Gathering their opinions and viewpoints forced me to confront the decision more holistically, balancing both logic and emotion. This step was about breaking my usual pattern and seeking clarity from multiple angles.
  3. Analyzing the YES: Delving into why I might say YES, I peered through the lenses of perfectionism and people-pleasing. Strikingly, I found that most motivations were externally driven, for the sake of others, rather than stemming from an internal, passionate desire. What would I be foregoing by choosing this path? It turned out to be a significant amount of that vital light.
  4. Contemplating the NO: In contrast, the reasons for saying NO were deeply rooted in my personal values and priorities, with a stronger emotional resonance. This was about aligning with my inner voice and truth.
  5. Avoiding the Scarcity Trap: An essential part of this process was reminding myself that saying NO now doesn’t mean never. It simply means not at this moment. This perspective was crucial in lifting the weight of the decision, shifting from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance and possibility.
  6. Sitting with Both Choices: When I mentally said YES, I was met with ongoing doubt and uncertainty. However, when I leaned towards NO, there emerged a profound sense of relief and a sense of pride in honoring my true self.

The decision I’ve reached feels deeply correct, not just in its outcome, but more significantly, in the process it took to get here. This experience has shed light on the profound impact of stepping away from the relentless drive for achievement and the reflexive habit of saying ‘yes’ to everything.

This journey has been a lesson in mindful living – a realization of the importance of how I spend my time and what I choose to prioritize. It’s about actively selecting to focus on the aspects of life that genuinely spark joy and nourish my sense of self. These are the elements that truly matter, the ones that kindle my passion and fuel my spirit.

As I move forward, the lessons learned in this process will guide me in making decisions that are not just right, but are right for me. It’s a path less about the pursuit of external validation and more about honoring my inner light – the unique qualities and passions that make me who I am.

A Guiding Light for Your Journey

As we each continue on our paths, I encourage you to embrace the pursuit of your own unique light. Let your decisions emerge from a place of mindful reflection, not just the demands of the moment or the expectations of others. Cultivate deep curiosity about your choices. Instead of reacting reflexively, pause and consider what truly resonates with your inner self.

In doing so, you may discover a profound sense of alignment and authenticity in your decisions. Remember, every choice is an opportunity to reflect who you are and what you truly value. May your journey be illuminated by the light of self-awareness and mindful living.

Caught in anxious patterns like people pleasing or perfectionism?