Unless you are telling your kiddo “NO!” for the umpteenth time, saying no is probably one of the hardest words we have to learn to say and use as adults. The word has two little letters and is only one syllable, and yet in our crazy busy lives, we don’t use it enough. So the question we need to start asking is, “What do I need to say no too?”
It’s a question that I’ve considered for a long time and have worked on putting into practice in recent months. My crazy health journey of being sick, surgery, and recovery has forced me to look at my schedule. I’ve had limited endurance and brain power, so my standard go, go, go pace has had to change.
And you know what!? It’s not always easy, but it is okay.
As I continue to heal, get my strength back and have the ability to concentrate longer I’ve found that I’m falling back into old habits. My go, go, go pace is not healthy, and it can quickly put me back on the path to burnout.
If you say yes to something, you are automatically saying no to something else.
It’s such a simple concept, but it can be a game changer when you get it and start to implement it.
- If I’m saying yes to staying up too late, I’m saying no to feeling refreshed in the morning.
- If I say yes to 5 evenings out this week, I’m saying no to downtime and being fully present to the one event I’m looking forward to that week.
- If I say yes to hitting the snooze button one more time, I’m saying no to a longer morning walk that both Bailey and I need.
- If I say yes to that junk food day after day, I’m saying no to my goal of improving my diet and eating habits.
Once we start to see and understand the full impact of what an automatic “Yes” means, we begin to pause first. In that pause, we can think through the repercussions of that “Yes” on our time, schedule, energy level, current commitments, and on our values and priorities.
Starting a habit of saying no
I recently had an opportunity to look this question square in the face in my web design business. My schedule for the day was laid out; I was going through my list and getting it all accomplished and feeling good about my day. But of course, a late minute request came in about making a site live.
The first step was not to allow myself to say yes right away. The second was to look at my schedule and be honest with my client and let them know that saying yes to them meant that I had to say no to someone else.
So I reviewed the remaining list of to-do’s to see if there was anything on my list I could say no too. That was an empowering moment.
In the end, I did say yes. And as a result a couple of other projects got moved onto the following day’s schedule.
Realizing that I had the power to choose was quite amazing. Instead of my usual habit of trying to fit it all in, I picked and chose and ended up being okay. The world did not disintegrate around me, and my inbox did not end up flooded with angry clients. Amazing right!?
And most importantly?
I made it to my nephew’s baseball game that evening.
Choosing my yes and my no carefully helped preserve my personal priority of cheering (and yes cheering loudly enough to embarrass him, he knew I was there!) on my nephew and his team.
As you go through your day start watching where you say “Yes” automatically. Stop yourself and think about the impact of your “Yes” first. If a “No” in that moment is uncomfortable, it’s okay to say, “I will need to get back to you and let you know.”
Starting a habit of saying “No” helps you create margin in your life so that when you do say yes, you can mean it wholeheartedly and be there, fully present.
So, what do you need to say no to today?
Marta Goertzen is an entrepreneur, writer and nature photographer. She daily explores the trails and beaches of the South Central Oregon Coast with her buddy Bailey. You can follow along on their adventures on Instagram. She is also the author of several books including her newest, “Choosing Gratitude: A Daily Quiet Time Journal”.