Take Control by Saying NoOctober 9, 2012
This edition is about Saying No: making choices in alignment with your purpose,
and having the courage to turn down commitments that may distract you from your
intentions and living your best life.
I hope you find at least one idea to inspire and encourage you.
When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself. ~Paulo
Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and
not saying no soon enough. ~Josh Billings
We need to find the courage to say no to the things and people that are not
serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with
authenticity. ~Barbara DeAngelis
Saying No: Living A Life of Intention
When Did Saying “No” Become So Difficult?
“Yes, I’ll do it.” Have you ever committed to something — then immediately
regretted it? I know I have many times, and my guess is you have too. Why do we
tend to say yes and make commitments in the moment that later cause us heartburn
and frustration? Why do we tend to overcommit?
“NO!” How easy it is to say as a child! Think about it: have you ever heard a
parent bemoaning the fact that their child won’t stop saying “Yes!” to eating
vegetables, doing homework, or cleaning a bedroom?
Somewhere along the line, however, things change. A coworker asks you to take on
a time-consuming project. A family member asks you to plan a reunion. A parent
approaches you about running a bake sale. Even though you know you don’t have
the time, the project is going to bog you down, or you don’t have the energy for
another commitment — you falter, take on the responsibility, and are left
feeling frazzled and beleaguered.
Affirming the Positive
It may be difficult to see the positive in saying no. But, for every action,
there is an equal and opposite reaction: every “no” is the opportunity to say
“yes” to something else. Your “No, I can’t take on extra responsibilities” may
be a “Yes, I intend to complete my current work responsibilities more
thoroughly.” Turning down the opportunity to work with a charity you’re not
passionate about leaves room in your schedule to devote yourself to causes that
are meaningful to you. And gracefully declining the invitation to run an event
at your child’s school may leave an opening in your busy schedule to spend more
quality time with your child. Value the things you are saying “yes” to — by
Often we respond with guilt or are distracted by the value of the task in
question. The project sounds interesting, the charity is important, or the
action just seems good or necessary, so we say yes and end up taking on more
than we can handle. Remember: every moment you spend on something is a moment
not spent on something else. And, if your true intentions center on starting a
small business, traveling the world, or spending more time with family, you may
be taking valuable time away from those tasks and diverting it to actions not in
alignment with your goals. It’s important to accept that while you can
do anything you want, you can’t do everything you want.
So how do we keep ourselves from committing to projects that hinder or distract
us from living our best life? The ancient Greek maxim “know thyself” gives
deeper insight into a mindset that is self-assured and peaceful enough to say
no. When you have a clear perspective on your life’s intentions — your life
vision and life purpose — it becomes easier to turn down offers than don’t
align with the life you want to live.
Tips for Saying No
For many of us, saying no can be a challenging proposition. How do you say no,
staying true to yourself and your intentions for your life, without offending
those around you or missing out on great opportunities? Take these baby steps to
practice saying no:
- “No.” is a complete sentence. A fellow coach once told me, during a time when I had overcommitted myself, to remember that I am empowered and have the authority to make my own life choices. We don’t need to make excuses or justify our decisions to others. Just saying “No” (or “No, thank you.”) is enough.
- Instead of saying no — or yes — immediately, change your default answer to “Let me get back to you.” Giving yourself the space and time to consider a proposition or request minimizes pressure and lets you assess the value of the activity.
- Instead of telling yourself you can’t do something — whether it’s because you don’t have the time, don’t support the cause, or just plain don’t want to — empower yourself by saying, “I choose not to because it doesn’t fit my life.”
- Recognize the value and importance of your time. When you take on a project for someone else, you are tacitly acknowledging their time as more important than yours. Be aware that time is finite. Use your time in a way that furthers your vision and dreams. Then, instead of being bogged down by commitments that don’t align with your values, direct your time towards what is important.
- Be firm. Even if you know you’re going to say no to something or someone, be careful not to become wishy-washy or apologetic, which can leave you feeling guilty and the requestor feeling like asking you again. Be polite, but be clear.
- Live in alignment with your values & purpose. You may recognize this tip from the August newsletter on living courageously. In many ways, saying no and taking leaps of faith can seem like opposing ideas. Ultimately, however, both ideas come down to this simple concept: that your best life — whether you
are declining an offer or taking a bold leap — comes about when your choices align with your intentions.
Further Reading on Saying No
Focus on the Future …
How can you cultivate the courage to say no? Mapping your intentions and purpose
is a rewarding process that results in personal achievement, deep satisfaction,
and gives you the conviction to say “No!” wholeheartedly to anything that would
distract you from your intention.
At Leap Forward Coaching we have a process that will empower you to move bravely
and boldly — against distractions — towards your best life. We help you
overcome obstacles and confront your fears to learn how to lead a more
fulfilling, successful, and rewarding life.
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