First published in Thrive Global February 4, 2020,

Developing a healthy relationship with the word NO!

I love chocolate. It would have to be one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to things that I love that aren’t good for me. So, saying NO to chocolate is not only hard to do, but it’s also in my best interest. And, whether it’s in my best interest or not, I often find myself finding reasons to reach for the chocolate. Imagine my delight when I discovered eating dark chocolate is good for me. It’s more bitter than I’m used to, and I can feel good about saying yes to it.

There is an easier way for me to say NO, and that comes down to values alignment. More than that is how much I keep my commitments front of mind. My commitments, if they are to have any real punch, have got to be born out of my values. Otherwise, I am going to find it hard to stay on track, and that’s makes for unnecessary hard work.

It’s simple to say NO when your priorities are in order.

What you prioritise matters. You could just as easily substitute commitments for priorities. The word priorities is relatively new in the English language. Up until the 1940s, it was singular and had been since the 1400s. The net result of the plural use of the word has effectively spawned a dilution of focus. We continue to find new things to grab our attention and new pursuits to fill our lives and we do so even when we are already stretched in terms of our resources, energy and capability. The net effect is a watering down of attention to the things that matter and give us meaning and we end up juggling way too many balls.

Again, that takes energy.

It’s falling into the busyness trap and has nothing to do with effectiveness. If we think about diffused light, nothing is in focus, and everything is illuminated to a degree. If we concentrate the light, then particular objects come more sharply into focus while other objects are in shadow. If we focus the light further, we end up with a laser beam.

A laser beam can cut through steel.

That is the power of focus, and that comes from knowing what to say NO to. What you say NO to is critical and allows you the time and energy to say yes to the things that matter to you. Saying NO also will enable you to do more with less. It puts you in the driver’s seat and is a conscious decision to remain in control of who to act and when to act.

You either learn to say NO, or you fall victim to other people’s agendas or worse their expectations. What happens when they don’t align with your expectations and values? You end up being resentful. There is an old saying about resentment. It goes like this:

Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Learning to say NO is an act of self-care; it’s an act of courage!

Let’s face it, it can be hard to say NO at times. We feel bad about letting people down, and we even feel guilty at times. The crazy is, we often are more concerned about letting others down, and we let ourselves down in the process. It’s another factor in the resentment piece.

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” –

 Greg Mckeown

The other benefit of saying NO is people will have far more respect for your YES.