Start practicing these steps and you'll soon be saying YES to the things that really matter.
How many times do you say “Yes” when you’d really rather say “No” or maybe “I don’t know, let me think about it and get back to you?” Are you the first one with your hand up when the call goes out for a new PTO President, for someone to run the office basketball pool, coach the soccer team, organize the fundraiser or run for the Board of Education? These are just a few of the many, many ways that we are asked to serve in our families, places of employment and communities.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do these things; quite the opposite. They are all necessary, important and potentially fulfilling opportunities to use our time and talents to make a difference, to give back and, hopefully, have some fun in the process. It just may be possible that you don’t have to be the one to do them all!
There are a few simple steps that will help you get better at saying no to what no longer serves you, and saying yes to those things that will assist you to create a life of greater joy and authenticity.
Become Aware of Your Motivation
If you are constantly saying “yes” to other people and their agendas, then you are potentially saying “no” to yourself. Be honest with yourself. How much time do you spend on projects and activities that you really don't want to do simply because you are uncomfortable saying no? Do you volunteer out of a sense of obligation and (yes, you can say it) guilt rather from a place of passion and excitement? Are you driven, perhaps, by a need to take charge, look good or gain the approval of other people? If so, you might find yourself feeling drained or resentful rather than invigorated and energized by what you’re doing. Getting clear about why you are saying “yes” is a critical first step towards creating the life of your dreams.
Take Time to Think
Have there been times that you’ve agreed to do something and then wished you hadn’t almost before the words were out of your mouth? Take a few moments to think about the times when you’ve said “yes” too quickly. Did you feel pressured to respond right then, feel as though you’d let someone down if you said “no”, let yourself believe that you were the only one who could do it right? When you better understand why you say “yes” when you’d rather say “no”, you begin to have more control over your responses.
Self awareness is perhaps the most important factor in being able to assert your needs, which includes saying “no” to things that do not align with your priorities in that moment. The next time someone makes a request of your time, talent or treasure take whatever time you need to consider the request and see how it fits in with your life. You have every right to say “thanks for asking, but this isn’t right for me right now”. We all have to make the choices that are best for us. If someone gets upset with us for saying “no”... well, that’s a choice they make for themselves.
Prioritize and Commit to Yourself
One of the best ways that I’ve found to begin to say “no” is to take a look at my own priorities and then evaluate what I’m being asked to do in relationship to the things that I most want in my life. What is most important to me in terms of my health, work, relationships, personal development and finances? If I want to spend more time with my family, than agreeing to run a big fundraiser may not be a great fit for me. If, on the other hand, putting my organizational skills to work in an environment where I’ll meet like-minded people, gain a sense of satisfaction from my efforts and help a worthy cause, are aligned with my priorities, then the fundraiser could be a great fit. So, begin by looking at what’s important to you at this point in your life and make your decisions with those priorities in mind. And remember, saying “No” to something that doesn’t align with your priorities allows you to say “Yes” to something that does.
If standing up for yourself by saying “No” continues to be a challenge for you, perhaps a change in perspective might help. Would it feel different to you if saying “No” allowed someone else to say “Yes”? Perhaps someone new to town would love to coach that team, organize the church picnic or serve on the PTO. What a wonderful gift you would be giving them by stepping aside and allowing them to use their gifts and talents.
Start today to practice saying “no”. Become aware of what’s been motivating you, figure out your priorities so they will always be in your awareness when you are faced with a choice, decision or opportunity. If it feels right, create a list of things that you want to stop doing. Give yourself enough time to really evaluate your responses. Start saying no to little things and work up to the bigger things. Shift your perspective.
Learning to say “no” is like developing a new muscle. Your ability to do it will improve over time with consistent practice. Before long you will notice that you are living with greater joy and authenticity, manifesting the life of your dreams.