In general, I’m pretty good about saying no to things that don’t interest me, that feel toxic or constantly draining, or that cross my boundaries.
No, I will not debate with you, reactive stranger on the internet.
No, I will not succumb to your hoovering, narcissistic ex-boyfriend.
No, you cannot drive my car all week so you don’t have to use the gas in your own car, dear teenage daughter with a job and a shopping habit. 🙂
Saying no to good ideas and opportunities is the growing edge for me now. The fact that my kids are nearly grown and my business is well established means there’s space and fuel for my many ideas. It means exciting opportunities are being presented to me; opportunities that my younger self wouldn’t have dreamed of saying no to.
But I can’t possibly pursue every good idea that comes knocking (you feel me, ideas people?), and not every great opportunity is great for me (or great for me right now). At this stage in my life, I’m learning to say no often–even as my default–in order to protect the tiny, powerful handful of yes’s that feel most aligned for me.
James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) sums this up succinctly. He’s describing the path to success, but I also see it as a path to empowerment, fulfillment, and joy:
“The opportunity cost of your time increases as you become more successful. At first, you just eliminate the obvious distractions and explore the rest. As your skills improve and you learn to separate what works and what doesn’t, you have to continually increase your threshold for saying yes. You still need to say no to distractions, but you also need to learn to say no to opportunities that were previously good uses of time, so you can make space for great uses of time. It’s a good problem to have, but it can be a tough skill to master.”
I recently decided to close my online membership. This was a tough, tender decision as so many beautiful conversations and nurturing connections were happening there, and supporting women to grow and heal in community is at the core of my work and our company’s mission.
But/and it was a huge resource drain for me and my team and therefore unsustainable. The idea was aligned but the format was not. Closing it down is clearing up loads of time, energy, and creative capacity for projects that allow my team and me to utilize our gifts and strengths in more congruent ways.
I want to be clear about something: it is absolutely a privilege to be able to choose what to say yes and no to.
But I can’t think of a better use of privilege than to allow our no’s to protect the yes’s coming from the deepest, most soulful places within us.
Stephen Covey (author of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People) puts it this way:
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage–pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically–to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
And you? What 1-3 things do you most want to say yes to this year? And what are you saying no to to make room for those beautifully aligned ‘yes’s?
Radical discernment is where it’s at, ya’ll,