A word I was never good at saying. “Yes” was a word I was much more comfortable with.
I used to think that if you said “yes” alot, you were doing good things for the person who asked, and, by association, good things for your own karma.
“Can we meet for lunch?” “Yes!”
“You wanna get together with XYZ couple?” “Yes!”
“Can you come to my office for a meeting?” “Yes!”
“Want to go to this event?” “Yes.”
“Do you mind helping me with XYZ?” “Hell yes!”
Truth is though, as soon as I said yes, I immediately regretted it. And, on the way to whatever it was I had agreed to, I regretted it even more. And once I arrived at whatever it was I agreed to, I really, really regretted it!
In business too, all of the mistakes I made were when I said yes when I should have said no. Yes to working with people who didn’t share my own sense of ethics and morals. And it cost me dearly, every single friggen time! And I can’t even begin to come up with the number of events I went to that I so wish I had said no to.
Along my personal journey to discover my own truths, eliminate stress and find more joy and fufillment in my day-to-day existence, I learned that I was committing to things I really had no desire to do or had no passion for and the result of these commitments was causing me more stress than enjoyment.
So I learned to use a new word in my vocabulary, “no!”
And it’s been incredibly liberating as a result. Not only do I have so much more free time, but the time I do have is spent doing only the things I am most passionate about.
It’s not to say that I have built a wall around me and disengaged, not at all. I am as involved and committed to helping anyone I can in anyway I can. It’s just that I am more selective on HOW I spend my time and who I am spending it with. I also realize, now more than ever, that life is so short. The blink of an eye. And so every moment counts and key to making this a constant practice is to really be mindful of the things and people you commit to.
Other things I say no to are mindless journeys down toxic or narcissistic social media tunnels, escapist TV shows that have no spiritual value and virtually anything that doesn’t reflect my passions, interests and value systems. With so many choices these days, I have found that unless you have some discipline on how you spend your time, you wind up wasting much of it. And there goes your life!
If you’re passionate about your spiritual practice, church or temple and helping others, spend more time there and less time elsewhere. If you’re passionate about a hobby, do it. If you’re passionate about reading, no excuses not to be enjoying a good book, etc.
The point is that we all have choices. But we all make commitments to silly things that are not part of our core sense of joy, passion or mission. So give up saying yes to commitments of your time that do not fit these callings.
And you don’t have to be an asshole to say no. There are very kind or even alternative ways to communicate your deciding not to pursue something. And be honest, too. Because if you’re not honest with others, you’re not honest with yourself.
Here are three good articles on this same topic…
So for me, understanding the power of saying no has allowed me to spend more time on the things I love and am passionate about. It has eliminated a ton of unwanted stress and anxiety from my life. And more importantly, it has made me so much more passionate and present in all the things I say “yes” to.
I will give you an example of how I say no to things I don’t want to do, and yes to things I want to do in my own life. I love coaching my kids in basketball. They are young. These days are precious for me and being present for them is really important to me. But coaching them is also a big time commitment. At least three days/nights a week. So when I get asked to go to something after hours for work, or to meet someone socially and it conflicts with this schedule, I simply say no. “I am coaching my kids.” And people seem to understand, and if they don’t, at least I have been honest with them and more importantly, with myself.
So try saying “no” to the things you don’t want to do, and saying “yes” to having more time for the things you really want to be spending your time on.
Here is a great quote to summarize my thoughts on this topic: