One of my favorite quotes is “Say no to the good, so you can make room for the best!”
It’s become sort of a mantra for me over the last few years. And it’s been instrumental in helping me achieve more balance and more joy in my life, not to mention more profits! Warren Buffet said “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”
I joke about how I have become a “master disappointer”. I say no to so many opportunities that are good, and would be fun or bring me publicity or offer a chance to be creative in a new way, but I can’t possibly stick to my goals and priorities if I say yes to most of the offers that come my way. And believe me, it’s hard. It’s hard to say no to something you think you might regret. Things always sound the most exciting when you’re too overcommitted to take them on, don’t they? How many times have you said to yourself or someone close to you, “But I HAVE to say yes to this, it’s what I have been working for!” But you don’t. Just imagine how many amazing offers Warren Buffet gets in a year.
But then there’s your good friend FOMO telling you to say yes. Yep, fear of missing out makes us take on lots of things that take our eye off the ball of what’s really important to us. And we wonder why we never reach our ultimate goals or dreams or financial success. Well, FOMO is why!
And let’s be real, it’s also very hard to feel like you are letting people down or disappointing others. That’s why I joke about it, but it’s really more of a reminder that it’s my job to disappoint lots of people, if I want to say yes to my top 2 priorities–my family and my health.
I want you to start saying NO, and saying it often!
Let’s talk about how to do that in business and in life.
In my consulting and coaching business, I talk with creatives and entrepreneurs daily who say yes to everything, or at least too many things. Their clients cross professional or personal boundaries. They give in on their fees, they give in when pushed about their time, they take on clients that their gut says won’t be ideal, and they take on too many commitments and responsibilities that they can’t possibly finish on time or effectively. In each of those cases, they should have said no.
There’s often a financial fear at play when saying no to potential clients. There is a fear that the client won’t work with us ever again if we don’t say yes to right now, a fear that we won’t get any other clients than the one in front of us (even though we are already over-booked), a fear that we can’t pay our bills if we don’t take every client that calls us, and a fear of missing a great opportunity that would be THE one big break we’ve been looking for. But it’s not. Fear is a liar. It leads us down the path of overworking, overwhelm and underpaid. And we even tell ourselves that we’ll just give in this once, that we won’t do it again later. But once you let your guard down, it becomes far too easy to let it down again and again. It becomes a habit.
And then there are all those times in everyday life, too, when you should say no. Like when someone asks you to take on something big “just as a favor.” Or even something “small” that turns into something much bigger than you estimated. Or when you get an invitation to the 15th event this month and you’re already stretched to the max but you tell yourself all the reasons why you MUST attend this event, lest people be upset with you or think less of you.
But realize this. Either you control your schedule and your life, or everyone else does. So ask yourself who do you want running your life?
And yes, I know how hard it is to say no. Especially when a friend or your family is asking the question. So here are a few ways to start practicing how to say NO so you feel more comfortable saying it during those critical moments.
First, ask for time.
If you feel yourself cracking with each ask, say something like “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you.” That gives you time to build up your confidence and to remind yourself of why you need to say no.
Second, make a mental post-it note that you can refer to over and over or even a real post-it note and put one on your phone, your mirror, your desk, everywhere.
It could say “You are the CEO of your life and you cannot give in.” Or it could say, “Is this the right decision for my business? For my family?” or even simply put Warren Buffet’s quote on it. Whenever you feel cornered, picture that post-it in your mind. You can even make one for your computer so you can look at it when you’re answering an email request.
Third, don’t make it personal.
You’re saying no to the request, not to the person. It isn’t rude or “mean” to say no to something. You aren’t obligated to fulfill every request someone makes of you. You’re a professional with a full schedule. And though others should understand that often you won’t be able to say yes, they likely won’t and that’s ok. If they don’t understand, that’s on them, not on you.
Fourth, remember that there is strength in standing firm.
People often test your limits to see how far they can get. But the more you stand your ground, the more confident you will become and people usually respect you more for knowing your priorities. And remember you don’t have to explain your no and you shouldn’t. Most people don’t like excuses. You don’t have to say anything but “No. I can’t. But thank you so much for thinking of me”. The end. Don’t feel the need to make up some extravagant story or lie or tell them the litany of things on your already over-scheduled to do list. A simple no is all you need, in a kind and gracious tone.
Finally, practice saying no.
You can use a friend or family member as a sounding board, as someone to practice with before you meet with that pushy client or family member. Just like giving in can become a habit, so can saying no.
In the comments below, tell me about when you’ve faced a decision where you stood firm and said no, or where you wished you had. Remember that you’re saying no to the “so-so” in life, to give you the time and energy to say YES to the fabulous life that is out there waiting for you!