Trouble Saying No? Try This Reframe.

If you feel like you never have enough time to pursue the things you’re uniquely suited to do, you’re probably not saying no enough.

Last week I got an email from one of my readers. Liz said:

“Time and saying ‘no’ is the one thing I am struggling with right now in both life and starting my own blog/business. I’m a competitive runner, mom, wife. I am a recovering CPA and keep saying yes to small clients who need help with their Quickbooks and accounting which takes time away from what I really want to do.”

You’re definitely not alone on this one Liz.

Saying no can be really hard. Especially when you start off in a new endeavor and feel like you need to keep our options open. But if you want to reach the next level in any area of your life, you're going to have to say no.

A lot.

Why You Should Say No More Often

We want to say yes. We're scared that if we say no, we'll be judged. We want to be seen as someone who can handle anything that gets thrown at us.

And we don’t want to look selfish. So we feel guilty unless we say yes.

But here’s the thing: it’s actually more selfish to stretch ourselves too thin. In the short-term, it feels like we’re being generous. But when we overcommit to things that aren’t aligned with what we want, we cripple our ability to serve in the long-term.

This reminds me of a Kay Ryan poem called "The well or the cup". Basically, your time is limited - it's a cup. Don't treat it like a well.

If you’re really committed to giving your gifts to the world, you need to learn how to get through the short-term discomfort of saying no in order to have the time and energy to say yes to the right things over time.

When you're in that uncomfortable moment of not wanting to say no, you need to change your focus. You need to think about all of the things that you will be able to say yes to if you say no here.

Ask yourself: if I continue to overcommit myself and say yes to opportunities that aren’t a fit, what will my life look like in 5–10 years? Who around me might suffer?

How To Make Room For The Yes’s That Matter

I remember once in my sophomore year of college I was asking one of my female friends for advice. I said, “I think I want a long-term relationship, but I haven’t found someone who I’m interested in enough yet. So I guess I’ll just have casual flings until the right person comes into my life.”

My friend said, “Greg, the right person is not going to come into your life until you say no to the casual stuff and put a stake in the ground about what you want.”

It’s the same with anything else in life. You say yes to so many of the wrong things that you don’t even leave space for the right ones to get in. You have to say no first.

When you focus on attracting the types of opportunities that you want to say yes to, you will crowd out the no’s by default.

Of course, this requires knowing what you really want. It requires having a clear vision.

If you’re in a service business, you need to say no to the wrong clients in order to make room for the right ones. You can’t control the amount of time you have, but you can control how you allocate it.

What’s the best way to allocate your time? Say yes to the things that you love and are uniquely suited for and let other people take care of the rest. Remember: you’re not the only capable person in the world.

The Truth About Saying No

If you find yourself constantly saying yes when you should be saying no, there's probably something deeper going on.

Here's the deal...

When you say yes to things you don’t want, you’re actually saying no to yourself.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

When you say yes to what you don’t want, you’re saying no to what you want. Which means you aren’t confident enough to pick yourself. So you say yes when other people pick you and then you’re off the hook.

Stop doing that. If you don’t learn to say no, you’ll never make the impact that you want to. You’ll constantly be overwhelmed, under-slept, and burnt out.

When you learn to say yes to yourself and your vision, it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to say no.

What will it take for you to believe in yourself enough to say no?

Greg Faxon

Greg Faxon, 2829 Connecticut Avenue NW (Apt 513), Washington, DC 20008, United States