Better At “No”

A few months ago, there was a phrase that I was hearing from my clients more often than normal.

“I really need to get my shit together.”

And when I took stock of the clients who were saying that to me, it was evenly split male/female and always by individuals who I considered to constantly have a lot on their plate.

We live in a ‘hustle harder” society where there is something of a perceived reward for putting in long hours, existing on little (or poor quality) sleep, and (I’m no exception here) there’s an adage that goes something like: the harder I work, the luckier I get.

Depending on where you root around on the internet, Thomas Jefferson was attributed with the phrase: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

And whether the attribution is right or not, the sentiment is basically the same: The more we take on, the better our life goes.

Except at the expense of our health.

I recall, many years ago, when I was working at a gym in South Carolina selling gym memberships (before I got certified as a trainer), there was a woman sitting on a recumbent bike reading a book called “How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty”. I chuckled to myself, because at this time in my life, I had no children, I wasn’t married and it seemed like the simplest thing: One word, one syllable, two letters.

Just say “No”.

How hard could it be?

Turns out, it’s harder than we give it credit for.

As a business owner, I remember having to say yes to every opportunity I could get to train clients, participate in networking functions, meet new people, and do everything I could to build my business.

“No” was not in my vocabulary. I was in a constant state of “Yes”.

Yes, I can train you.

Yes, we can train at that time.

Yes, I’ll be happy to meet you for lunch.

Yes, I’ll attend that event.

Yes, I’ll sign up for your group.

This was a scenario I wrote about recently when it came to taking some of that time back because I reached a point where I was spreading myself too thin.

Now, I’m at a point where I find more freedom, more control over my schedule, and more sanity (if you will), in saying “No”.

It’s not out of disrespect. On the contrary, it’s an exercise in self-respect.

And I believe that the more we exercise our ability to say it, and enforce it, the easier it is to (collectively) get our shit together.

I made a short list of ways that you can use the word “No” more effectively in your life with the hope and assumption that it gives you back what it’s given me.

Apply as you see fit.

I should also remind that “No” does not mean the same as “Never”. It just means, not now. It’s a shift in priorities.

“No, I’m sorry, I’ve got something scheduled at that time.”

“No, that day is booked solid for me.”

“No, I haven’t been feeling great and need to rest.”

“No, one drink is enough.”

“No, I’m trying to get to sleep earlier.”

“No, my workout is at that time.”

“No, I have a doctor’s appointment that’s been scheduled for a while.”

“No, one serving is enough. I’m full.”

“No, that’s when we have our family time.”

“No, I don’t feel well when I eat (insert food here). I’ll pass but thank you.”

“No, I appreciate you thinking of me and I hope to make it next time.”

“No, I need a bit more advance notice with everything we have going on.”

“No, if I do that, I’ll be late for my next appointment.”

“No, I’d rather not.”

“No, I have a weight loss goal that’s important to me right now.”

“No, thank you.”

It’s important to remember as well that “No” is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. It’s a sign that what matters most to you and what you value in life is taking precedence over things that are less important.

In the words of someone probably smarter than me: If it’s not a “Hell Yes!”, then it should be “No”.