Sometimes You Have to Say No

“Just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.”Seth Godin

“Rob, could you help me?”  The person asking that question is a friend. Like many of us, my inclination is to always help friends and family. It is what I want to do. Helping another brings a level of internal satisfaction like nothing else. And, I like what my friend is doing.  I am motivated to say yes.

But my answer is “No.”  In the last 10-plus years, this answer is one I have given often. Some of my noes have been declared to some of my closest friends and family members. Some of the noes were delivered to representatives of my favorite charities. It may sound unkind. It may look like I do not care about my friend’s cause.

Those noes are part of a deliberate strategic approach to my success in life. Instead of giving the most popular, most desired and often expected answer to requests for help requiring an investment of time, I sometimes choose a less anticipated answer.

My definition of success is being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be and do in life. Staying true to my beliefs, I have come to appreciate the fact that I cannot do all things. In today’s modern era, in the most opportunistic country in the world, our choices are endless.  We can love and be good at doing more than what is possible. Decisions have to be made. And these choices are absolutely essential for a successful life.

The smartest, most significant decisions we will ever make are not what to do, but what not to do. Choosing to quit doing some things, or to never start new things, may be the most important decision we will ever make. Much of our success may be determined by our willingness to say no.

Success is being my best at what I choose to do.  And I am able to be my best when I can concentrate and focus on a few areas of major importance to me.   Fewer overall goals. Only one major goal for this year, not five. Fewer charities, where my time and financial gifts can make a difference.

I wish I could help everyone. But, that is not practical. Not possible. For those whom I do choose to help, I want my effort to make a difference. I want my time to matter.

In the last 10 years, I have reduced the number of boards and committees to which I belong.  I have cut back on social gatherings. I have cut back on some hosting events. I have dropped some hobbies — one was golf.  I have delegated tasks to others. I have asked for help more often. I have accepted help when offered.

The result is that my focus has narrowed.  I find myself spending quality time on a smaller set of activities. And, I have become better at each one.  I am still a busy person. My schedule is full. But, I feel different. I sense that I am living a better, more successful life. How about you?

Less is more. This is a life principle. But, many of us, myself included, only discover this truth by first going out and saying yes to too many things. One day, we wake up and there is not enough time to handle all of our commitments.  Stress may be one outcome. A worse result is we may be poorly doing some things. And a really sad consequence is when we fail at something we really care about.

A jam-packed life full of stress and a long list of things completed with average or poor results is a life that none of us would on purpose choose. But, we may have ended up here. How is your life now? Is it time to evaluate your choices?

And, to add fuel to the fire, our electronic devices do not give us a break. A steady flow comes at us with all kinds of communication, most of it unimportant and wasteful of the time that is already too short.

Recently, I wrote an important blog on Just one Thing.  An important factor in executing this successful philosophy is to start practicing saying no.  Do less. On the things you choose to do, give it your best.

Instead of making a to do list, make a don’t list. Decide on some things that you will no longer commit.  Here are some examples of things you might choose to reduce or eliminate. All of these I have practiced and found helpful.

  • Reduce the committees, boards or groups to which I belong
  • Reduce the number of meetings I attend
  • Eliminate one of my hobbies
  • Reduce emails that I read or answer
  • Stop giving constant attention to my phone
  • Look at my calendar and cut out some items 

Things I will do

  • Delegate a task to someone else
  • Learn to say no
  • Accept help when it is offered
  • Ask for help

Today, I choose a path of success.

 I will say no to some current activities and new requests.

When I do say yes, I will have the necessary time and . . .

I will knock it out of the park!

Leave a Reply