Why You Need to Say No More Often

Learn how to say yes to the things that matter most and be okay with saying no to the rest

Have you ever said yes to something and then felt totally sick about it? Maybe you knew that by agreeing to do that thing you would be overextended and more stressed. Maybe you knew it meant that you would have to then say no to something you were really looking forward to. Or, maybe you knew that you weren’t the right person for the job.

Most frustrating of all, maybe you knew that by saying yes to this thing, you would not be able to focus on your goals.

As a recovering yes-sayer, I still have a hard time saying no. Saying no makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel like I’m being selfish. It makes me feel like I have to explain myself when I really shouldn’t be worrying what the asker thinks of me. I do want to serve others—after all, I’m working on making service a habit! But sometimes the things that are asked of me are simply beyond my capacity and too much for me to handle at this particular time in my life.

Perhaps when my children are grown and out of the house—and that is coming sooner than I’d like to think—I will be able to do more community service. But right now, my children, my husband, and my home are my number one priorities, so I’m working on saying no to the things that do not align with my goals at this stage in my life. I am also facing significant health issues right now, and I need to be more particular about the things I am taking on so that I can save my health for the things that are most important—my home and family.

When you are saying no to something, you are actually saying yes to other things and vice versa. Learn to say yes to the things that really matter and no to everything else.

That does not make me selfish or unwilling to serve. If people want to think that about me, I need to learn to be like Elsa and just let it go. In fact, my worrying about what others think of me has contributed to my problem of taking on too much in the past. Somebody else’s reaction to my inability to take on a project is not my responsibility.

My mantra for the past several years has been the following quote by Stephen R. Covey, author of the 7 Habits Series:

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically—to say “no” to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.”

Isn’t that a wonderful quote? To me, it tells me all I need to know about why I should be saying no. In fact, it turns saying no on its head and reminds me that by saying no, I am actually saying yes! I am saying yes to my personal goals, to my health, to my family, to my home.

I am not advocating that you should never help anyone or that you should never say yes to anything again. Just be aware of how that yes aligns with your highest priorities. Know what your burning yeses are—write them down in your planner and look at them daily.

Knowing that you need to say no is the first step. The second is knowing how to do it graciously. Find tips on that here: How to Say No Graciously

  • Small Habit: Say no more often.
  • Big Difference: Have more time and energy to devote to your highest priorities.

This post is part of a Small Habits That Will Make a Big Difference 30 day challenge. To see all of the posts in this series, click here. Or, join the challenge and receive a daily email with a new small habit that can affect your life in a big way.

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