The Gift Of No

“No” is a complete sentence.

When I looked that quote up, I saw it attributed to numerous people.  That’s likely in part just because it’s a statement of correct grammar, but it’s also so much more.

Learning to say no has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever given myself and, by proxy, also to the people around me.  I’m a much better person to be around when I’m not overcommitted.  I have the time and energy to really put quality effort into the projects I do take on when I’m not trying to make time for everything.

I now live my life from what I like to call “a place of no.”  That means simply that, whenever an opportunity arises, I lead with no.  I try to do this for everything in my life.  It may seem ridiculous to say no to everything but leading with no allows you to have the space you need to really think about whether this is something you want to spend your time doing.

Our time is our most valuable resource, yet we so often simply throw it away and then wonder why we don’t have the opportunity to do the things we want to do the most.

Here are some of the thoughts that used to keep me from saying no along with simple solutions.

“Oh, it won’t take that long.” 

• It may not take much time, but it’s still time you aren’t spending taking care of yourself, spending quality time with your loved ones, or working toward your goals.

“There’s no one else to do it.” 

• Then I guess it doesn’t need to get done.  If whatever is being asked of you isn’t important enough for someone else to do and you don’t want to, then let it go.

“You’d be so good at that.”

• So what!  I’d be really good at a lot of things if I put time into them, but that doesn’t mean I want to.  You don’t have to let your innate skills drive your life.  Maybe you’d even rather spend your time doing something you’re not good at.  What an amazing gift to give yourself!

“An opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often.”

• It doesn’t matter if an opportunity like this never comes around again if it’s not the opportunity for you.  Don’t let scarcity mentality scare you into spending your time doing something you’d rather not do.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. There are so many reasons that you or someone you know can come up with when it comes to spending your time in a certain way, but none of them matter if the result of that thinking is that you’re not spending your time in a way you’d like.

The next time an opportunity arises, I’d recommend that you say no first.  You don’t even have to do that out loud (although I highly recommend that you do).  It can be incredibly empowering to look at someone and tell them no calmly and without explanation.

Then pay attention to how you feel. 

Do you feel relief?  Then no was clearly the right choice.  Give yourself a pat on the back and support yourself in your decision even if your brain tries to convince you to change your mind with feelings of guilt or obligation. 

Do you feel regret?  If so, take a moment and ask yourself why.  If you like your reasons, then change your answer to yes.  If you don’t, then stick with no for now.  You can always change your answer to yes, but it is much more difficult to say no to something to which you have already committed.

This is a process I’ve used to help many of my clients create massive amounts of increased free time in their lives.  I would love to help you do the same thing.  Start by signing up for my free course How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift or, if you’re ready to learn more about coaching, email me at