I’ve said “no” a lot over the years. Sure, there have been plenty of “yes” moments along the way, but those tend to get all the credit for who I am already. The truth is that everything I’ve said no to or decided not to do has had a huge impact on where I am today — and it’s probably the same for you.
It’s not all about the word, though, it’s the intentions behind the word. It’s why you say it. It’s why you decide whether or not to follow through with something. In my mind, there are two major reasons why you decide against something.
1. Because it really isn’t in your best interest or helpful in your life.
Saying no to something that is damaging to you is obvious. Perhaps less obvious but equally helpful is saying no to things that are not good uses of your time, or will cause you stress and anxiety with little real benefit. Weighing the pros and cons before you make a decision about how to spend your time is important. The “no” in this case is justified — you’ve made a decision based on objective reasoning.
2. Because deciding not to do something can bring a huge amount of immediate satisfaction.
Sometimes, broken plans can be the best thing ever. Maybe it’s just me, but having to be “on” can be stressful and draining. Having that pressure lifted can be a huge relief. This same sense of satisfaction can come from breaking your own plans.
Imagine this: you’ve been considering this project for a while now, but the actual effort required has caused you to put it off. Eventually, you start coming up with reasons not to follow through on it. In your mind, these excuses make sense. So, you decide to call it off. The weight of that perceived effort is lifted and you can move on with your life. Except that you can’t. That idea pops into your head once in a while over the coming months. Then, you see someone else has had a similar idea and it worked out. You feel guilty that you gave up on the idea. You regret saying “no” months ago, even though all your excuses made so much sense at the time.
As much as that immediate relief is worth at the time, it’s worth nothing down the road. At these times, that “no” will lead to nothing but regret.
Figuring out when to say “no”
A “no” can mean a lot to your future. It can save you from damaging your life and your health, or it can be a crutch that encourages you to stick to mediocrity. How do you objectively decide when is the right time to say “no”?
1. Answer these questions about the situation:
- Why do I want to do this?
- How will it benefit my life?
- What’s the worst-case scenario?
- What are the steps I will need to take?
- How long will it take/how can I schedule it into my life?
2. Analyze your excuses.
In the moment, it can be difficult to decide whether or not your excuses are justified. If you believe that something will be too hard, too much work, or won’t be worth the effort, these excuses should probably be considered further.
3. Be honest with yourself.
Laziness and fear can get in the way of a lot of things in life, though they aren’t things we always want to admit to. So, usually we mask them with something else. If you were to explain the situation to someone else, why would you say you are bailing on a plan? Would you feel that your answer was honest? Would you sugarcoat it?
4. Still can’t make a decision? Say “yes.”
The truth is that our emotions can mask our abilities to make objective decisions. They can easily talk us out of things. When faced with a decision about whether to follow through on something or to bail out, just try it out. Take the first couple of steps, see what happens, and go from there. As long as no one else is hurt by your decisions, you are free to test the waters and make life decisions based on these experiences. It’s all part of being human.
What are your thoughts on saying “no”? How do you determine whether it’s the right decision?