Why “No” Should Become Your Default Answer in Life

The number one reason I hear for people not having the time, energy or ability to do something positive for themselves is commitment to other people. Jobs, kids, spouses, church groups, social plans, you name it, they all required time, effort and energy. Unfortunately, when you stop to pay attention, the more you say “yes” to any of these things, the more that is requested of you. You told your child’s teacher you would help with this month’s fundraiser and guess what – now you’re in charge of organizing the next one. It’s this type of thing that keeps us from enjoying life and really getting to know ourselves and truly discovering what brings our lives joy.

Overwhelmingly the thought that crosses my mind when I speak with the many people I talk with is how “lost” they seem. Regardless of education, finances, beliefs or location, the vast majority of people seem to have given control of their lives to someone or something else. These things then become their justification for allowing their own personal happiness to slip by. There is one surefire way I have discovered to put an end to all of this, to regain control of your life, your schedule, your day and your time and to put an end once and for all to the endless line of people and things wanting more and more from you. This thing is the word “no.”

“No” is an amazing little word. It can be said in many ways, but the message is the same. “I can’t commit to that right now,” or “I need a couple days to think about it (then don’t),” or “that doesn’t work for me right now” or “maybe next time” or possibly even the more simple and more direct “no,” but whatever your approach, the answer “no” stops the time grab and energy sucking going on in your life in its tracks. What you’ll find is that the people and things stealing your joy, your time and your energy soon find another person to feed off of allowing you to breathe and enjoy your time doing the things you want to be doing.

When you’re saying “yes” to others, make sure you’re not saying “no” to yourself.     – Paulo Coelho

My friends, you have the exact amount of time in the day that everyone else has. If you can find people in your life who seem to have the space and time to breathe and relax and enjoy their life, I guarantee you they have, in some way or another, put the word “no” to good use and use it as a means of habit when opportunities to give up their time and energy are presented. I personally say no to just about everything and I can tell you it really is amazing! I haven’t had anyone ask me to do anything trivial that I can think of in quite some time. When people do ask something of me, it matters, it’s important and it’s worthwhile. They’ve learned what I value and they request my time when they know it’s something I’ll find value in. If you take just a week to use “no” as your default answer, I can promise you time will begin to free-up in your life and the stress of a hectic schedule will start to ease. If you’re able to practice “no” for a whole month, I dare say you’ll never go back to the “yes” mentality.

Here are some things I’ve found that not only help us say “no” but also give us positive things to live for:

1. Schedule Things That Bring You Happiness

This will ensure you have set aside space for this in your life and gives you a great reason to tell people “no” when their requests try to take that time for some other reason. By scheduling the things that bring joy to your life, you are creating a situation where you are in control and are in a position to take even more control of your time and schedule in the future.

2. Identify Then Reduce Your Number of Priorities

We all have too many things prioritized that don’t need to be. Are the people and things you give your time to truly in need of it? What about those that you give time and energy to freely who don’t return the favor? Identify who these people and things are and find a way to minimize if not completely delete them. Over the years, I have found it very freeing to reduce contact with needy, helpless, whiny people who need my energy in order to get through the day. These people will always find someone else to latch onto so don’t think twice about reducing the access you give them to your life. I prefer the “delete” method meaning, I just don’t associate with those people anymore. But, if you’re more empathetic about this, you can use the “fade” method which allows you to cut-back on your time with them over time. Either way, get started by identifying who these people and things are and start reducing the footprint they have on your time. Get rid of 20% of the people and things you carelessly prioritize and watch the time you have to live life on your terms increase dramatically.

It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”     – Steve Jobs

3. Leave The Situation

One of the best ways to get out of a situation you have a hard time saying “no” to is to simply leave. Take a trip or schedule that time for something else but by all means find a way to cut yourself out of the situation. I travel internationally a number of times a year and can tell you that this has so many positive benefits to my life, but it also ensures that no one can monopolize my time for very long. It also ensures that people and things are being handled by someone else, leaving me to live happy and free. Finding a way to physically leave a situation that is zapping your time and energy will work every single time. And by all means, stop answering your phone every time someone calls or texts you. If it’s an energy-zapping person, just delete it. “Oh! Sorry I was busy and forgot” is a good enough reason to give if you’re ever asked why you didn’t respond.

4. Remember That Emergencies Mean Someone is Dying

I live by this definition of emergency and it works quite well. I get the frantic texts for some kind of “needed” support and simply ignore them. I’m not the only one who got the text and someone else who lives to enable other people’s bad decisions will reply right away and rush across town to save the day. Meanwhile, I’m taking a nap, playing with my dogs, or simply doing whatever it is I want to do. Work to define what is important enough for you to break your daily activities to assist. I recommend ignoring any and all “emergency” situations unless there is a real possibility that someone could be seriously injured or lose their life. Experience tells me that this is a smart approach. For example, the last time I broke this rule, I could have kicked myself. A friend of mine has a girlfriend who left his front door open (I know right!?) and his dog got out late at night. I get the frantic message for help and being a dog lover decide to drive over and assist in the search. Meanwhile a voice in my head is saying, “this is a nice neighborhood, that dog is laying on a neighbor’s couch eating a treat right now.” And you know what? Yep! After 2 hours of combing the streets of that neighborhood, I get the message that a good neighbor had found the dog and all was well. Next time an “emergency” shows up, just remember, it’s probably not really an emergency. Most “emergencies” are code for “I’m a dumb ass and do stupid things!” Most situations have a strange way of working out just fine without you or I being there. So skip it!

The ways you could possible improve the quality time you have in your life are endless. But, in the end, it comes down to your ability to take control and tell people “no” on a daily basis. I encourage you to practice this. It’s actually really fun! You know what is going on, but no one else does, so it almost becomes a little game designed to de-clutter your life and free-up time for you to pursue the happiness that life provides on your own terms.

Best wishes to you my friends!

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