A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”  ~Gandhi

There was a time in my life that I routinely said yes when I really wanted to say no and actually thought that was a reasonable thing to do. I was convinced that while saying yes to almost every request was occasionally time consuming and annoying, it was basically a harmless habit.

Now I realize that this habit isn’t so harmless.  It has kept my life filled with annoying commitments that leave me with no time for the things that truly matter to me.

Recently, I vowed to change my ways. In order to change, I first had to understand what motivated me to say yes so often.  My motivations were:

  • Desire to please others:  This desire to please and accommodate resulted in my agreeing to do things that didn’t really align with my life goals. Furthermore, it robbed me of time and energy that could be devoted to activities that better suited to my passion.
  • Fear:  Approval from my peers was so important that it prompted me to utter yes to even unreasonable requests.  I feared that failure to say yes on the spot would result in my displeasing or disappointing others.
  • Duty:  I grew up believing that it was my Christian and civic duty to assist family, friends and society by saying yes as often as I could.
  • Guilt:  I can still hear Granny saying, “Don’t say no when you can say yes.  It’s not the right thing to do.”  Granny is long deceased. However, once guilt takes root it is, like a weed in a garden, hard to eradicate.
  • Distraction:   As my career advanced, my life became complex and I was more preoccupied.   A result of this was, I often found it easier to say a mindless, half-hearted yes than to weigh my options and actively choose between them.  Hence, I adapted to a ‘go with the flow’ attitude. Yet, I often resented those who wanted so much of my time.

Eventually, I realized that I needed to make time for things that truly mattered to me.  This meant that I had to get comfortable saying no things that didn’t serve me well.  I decided to say no to all requests for one week. Then begin selectively saying yes to requests that fit my passions. For seven days I said:  “No, I can’t do that”, “No, I don’t have time”, “No, maybe another time” and “No, thank you”.  A few times, I cheated and said, “I’ll think about it and get back to you next week.”  Once I got over the initial discomfort of saying no, I discovered:

  • By saying yes to things that were unimportant to me, I paid a very high price in increased stress, less energy, more resentment and lower self-esteem.
  • By limiting my yes responses to things that matter to me, I’m able to give my full attention, effort, energy, motivation and creativity to those things. Thus, I achieve better results, I’m less stressed, I have more energy and my self-esteem soars.

Now, I’m comfortable actively choosing the things I say yes to. At last, I’ve discovered the power of NO and find it quite liberating.

Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV.  Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.com