Learn to say NO to say YES

How good are you at saying NO on a scale from 1 to 5?

If 1 was a total people pleaser, unable to let go of the smallest opportunity (even when it’s not that interesting), and 5 was a laser-focused NO-ninja, ready to say no to protect a greater vision, what would your dial look like?no-ninja

Whether it’s to a person, to a skill, to an experience, or to an opportunity, saying no isn’t easy.
Will this opportunity ever come again?
Will the other person take offence?

Because we decide not to travel a certain road, we will rarely (if ever) be able to see what was waiting on the other end. Saying NO is a decision that never shows a clear outcome, unless we make one up.

To complicate things as usual, in come all sorts of cognitive biases to cloud our judgement.

Fear of Missing Out is the fear of having made the wrong decisions on how to spend time, and typically manifests in constantly contemplating how things could be different, and a need to stay connected with other people’s activities. Though the person doesn’t commit to a single decision, it can vicariously “access” several scenarios through other people’s experiences. It’s the ultimate yes-hemorrhage.

Loss Aversion is the tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equal gains: in other words, we cling to what we already have more than to what we want to have. It’s better not to lose $5, than to gain $5.
Saying NO closes an opportunity window you already have. No matter whether you would have sought that opportunity out in the first place, loss aversion will make it difficult for you to let go.

…finally, our good friend Decision Fatigue joins the group, making our ability to say NO dependent on our energy and what particular time of the day we have to make a decision.

Focus on a higher purpose

NO is the friend of focus.
NO is the friend of results.
NO is the friend of purpose.

Whenever you align your decisions towards a higher purpose, whether it’s a big personal change, helping someone else, or completing your personal mission; NO becomes easy.

It becomes your shield to fend off distractions on your way to your greater goal.

Better relationships, health, learning, personal growth, excellent work, tripling your output, all require laser focus. Which is a synonym for NO.

Set a clear vision of where you want your life to go, and then use NO to make it happen.

'NO' is a shield to protect the 'YES' that really matter. Click To Tweet

Don’t underestimate impact

Sometimes, it’s tempting to take a lot on.
Why not learning three languages instead of one?
Or start writing AND playing guitar. You just can’t help it.
Or take on as many business projects as you can so…at least one will succeed. Right?

Errr. 🚨

Having a clear vision of the future will allow you to identify which possibilities actually align with your purpose. And say NO to everything else.

Whatever’s left, prioritise you must.

You see, you don’t have to do everything today.
Seneca said it best, in 49 AD:

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.” — Seneca

What commitment will have the greatest impact on everything else?
Often, we look at the future without imagining it. We forget that circumstances will change as a result of our present decisions.
Find the commitment that will impact every other sphere, making it easier to take on the next challenge.
Whether it unlocks time, relationships, or resources, be strategic with your YESes, and you will make progress on everything else, automatically.

Fear opening another door

Whenever I catch myself being lavish with my ‘yeses’, I do a fear check.
Usually, it’s one of two fears that turns the yes tap on.

Fear of rejection

Fear of rejection is one of the deepest human fears, as we are biologically wired to seek belonging to our peer group.
The inability to say NO is often triggered by the fear of being judged and excluded by others.
Or a projection of the fear on the other person. That is, if you are particularly sensitive to being rejected, saying NO to other people and commitments will make you empathise with that same uncomfortable feeling. So you won’t do it. (That’s how a people pleaser is born).

learn to say no - rejection

Fear of change

Fear of change is a feeling of anxiety about the unknown.
It’s clinging to certainty, to what we already know, no matter how negative or boring it may be. It’s the root of self-sabotage.
Opening many doors and taking on new commitments all the time is a classic manifestation of this.
Whenever your reach your comfort threshold in any given activity, instead of grinding your teeth and pushing through to the next level…you can just take on a new commitment and start from scratch, so you’ll stay in the comfort zone. Easy right?


Fear of change is really a form of fear of failure, which is ultimately…(you guessed it) fear of rejection.

No in disguise

Whenever you say yes, you’re actually saying many nos.
Your time, energy, focus, resources, all have a limit.
Whenever you say yes, you become unable to say YES to something else. Therefore, at some point, you have to say no. Sometimes with words, other times with actions. Or inaction.
No. Even though it was more important. Even though it was aligned with your purpose. Even though it would have had a larger impact.

Don’t say yes. Say NO.

Saying NO is saying YES to what really matters to you.

Learn to say NO

To become a NO-ninja, you have to start small and train yourself to say NO.
One does not go from NO-apprentice to NO-sensei in a day.

Check in with yourself: is this aligned with my higher purpose?
Check in with yourself: am I being guided by fear?

NO is the friend of focus.

Remember that every yes is actually many nos, and that saying NO is saying YES to what really matters to you.

NO. The new YES?

— Matt