How To Say No And Free Yourself To Do What Really Matters

Here’s a newsflash: Nobody anywhere is doing it all, I don’t care what they say in the project status meeting or on their Facebook or Linkedin page. High level performers have mastered the art of saying no and they are constantly working on the clarity and strength to do it. The people you know playing at the highest level are saying no all the time.

Really. I promise.

That’s the good news. Now for a reality check. Developing the inner strength to stand up to your inner bully IS your work. The more you learn to face your own questions about yourself, the freer you will be to focus on what really matters in relationships and your endeavors.

My inner bully ran me for the first 15 years of my corporate life. Even as I became aware of the tyrant mindset that deeply cared what other people thought, wanted people to like me and demanded complete perfection, no amount of awareness stopped me from acting on it.

It was like a shield that protected my squishy insides from making difficult decisions, dealing with people walking all over me, and asserting my true point of view.

Over time, I’ve worked on building on what I call “the Invisible Tools”, which are those unseen capabilities that give us the strength to go against the current, be present and operate from our best, true self. From that strength, we can choose what we say no to – and what we say yes to – in a strategic, mindful, balanced way.

What we say “Yes” to and what we say “No” to establishes our agenda – and it reveals who’s really running the show.

Saying yes to everyone else’s agenda and no to your own leads to sadness, resentment, anger and a life lived for someone else.

Saying no to everyone else’s agenda and yes only to your own is an insular, self-absorbed way to live.

Somewhere in the middle is a portfolio of yes’s and no’s the are uniquely suited to achieve your goals. More importantly, your portfolio of what you will and won’t do allows you to bring your uniqueness to the world.

At the most fundamental level, your actions and decisions are a portfolio of Yes’s and No’s, and these set the strategic agenda of your life and work. What you say yes to, even if it’s that kind of accidental “yes” that you get swept up in, drives what on your agenda and calendar.

You have more choice than you realize and frankly, an obligation to say yes only to those things you can do rather than adding things to your plate that will fall between the cracks and generate cracks in your relationships.

That’s all well and good, you may say. But the questions I have heard from the hundreds of leaders I’ve worked with over the years are much more practical:

  • I’ve said yes to some things that I really wish I could get out of. What now?
  • How do I say no to a demanding boss? Won’t that get me fired?
  • Why would I say no to potentially lucrative business opportunities?
  • What happens when I say no and it costs me a friendship or makes someone important to me really mad?
  • How do I deal with the guilt of not being able to really be there for people that matter to me?
  • How did I end up with so much on my plate?
  • What can I do right now to get out from under all of this and start really doing my job?

There are many ways to address those questions.

Note: This is the introduction to an extensive “eBook” that will be ready for publication by June 15. My intention for this article is to help you address those questions from your best, most autonomous self rather than your inner bully.

​If you want some “how to’s” on the different ways you’ve gotten caught up in saying yes, some artful ways of saying no and an introduction to using your Invisible Tools to develop self awareness and inner strength, subscribe to my Coaching Digest.