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How to Transform Your Life With One Little Word – The Power of No

We have all heard of the power of yes. Films and books like Yes Man really highlights and glorifies the benefits of saying yes to new experiences and opportunities. This as well as our conditioning encourages us to push hard or take on extra responsibilities, whether it be within our personal or professional lives, which rewards us for being busy, it is […]

We have all heard of the power of yes. Films and books like Yes Man really highlights and glorifies the benefits of saying yes to new experiences and opportunities. This as well as our conditioning encourages us to push hard or take on extra responsibilities, whether it be within our personal or professional lives, which rewards us for being busy, it is no wonder that we have turned into a nation of yay sayers. 

Saying yes to everything that comes along in our social and work calendars tends to have become our default setting. We find ourselves looking up to those who are busy all the time but is busy more productive? Some research actually suggests that multitasking can be counterproductive. It is my personal experience that by saying yes to work functions, extra responsibilities, friends’ parties, going to your partner’s football match and the list of numerous other things that come along doesn’t leave us feeling motivated and productive. On the contrary we are left feeling grumpy, tired, stressed and dare I say just a little resentful to those who are ‘taking up our time’. 

We are the first generation to be contactable 24/7 via social media, email and mobile phones. Modern day living allows us very little down time, we are bombarded with images and posts of what others are doing which can leave us with a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). We now feel the need to share everything we do, achieve, the places we go, who we are with, in order to gain some sort of validation and acceptance from others. Is it coincidence that we are also the most stressed and anxious generation? A recent BUPAstudy found that 44% of adults constantly feel stress, the Mental Health Foundation (UK) found that one in six has a common mental disorder and Anxiety UK states at present 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety. 

Whilst talking to a client recently we discussed our adversity to saying no in situations and the conclusion we came to was GUILT. Guilt in letting others down and therefore putting their perceived needs before our own. We noticed a pattern in failing to say no, it tended to start with agreeing to do something you didn’t really want to do (e.g. go to a party, spend the day with a partner’s family, etc). You would then feel like you owed it to this friend to show up which would start to create resentment when all you really wanted was a night in. Instead of just telling your friend because of the guilt you felt in letting them down or being seen in a certain way, you would find an excuse not to attend, usually at the last minute. Sometimes you might not message them at all because for a lot of people, it is easier to not have that confrontation. This type of pattern can lead to a reputation of being ‘flaky’ or ‘unreliable’ and put strain on a relationship. We encounter these situations all the time and they can easily be avoided just by using one little word… NO. We need to understand that it is okay to say no to things and reclaim time for us, what we decide to do with our time is really up to us!

What can you achieve by saying no?

Reclaim time for yourself to reconnect and relax

Time spent doing things which we don’t necessarily want to do or doing things we feel we have to do, can be better utilised when claiming it back for ourselves. Whether you spend this by having an evening in (having a bath, meditating, reading a book, cooking, having dinner with your partner), going to a yoga class, spending time with your children or anything else you deem as relaxing. Having time to ourselves, having ‘down time’ is so important to ensuring positive mental health. 

Let go of resenting others

When we agree to do things (e.g. going to a friend’s party, spending the day with your partner’s family, etc) and we don’t really want to do this but feel we have to, it can leave us resenting people. We project our annoyance of being in that situation on to others because we feel like we have given up our power and choice. When you start saying no, it eliminates these situations and as a result doesn’t allow these feelings of resentment to come up. We are reclaiming our power and freedom to choose what we want to do with our time. In the laws of cause and effect we would call this shift living on the cause side of life, in other words, in an empowered state. 

Enjoyment of the things you really want to do

By becoming more selective on what we say yes to, we end up choosing things we really want to do, we look forward to them and enjoy them more. That feeling of being overstretched and overwhelmed doesn’t exist and we can choose to do things that bring us only happiness and enjoyment.

Feel happy, energised, motivated and productive

Freeing up all this extra time, doing things you really want to do and letting go of negative emotions like resentment create a better mental attitude. Having more time to ourselves can leave us feeling happier and more energised as well as more productive because we are focusing on things which we want to do. 

Allow head space for creativity

I am sure you have heard or read interviews with various ‘celebrities’ who talk about inspirational ideas, multi million pound ideas or answers to questions coming to them when they stopped thinking about that aspect consciously and were essentially doing nothing, like walking the dog or being in nature. It is during these times when our minds are not bombarded with external stimuli which allow our subconscious to provide us with solutions, ideas and inspiration.  

Create better and more open friendships/relationships

The example above talks about how pulling out of things last minute, not turning up at all or perhaps turning up but being in a terrible mood, can have a negative impact on your relationships and friendships. Learning to be more open with people about what you do and don’t want to do can create better relationships where honesty and open communication is central. 

Be properly rewarded for the things you say YES to

For me, I related this to work but you might see this in other areas of your life like relationships, family life, etc. Think about a work situation where you are always the helpful one, you pick up extra jobs, stay late, pick up the slack if your colleague hasn’t done something. This behaviour slowly becomes the norm that people expect of you. This expectation can leave you feeling a little bit under appreciated. By setting boundaries on what you expect and what you believe is part of your job description you let others know what you are willing to do. Therefore if additional things are asked of you it is making others aware that this is above and beyond what your ‘job title’ entails and you should be acknowledged for taking on extra work in these cases. 

The purpose of this article isn’t about demonising yes and saying no to everything, it is about having the power in knowing what to say yes to, what will leave you feeling better if you agree to do it, what you enjoy and what you feel completely comfortable doing. It is about finding balance in your life. 

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