Wonder//

Saying No Is a Good Thing

If you say yes to something you should have said no to, everyone loses.

Photo Credit: phototechno/Getty Images

My goals were small. I wanted to be a good wife, a mom who didn’t make her kids need therapy one day, a successful business owner, and hey, while I was at it, why not write a book too? And I thought I was killing it. We’d overcome a very difficult personal crisis, our kids were thriving, my business was soaring, and I’d gotten my first book deal. Sounds amazing, right? Unfortunately, I was too stressed and too busy to figure out how to find happiness. Sound familiar?

For most of us, the first thing we do when we find ourselves crazy busy, or stuck and unable to move forward, is we just work harder. But adding in more work to get less busy just doesn’t make sense.

Make the Right List

We want our lives to be about what we are meant to do, not what we think we should do. This starts with the decision about how to spend our time. I learned the first step on the road to finding happiness was to make the right list. I didn’t need a “to do” list, I needed a “don’t do” list. It’s why I created a “Stop Doing List.”

The best way to identify what we want/need to stop doing is by asking ourselves these questions:

  1. What is sucking the life out of me right now?

  2. Does this activity get me any closer to reaching my goals?

Some things currently on my stop doing list are: 1. Not staying up online until 2 a.m. goofing around and googling if dolphins have ears. 2. Not saying yes to being a class mom in my boy’s class. 3. Not answering my phone if I don’t know the number. (It’s crazy how much time this saves!)

These may seem simple and easy to stop doing, or they may sound like something you’d never do. What matters is what is on your stop doing list. Be thorough about making your list and then systematically go about actually stopping. Choose one or two things first, and when you’ve gotten good about eliminating those things, move on to the next things on your list.

Making Good Decisions for the Future

Once we know what we want to stop doing, it’s important to have a tool to help us make future decisions with confidence, so we can not only protect our time, but we can invest in our happiness.

I use the 10-10-10 Analysis that I learned from Suzy Welch. It teaches that the way to make decisions is to ask yourself how you will feel about the decision after 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. It’s so simple and brilliant, I use it all the time.

When you can imagine how you’ll feel about any decision in the future, it helps give you the strength and the confidence to make a wise choice in the moment. (And keeps you from having to add it to a “stop doing” list later!)

For example, if I am asked to be the classroom mom of my child’s fourth grade class, in the moment it will feel great if I tell the teacher, “Yes.” But if I imagine how I will feel in 10 weeks or 10 months, I’ll be kicking myself for saying yes because I run a business, and I don’t have time to bring in snacks or do crafts.

I can picture myself stressed out carrying in terrible snacks or crafts. The kids will have missed out on a good classroom mom experience, and that teacher will regret that she ever asked me.

By saying yes to something I should have said no to, everyone loses. Knowing this, it gives me the courage in the moment to be able to give a graceful, yet confident, “No,” when I’m asked to take on new responsibilities.

Breaking out of patterns of busyness, overcoming anxiety and worry, and learning to live happy are all done through our small daily decisions and the habits we have. Happiness comes in the small moments of life, and sometimes the smallest changes in the way we think or the things we do result in the most powerful results.


Alli has a new book out The Year of Living Happy: Finding Contentment and Connection in a Crazy World, available October 2nd

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