Saying no isn’t easy, but it’s a required skill if you wish to have any degree of focus in your life. If you say yes too often, you’ll likely fall into the common trap of saying yes to the good while simultaneously saying no to the best.
There is no unconditional yes. Whenever you say yes, you’re also uttering a background no. Whenever you allocate time to one pursuit, you say no to everything else you could have done with that time.
Not too long ago, Blockbuster Video initiated a “no late fees” policy. In a way they’re saying yes to their customers who complained about having to pay late fees when returning a movie after the due date. But this policy has a side effect. Because there are no late fees, customers keep movies they’ve rented for a longer period of time before bothering to return them. So now when you go to Blockbuster to rent the latest releases, which used to be stocked abundantly, they’re more likely to be all picked out. The videos are in people’s houses instead of on the store shelves. I’ve heard Blockbuster employees apologizing for this policy on numerous occasions, usually in response to customer complaints that the new releases can’t be rented. The value of knowing you could go to Blockbuster Video and rent whatever you wanted is no longer there.
By saying yes to one group of customers (those who had problems with late fees), Blockbuster is simultaneously saying no to another group (those who value availability first and never had a problem returning a movie on time). Now if I were the VP of Marketing for one of Blockbuster’s competitors, I’d charge ahead with some sort of “guaranteed in stock” campaign to begin saying yes to those customers Blockbuster just bailed on.
There’s always a trade off when you say yes.
The word no often gets a bad rap, but realize that every yes includes a no, and every no includes a yes.
When you say yes, are you saying yes to your own best goals and plans while saying no to what’s less important?
Other people may pressure you to say yes, but before you do so, take a look at the no you’ll have to bear. Do you say no to your family in order to further your career? Do you say no to good health habits in order to fit in with your peers? Do you say no to setting your own goals in order to say yes to the reactive bait others lay before you?
If you want to say yes to what’s really important to you, you can expect to hear yourself saying the word no a lot more often.
When you say no, usually the person who hears it will react negatively, sometimes mildly, sometimes strongly. Don’t let that bother you — their reaction has a lot more to do with them than it does with you. If they push you too much, I suggest you simply turn it around on them by emphasizing the no that would accompany the yes. For example, “Why are you asking me to say no to my family, my health, my goals, and so on, just so I can say yes to your request?”
If it’s not what you truly want, say no.
Copyright © Steve Pavlina
Personal Development for Smart People
Steve is intensely growth-oriented. He trained in martial arts, ran the L. A. Marathon, and graduated from college in three semesters with two degrees. He can juggle, count cards at blackjack, and make damn good guacamole. Steve is also a polyphasic sleeper, sleeping just 2-3 hours per day and only 20 minutes at a time. So chances are good that he's awake right now.