I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret about making changes. I think you already know this deep down–in fact, it might be part of why you haven’t made some of the changes you keep saying you want to make.
Are you ready?
To say “yes” to the things you really want in your life, you’re going to have to say “no” to some other things.
I know your logical mind is saying “of course!” (or maybe even “duh!”) but I want you to take a moment and really consider this. Let this thought be in the front of your mind for a change.
How does the thought of saying “no” make you feel?
Is saying no to things hard for you? Does it make you feel guilty? Do you feel like the only way you can say no is to justify it somehow–I’m too busy, too broke, too sick?
How about saying no to people? Your friends, co-workers, parent, significant other…your kids?
I think saying “no” to things can be difficult. One part of this difficulty is that it’s a skill we have to learn, and we aren’t necessarily surrounded by role models saying no in a gracious, healthy way.
The other part of the difficulty is our reason for saying no. Is that reason, that yes, strong enough to power you through all the times you need to say no? If it’s not, then saying no can be very draining.
My personal journey through the Land of No (a.k.a. my local grocery store)
Up until recently, I had thought that saying no was an area where, to be blunt, I pretty much sucked. I’d either be a doormat or a wall, and either way was exhausting. But then I realized that there was a part of my life where I’d worked out an answer, and I started examining it to learn what I’d done so I could do it everywhere else.
It’s all about food.
I have food allergies. A lot of them. So when I go through a grocery store, I get to say no to:
- gluten–no wheat, rye, barley.
- many replacements for gluten–no quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, millet, teff. (No spelt or kamut either).
- corn. (it’s in pretty much everything, in case you were wondering.)
- nuts and peanuts. This includes anything “processed in a facility with nuts”.
- the easy ones: papaya, mango, kiwi, banana
- anything held together with rubber bands, thanks to a wicked latex allergy. Celery, green onions, etc.
- and the one that makes people cry out, “how do you do it?”: chocolate.
I’m not telling you this to gain your sympathy. I just want you to understand that I really do say no a lot. And I want you to understand that it’s constant. It’s when I go to restaurants, and parties, and other people’s homes.
No, thank you, I’m sure it’s delicious but I can’t. No, I won’t try “just a bite” without knowing exactly what it is. No, taking it off the bun won’t be enough. No, no, no.
I have cried in the middle of grocery stores over this. It used to be so frustrating. It felt like I was fighting with food. I would get so tired of saying no, and I’d give in, and then I’d pay for it, with a rash or stomachache or something worse.
Until finally, one day, I decided that I deserved to feel good. Not just ok, not just “stay alive” or “survive”, but really, incredibly good. That became my bigger “yes”.
I didn’t notice right away, but saying no became easier. It wasn’t so aggravating anymore. It wasn’t about the food or the restaurant or anything else…this became simply about what I needed to live my yes of feeling good. I’ve noticed that people respond better to my requests as well. I could write it off as better public awareness of allergies, but I actually think that it’s more about my clarity about what I need, and my ability to talk about it without getting all twisted up inside over it.
I had found a yes big enough to power me through all the times I have and will say no.
The secret’s out, now what?
I’ve got one area of my life where this is working, but like you, I’ve got a life with a lot of different areas! I’m working on taking inventory of where I need to clarify my burning yes, and where I need to brush up on my saying no skills.
How about you? Where do you struggle?
- Do you have a burning “yes” for some part of your life? Do you need to work on finding one?
- Do you need to learn how to say a “pleasant, unapologetic” no? Is it hard for you to say no at all?
Please share your responses, either in the comments or by replying to this email. I think the more we talk about this yes-and-no thing, the more we can help each other.