Getting to an Effortless "No"

Yesterday I got an email from someone who wanted something from me that I didn’t want to give. She wanted my time.

I have become more and more fiercely protective of my time over the years, but apparently had not yet mastered the art of the effortless no. The moment I read the email subject and knew what the request was, I felt my stomach clench — first because I didn’t want to give time to this particular conversation and second because I knew that I probably would anyway.

That was when I recognized that I was STILL getting sandbagged by guilt (someone needs my help), fear (I’m going to hurt somebody’s feelings if I say no) and the last vestiges of trying to twist myself into someone I’m not (the kind of person who loves to do everything everyone wants her to do — not just someone who says yes, but someone who actually enjoys every single thing she’s asked to do. Also, the kind of person who has a billion hours in a day).

As I sat there struggling in my head, I suddenly heard a voice, loud and clear, say, “You are allowed.”

It stopped me dead in my tracks. You are allowed. What an incredible concept — that we are simply allowed to feel what we feel, want what we want, and take action to get it. We are all equally allowed. We are allowed to want it even if someone else doesn’t think we should. We are allowed to have it even if somebody else wants it too. We are allowed to take care of ourselves even if doing so means someone else will be unhappy.

The sentence struck me so powerfully that I actually wrote it down in my planner so I could sit there and marvel at the idea.

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But here’s the really interesting part: the reason I finally decided to decline this conversation that I didn’t want to have was not because I suddenly shed all of my people-pleasing tendencies and guilt, but because I’ve been spending more and more time doing the things that are truly important to me.

When you have a Vision you’re committed to bringing out into the world and you finally allow yourself the time, energy and resources you need in order to make it happen, a lot of other things start to fall away.

When you’re focused on something that is deeply meaningful to you, and take regular, aligned action towards making it happen, you no longer get so easily distracted by irrelevant, misaligned or less important things.

In other words, when you have a strong, compelling Vision that you keep saying yes to, it gets easier and easier to say no to everything else.

Why? Partly because you feel so flippin’ good when you’re doing your Vision!

You don’t want to get pulled off in another direction. Once you’re clear on what your Vision is, and the steps you need to take in order to bring it to life, you can see what is NOT aligned with your vision, what will NOT help you get it out there — and much more easily choose to say no to those things.

It also becomes easier to say no because you’re saying no to one thing in order to say yes to something you really value.

This helps not only with the things you might have said yes to out of guilt, but also with the things you’d like to say yes to, but now recognize will take you off track, or prevent you from completing something that’s even more important to you right now. Some people call this “prioritizing.” Which, it turns out, tastes a lot better with a big glass of “OMG I love what I’m doing!!!”

And so, there you have it: whether your Vision is to get your dream book written, to evolve your business and have a deeper impact, to launch a wildly creative workshop, to spend real time with your kid/pet/partner, to express yourself truly, to build an organization you know will change the world, or whatever else is calling to you, remember that it deserves as much time, love and attention as anybody else’s Vision. And that you are allowed to say no in order to make it happen.