There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you’ve mastered saying yes. So start practicing saying no. Your goals depend on it!
If you are constantly saying yes to other people, then you are constantly saying no to yourself and your goals. Ask yourself if what is being requested of you is in line with your goals, will it benefit you in some way and bring you closer to your success, or will you simply be spending your time on someone else’s good opportunity?
How much time do you waste with projects and activities that you really don’t want to do simply because you are uncomfortable saying no?
Success depends on getting good at saying no without feeling guilty. You cannot get ahead with your own goals if you are always saying yes to someone else’s projects and agendas.
What a simple concept this is, yet you’d be surprised how frequently even the world’s top entrepreneurs, professionals, educators and civic leaders get caught up in projects, situations and opportunities that are merely good, while the great is left out in the cold—waiting for them to make room in their lives. In fact, concentrating on merely the “good” often prevents the “great” from showing up, simply because there’s no time left in our schedules to take advantage of any additional opportunity.
Is this your situation—constantly chasing after mediocre prospects or pursuing misguided schemes for success, when you could be holding at bay opportunities for astounding achievement?
If saying “No” is so important, then why is it so hard to say?
Why do we find it so hard to say no to everybody’s requests? As children, many of us learned that “no” was an unacceptable answer. Responding with “no” was cause for discipline. Later, in our careers, “no” may have been the reason for a poor evaluation or failing to move up the corporate ladder.
Yet, highly successful people say “no” all the time—to projects, to crazy deadlines, to questionable priorities and to other people’s crises. In fact, they view the decision to say “no” equally acceptable as the decision to say “yes.”
Others say no, but will offer to refer you to someone else for help. Still others claim their calendar, family obligations, deadlines and even finances as reasons why they must decline requests. At the office, achievers find other solutions to their co-workers’ repeated emergencies, rather than becoming a victim of someone else’s lack of organization and poor time management.
“It’s not against you, it’s for me…”
One response that I have found helpful in saying “no” to crisis appeals or time-robbing requests from people is… It’s not against you; it’s for me.
When the chairman calls with yet another fund-raising event that needs your dedication, you can say, “You know, my saying no to you is not against you, or what you are trying to do. It’s a very worthy cause, but recently I realized I’ve been over committing myself. So even though I support what you’re doing, the fact is I’ve made a commitment to spend more time with my family. It’s not against you; it’s for us.”
Few people can get angry at you for making and standing by a higher commitment. In fact, they’ll respect you for your clarity and your strength.
So, how can you determine what’s truly great, so you can say no to what’s merely good?
Start by listing your opportunities—one side of the page for good and the other side for great. Seeing options in writing will help crystallize your thinking and determine what questions to ask, what information to gather, what your plan of attack might be, and so on. It will help you decide if an opportunity truly fits with our overall life purpose and passion, or if it’s just life taking you down a side road.
Talk to advisors about this potential new pursuit. People who have traveled the road before you have vast experience to share and hard-headed questions to ask about any new life opportunity you might be contemplating. They can talk to you about expected challenges and help you evaluate the “Hassle Factor”—that is, how much time, money, effort, stress and commitment will be required.
Test the waters. Rather than take a leap of faith that the new opportunity will proceed as you expect, conduct a small test, spending a limited amount of time and money. If it’s a new career you’re interested in, first seek part-time work or independent consulting contracts in that field. If it’s a major move or volunteer project you’re excited about, see if you can travel for a few months to your dream locale or find ways to immerse yourself in the volunteer work for several weeks.
And finally, look where you spend your time. Determine if those activities truly serve your goals or if saying “no” would free up your schedule for more focused pursuits.
Be brave in saying no to good opportunities, stay focused on your higher goals, and let people know that you are committed to those goals. People will respect your clarity and drive.
Remember, just as you are in control of your feelings and attitudes, other people are in control of theirs, so if they do get upset with you for saying no…well that is a choice they make for themselves.