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I grew up in the days of the DARE program. I can’t recall much of what that riveting education entailed, but the ‘just say no’ tagline has stuck with me. I’ve found it to be a useful application with all the things that get asked of me. There is a point at which you realize it’s necessary to start saying no and reclaim your life.
Why you should say ‘no’ and reclaim your life
We live in a world with so many options for things to do and combined with the fear of missing out, it seems people increasingly find it difficult to say no.
There are Facebook invites, kids programs of various kinds, playdates, birthdays (seriously it is always someone’s birthday), community events, and church events. The list goes on and on.
There are always things going on and options to attend events. There are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer for various events, including school and church programs, etc. There will come a point where you need to reassess your commitments.
Be warned here…after you volunteer once, you are more likely to be asked again. Worse yet, say yes often and you will be known as the “yes” person, so someone will constantly be asking you to do something.
Too many options
I am not saying any of these events or opportunities are bad. They aren’t. Part of the problem is that there are so many good opportunities to socialize, connect, grow, etc.
The problem comes when your yeses get all used up and no margin any longer exists. The tendency then is to feel overwhelmed, regretful, and perhaps even bitter.
I know I can feel it when I have used up my yeses in my schedule. I don’t like having a full calendar on an ongoing basis. It feels stifling and stressful.
I do not enjoy it when I am running from one activity or commitment to the next. It steals the joy from those moments because I am focused on having everything together for the next one.
Margin is a wonderful thing. When I have planned enough totally unscheduled space in my calendar, I am happy. I feel more balanced.
I have the flexibility to say yes if something wonderful comes up, but I am also completely ok with simply enjoying life as it comes.
To have margin in life though, I needed to learn to say no and say it often. You need to start saying no and reclaim your life.
There is freedom in saying no. I’ve practiced it so much that I have actually learned to enjoy it. Saying no is part of how I own my own life because I make choices about what I feel like I can or cannot commit to.
I know I can’t do things well when I have taken on too much. Everyone suffers in that scenario. My husband, my kids, me and whomever I am trying to serve.
For me to say yes to a new role or commitment, I need to think through the following things:
- Is this something that fits with my gifting?
- Is this the right season in my life to say yes?
- Do I really want to do this?
- Does this align with my life’s mission and goals?
If the commitment I am considering requires a lot of my time, then praying about it is essential. I’ve also found it helpful to ask people I trust for their advice and insights.
How to say ‘no’
So you’ve decided to say no, but you aren’t sure how to go about it. You don’t want to be rude and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The best way I’ve found to say no is to be firm and polite.
Often simply, “no, thank you” will suffice, but here are a couple of responses depending on what is being asked of you.
“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to attend, but have a lovely time!”
“Thanks for thinking of me. I’m not able to commit to that at this time, but I wish you the best in finding someone!”
I typically will only include the phrase ‘at this time’ if it’s something I would potentially be interested in at another time. If the commitment is something I know I would never want to do, I leave that part out to not mislead the person asking.
I don’t make up excuses or lie when I say no. I also don’t tend to offer explanations as they tend to encourage further discussion. My no is a no, so I make that clear so it doesn’t get awkward.
The sooner you give the no, the better. Waiting and dragging it on isn’t helpful to you and it’s not polite to the person waiting on your answer. Politely say no and you can both move on with your lives.
I know that for people-pleasers (which I admittedly am not), saying no is more challenging. There is the fear that they will stop receiving invitations or stop being asked to participate or miss out on something great because they have said no.
People pleasers fear disappointing the receiver of the no. They may want to help and feel bad saying no regardless of how good their reasons might be.
If this sounds like you, I want to tell you that it gets easier! Like most things, as you practice saying no it becomes less difficult. The first few will be the hardest, but you will feel more powerful as you take back your life and decisions.
Also, consider that a yes out of guilt or a sense of obligation doesn’t do you or the person asking any good. You may be taking a space that someone else would love to have.
And if you’re heart isn’t in it and it doesn’t fit with your current priorities, everyone is better off if you say no from the beginning.
Other people are more than happy to take your time and make decisions for you, but at the end of the day, your yes or no will determine how you spend your time and life. And in order to spend time on your priorities, it’s essential to start saying no and reclaim your life.
For people pleasers and non-people pleasers alike, I recommend the book The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. I loved Lysa’s take on saying no and her point about how filling your life doesn’t allow room for the great.
Another great resource is the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. Both of these books lend further insights on the importance of saving your yeses.
Practice with me now…want to be the room mom of your kid’s class? No, thanks. PTA president? Sorry, not this year. MOPS coordinator? (wait, that one you should consider…). You can say no and will feel empowered as you take your life back.
In this process, your yes will become stronger, more meaningful and intentional. Your time is one thing you cannot add to, so use your yeses wisely. There will even be those who truly appreciate your newfound ability to say no (although some might not, but that’s ok too!).
Wait to say ‘yes’
I often find myself wanting to immediately say yes to certain invitations or requests either because I love the person who is doing the inviting or the group that event is part of. I have had to practice slowing down and not having a knee-jerk yes.
I’m trying to take more time in thinking through my commitments so that I don’t end up overcommitted and regretful. It can be a challenge for sure.
The fear of missing out is real. However, if I am running my life at breakneck speeds, I am missing out on being totally present in those moments.
Is there something in your life you have to make a decision on now? How do you decide when to say yes or no? What can you start saying no to and reclaim your life?
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