September 30, 2021

NO: The Two-Letter Word That Can Improve Your Life

5 times.

I said “no” only 5 times since last week (excluding the time when I said “no” to my persistent dog Ringo when he asked for another round of lunch).

What’s astounding about it is how icky the feeling was.

I felt…embarrassed.

So, I explored the feeling and reflected upon these 5 different scenarios where I had to say the powerful yet underrated word.

Here’s what I realized:

  1. I don’t know where I caught this mindset, but admitting that I don’t have the time, energy, or resources to spare for someone who’s asking for my help made me feel weak. Powerless. Selfish.
  2. I’m used to giving a reluctant “YES” and then compensating myself by harboring resentment. I throw my priorities under the bridge and sail away with their wishes—while loathing the entire journey.

There’s a good chance I was shocked by my newfound (or perhaps, just upgraded) ability to say “no” that it felt so wrong.

Can you relate to any of my old beliefs about this two-letter, controversial word?

Don’t worry. I won’t end this letter bumming you out with the negativity. 😉

Instead, I’ll be sharing with you my fresh take on saying “no.”

  1. The word “no” is a powerful weapon that you can wield to protect your time.

And honestly, for me it’s not just about saying “no” to “good” so you can say “yes” to “great.” It’s more about saying “no” to others so you can say “yes” to rest.

2. Saying “no” can be selfish. Or not.

The thin line between the two is identifying the intention behind your “no.”

Did you say it just because you don’t feel like helping? Or did you say it because you honestly don’t have the time, energy, or money needed to accomplish what they’re asking of you — with excellence and your whole heart in it?

3. There’s a line in the bible that says, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’” (Matthew 5:37)

And this really grounds me. I couldn’t count anymore how many times I’ve said “yes” when deep down it was a resounding “no” in my soul.

But by God’s grace, I’m slowly learning the value of an honest evaluation of my limitations. If we never say “no,” especially to things that don’t light us up or have no realistic space in our budget of 24 hours, we might find ourselves on the way to burnout with a backpack filled with resentment.

4. The right people may be disappointed at first (that’s normal), but they’ll understand you and respect your decision.

I forgot who said it but it made a mark in my heart: “Respect your time and people will learn to respect it too.”

In one of the 5 times I said “no” this week, the reason I had to turn down an invitation was knowing that I couldn’t deliver the task excellently because I didn’t have enough time to prepare for it.

I was scared of how the person would take it, but to affirm realization #4, she actually understood and apologized for asking me at the last minute.

When you respect your time, people will learn to respect it too.

“One of the hardest things to do in life is to say “No.”
To invitations, to requests, to obligations, to the stuff that everyone else is doing. Even harder is saying no to certain time-consuming emotions: anger, excitement, distraction, obsession, lust. None of these impulses feels like a big deal by itself, but run amok, they become a commitment like anything else
Do you ever wonder how you can get some of your time back, how you can feel less busy? Start by learning the power of “No!” — as in “No, thank you,” and “No, I’m not going to get caught up in that,” and “No, I just can’t right now.”
It may hurt some feelings. It may turn people off. It may take some hard work. But the more you say no to the things that don’t matter, the more you can say yes to the things that do. This will let you live and enjoy your life — the life that you want.”

— Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic (Affiliate Link)

When was the last time you said no? How was the experience? What can you say “no” to this week that will allow you to say “yes” to something that’s truly aligned with your current season in life?

I hope this love letter empowers you to say no when you have to — guiltlessly—and to say yes only when every fiber of you agrees.


This post was first released on April 28, 2021 through my secret newsletter called Love Notes. If you liked it, sign up to get weekly-ish encouragement and resources for living whole. 💌

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