The Value of Structured “NO”s

I’ve been contemplating some stuff lately and wanted to share it with you. Situations have come up lately where I have to try real hard not to get FOMO — not because I actually *want* to do the thing I’m saying no to, but because it’s an option in front of me. Typically I’m not a FOMO person, so I’ve been taking some time to refocus my energy and thoughts around what I want to say YES to, and what I want to say no to.

So what triggers me into feeling bad about saying no? Let’s see:

  • Thinking I’m letting someone down and they’ll hate me.
  • Thinking the most excitingggggg things will happen if I don’t go.
  • Feeling like others think I’m boring.
  • ME feeling like I’m being boring because I’m prioritizing certain things over others.

We all have different priorities and levels of focus, so if something works for you and helps you boss up, go with the flow! But how you feel and your decision to say yes or no shouldn’t be swayed by the opinions of others, unlesssssss you’re in a partnership or working together.

Today’s society seems to run on the word “yes.” How many times have you found yourself saying Yes to things out of invisible obligation, or for fear of letting someone down? Or simply because you feel you HAVE to? We’re surrounded by these external pressures every day.

Yes also has this sexy allure — “If I say yes, this COULD happen!” It has this magical power of turning all of the “What If” situations into a resounding “This WILL happen!” in our heads.

Yes always feels like the default, while “no” seems to be this elusive little beast that looks terrifying on the outside, but is soft, warm and OMG SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED on the inside. Think about your week. How many things have you taken on, said yes to, or added to your plate when they truly don’t align with your overall goal? Probably a lot. Keep in mind, sometimes it’s inevitable that we say yes to something that doesn’t align with those goals because we have to enjoy life, AMIRITE?

I know that this is something I struggled with a lot over the past few years, and I started getting a handle on it over the past 2 years when I needed to make dramatic shifts in my life and business. Control and structure HAD to be a part of that, especially in a creative space. There tends to be an image of creativity being slippery and seductive; not operating by traditional rules. But the truth is, structure helps creativity. And I needed it badly. Once I started saying No to things that seemed important at the time, but overall were frivolous, like ANOTHER networking event, ANOTHER conference, ANOTHER lunch, ANOTHER “do this for free and maybe it’ll lead to something!” scenario, it ended up giving me a much needed grasp on my mind, business, and life that I didn’t realize was lacking until I revealed it to myself.

BUTTTTT, I do believe there’s a strong exception to this rule. When you’re first starting out in a new field, adventure, industry, etc. there’s definite value to cutting your teeth and saying yes to A LOT of things, or simply choosing that you’ll say yes during a period of time and being open to the adventure. The key is knowing when it’s time to turn off the “yes” and turn on the “no” and being self aware of your decisions.

Currently, my default setting is No, and then I filter in whether or not it should be a yes. That doesn’t mean that it won’t change in the future, it just means that’s right where I am at this very moment. If I’m trying to decide whether something should be a yes or no, I run it through a filter and ask myself the following:

  • Does it take away time from something else? (Spoiler: it most likely does).
  • But if it’s taking time from something else, am I gaining an intangible? (like deepening a friendship, doing something I’m passionate about that makes me smile/laugh/get the warm and fuzzies)
  • Does it line up with my overall goal as a human, creative and business person?
  • Does it allow me to spend time with people that have my best interest at heart as a human being?
  • If it’s work related, does the time required equal to the same, or better yet, more, monetarily than what my typical hourly breaks down to be for my financial goals? If it’s less, I (typically) say no. Again, there are intangibles to account for.
  • Will I ENJOY this? If I get a sense of dread thinking about whether or not I should say yes, then I should probably say no. Your gut doesn’t usually lie.
  • Last year, I made a list of all the things I didn’t enjoy and didn’t want in my life (with exceptions). Does it involve any of those? For example, do I need to be in an office daily? No. Does it involve annoying amounts of meetings (that aren’t related to the creative process or production)? No. Am I at the mercy of someone else’s schedule? No.
  • Is this something that feeds my soul and makes me feel undoubtedly alive?!?!

It’s so easy to fall into the “YES” trap. Think about it; the majority of us grow up in families with siblings, and demanding family time. Then we go into school and the educational world, where the majority of our time is dictated by those schedules. Once we’re out of school, some people may go to college and some people start working — both of which have pre-created blocks of time that you *have* to show up for. Our brains aren’t trained to look at our lives and say “this is what I enjoy, this is what I don’t. It’s okay to say no or NOT have the things I dislike in my life.” Our brains are trained to succumb to how the majority of society handles their own time.

Fellow boss ladies and gents: We’re carving our lives to bring us both success and pleasure. It’s important to figure out the balance of YES and NO, so you can truly live your life by design, work hard, and play hard.

What are some factors that go into your decisions to take on a project, go to an event, and so on? Also, what are your “OMG THIS FEEDS MY SOUL AND I HAVE TO DO IT” non-negotiables that you need in your life?

Originally published at permissionLESS.