It is interesting to note that the word “NO” occurs in almost every language on Earth. Most languages have other words that translate to “YES,” but they also have the actual word “NO” in the lexicon. Knowing how easy it is to say the word “NO,” with its economy of letters, you’d think that we would be better at saying it by now.
Life is so much about choices. There are things to which we say YES, while there are others to which we say NO. The YESes can stack up and leave my life feeling like the music in a rap song; all notes and no rests. Intentionally making space in my life by saying NO naturally reorients me to what matters most.
From the time that I was very young, I have struggled to say NO!
— When confronted by a bully at a new school who demanded that I hand over my mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies… I wish that I would have said NO.
— When my friends were making bad choices and leading me off-point while in high school… I wish that I had the courage to say NO.
— When I was tempted as a teenager to fast forward my life and act older… I wish that I had echoed the still small voice inside of me and said NO!
As I grew older, I changed gears, got my act together and yet I continued to struggle saying NO.
— When I decided to take on too much responsibility during college… I wish that I had told my hard driving self NO and focused more on my academic efforts.
— After college and while working my first job, I burned the candle at both ends and then put what was left of me in the proverbial bonfire of my endless list of to-do’s… I wish that I would have had the wisdom to say NO to over-committing.
I was 25 years old by the time that I first realized that I had a NO muscle; it felt foreign to me, even after I got in to the habit of flexing it.
Now that I am a grown man, saying NO is still a challenge for me. I want people to feel important and loved. I sometimes feel as if by saying NO, I am rejecting others.
Necessity is the mother of most inventions. As a result of saying YES innumerable times and subsequently regretting it, I have had to devise several unique methods for saying NO. I offer them for your use as you rejuvenate or develop your own NO muscle.
1. NO! 2. Can I get back to you? 3. I need to check the calendar at home; put me down as a NO and if something changes I’ll be back in touch. 4. NO thanks. 5. Can I have some time to think about it? 6. Thanks for the offer, I just can’t! 7. Darn it, that just doesn’t work for me. 8. I already have something else going on at that time. 9. There is entirely too much on my plate now; I just can’t. 10. I’m making a conscious effort to spend more time at home. 11. Sounds awesome, I wish I could do it. 12. I am cleaning out the space behind the downstairs freezer at that same time…sorry. 13. How does never sound? 14. I am really trying to reel my life back in… I hope you understand. 15. I am grateful for the invitation; sorry I won’t be there. 16. I just can’t cram one more thing into my schedule now. 17. I have resolved not to commit to anything new. 18. I have been traveling quite a bit and staying at home is even more important to me these days. 19. It’s hard, but I have to take a pass. 20. NO!
It really doesn’t matter how we say NO. It only matters that we say it more readily. If we are to gain or restore improved Balance and Focus in our lives, then we need to intentionally reboot our busy lifestyles. Change is not going to happen without our decision to make radically different choices. If the road that you are traveling keeps landing you in the deep ditch of time starvation, then we would agree that it is time to choose a different road.
When the pain of disappointing ourselves outweighs our fear of disappointing others, then we are ready to confront our knee-jerk obsession with over-commitment.
Consider devising a legend for your 2017 calendar and give yourself a tick-mark for each legitimate and life-affirming NO that you say this week and in the coming months. Email me with your observations once you have achieved twelve marks and then both of us can celebrate.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!