Knowing what you want out of life, and who you want in it, means nothing if you can’t also say no to everything but those people and things. Until you cultivate the ability to say no to the things that fill your life but not your soul, you’ll never have the space to bring into it the things you desperately want to say yes to.
From How To Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields
Many of us were brought up to say yes, accommodating others needs before attending to our own. We have extended this invitation to the vast influx of information that is now available to us so that we are always saying yes to someone else’s agenda whether we realize it or not. Meanwhile, the things that are important to us get pushed to the side to be done at a vague time we call “later”. But later never arrives until we start to say no today.
There are so many demands on our time and attention. Hours disappear saying yes to reading just one more news article, responding to another email, or to just kicking back to watch a few short videos on YouTube. The people in our life also give us plenty of reasons to say yes. Yes to another pointless meeting at work. Yes to going out and socializing. Yes to listening to a friend go on for the umpteenth time about how they hate their job, relationship, whatever.
But what if we started to say no more often? What if we decided to delete the news apps from our phones and pledge to check email only once a day? What if we demonstrated to our employer that we could be more productive if that meeting is eliminated from our schedule? And what if we compassionately told our friend that we would be happy to help them work through something they are struggling with, but that we do not have time to listen if all they want to do is blame and complain and not take any action?
Saying no is actually saying yes to other things.
If we did these things, we could say yes to those things we think we never have time for. We could get outside more or work on that passion project. We could spend time with people who inspire us or who truly need and want our help. We could do the things that give us joy and provide a sense of meaning and purpose; the things that make us feel whole, and from this place of wholeness, we can become more capable of serving others.
What are you saying yes to? Is it to things and people that are adding value to your life? What could you be doing if you said no instead?