Want to achieve big goals? Learn how to say no!

February 27, 2018

How many times have you said yes when you really wanted to say no? Last week I found myself agreeing to do something when every fibre within me was screaming NO!

So why is it so hard to utter that one simple word? 

There are a range of reasons that each one of us finds it hard to say no in certain circumstances but at the core of most of our decisions lies our innate desire to be accepted. We are social beings and we all want to be accepted by our family, friends and broader community on some level and we learn at an early age that saying no often upsets or displeases people. I have a toddler so the word no gets used a lot in my house.


No I won't eat my food

No I won't stop pulling the dogs ears

No I will not stop throwing the pegs in the toilet


So it's no wonder we learn early that saying no has negative consequences. My reaction when my little guy says no obviously depends on the situation, but ranges from a sigh and mild disappointment to louder exclamations and high levels of frustration. Either way I am pretty sure he has learnt that when he says no mumma is generally not very happy. When you are asked a question by someone it is often because they want something from you so saying no disappoints people, while saying yes delights them.


As I was writing this I googled the images for no and yes. What do you think I found? No bought up unhappy faces, crosses, arms folded and exclamation marks. Yes bought up smiles, ticks, stars and rainbows. We use green for yes (which we also use for go or good) and red for no (which we also use for stop or danger). We are conditioned to believe that yes is better than no and so we develop an aversion to saying no. 


Now in business, where we are faced with a myriad of decisions every day, saying no is critical to our success. Business planning is in essence just a set of choices and the hard part is not deciding what we will do but identifying what we will not do - what we will say no to. In order for us to achieve our big goals we must clear the way by saying no to the distractions, other peoples urgent and sometimes good options, so that we can stay focused on where we are headed.


So if you are working towards some big goals try these tips on saying no without guilt.


  1. Keep your goals front of mind - remind yourself that you are saying no for a greater cause

  2. Don't say 'no' say 'not right now' - when you are saying no it's often not forever, explain your priorities and potentially even put it on hold until a better time

  3. Look for something you can say yes to - while you may not be able to do it all there may be a small part that you can say yes to

  4. Remember that everything is a choice - saying no actually means that you are saying yes to something else

  5. Be clear on your boundaries - if you have a plan, you will know what time you have when, so if you're asked to do something you can easily respond with I can do that but it will be next week or yes I can do x that but it will mean that y will be put off till next week

  6. Ask more questions - be clear on what is being asked of you, often we respond without a full understanding of what is being requested, more information will help you to respond appropriately


Ultimately what you want to achieve is to have people understand two things. Firstly that they are important to you and you value the relationship with them and secondly that you are not in a position to accommodate their request right now, and it is possible to achieve both at the same time!



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