I have a huge amount of respect for James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher – they wrote a short book about this little powerful word that I really think that more of us should use. That word of course is “no”. No!
No, I don’t want to do my chores.
No, I don’t want to go to your party.
No, I don’t want to watch that TV show.
As I read this book, I started to think about all of the things that we don’t say ‘no’ to enough:
Say no to negative people
You may have heard that we are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with in our lives. Go on. I’ll wait as you think about the five people that you spend the most time with. It could be your boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be your best friend. It could be your co-worker. It could even be a neighbour. Now think about what they are like. How much they make. How ambitious they are. How kind they are and how they treat others. Now are there people that you don’t like spending time with? Say no to those people. They drain your mental energy. They make you anxious about what you say or will say to them. They make you feel okay with the status quo. They are happy when you don’t change (in good ways). Say no!
Say no to negative thoughts
Once, when I was younger, I was dating someone in high school and while I was dating her, I was worried all the time about whether or not she was the one. I thought about this all the time – it consumed my life. I wanted to figure out if there was a formula or a way of thinking that could help me find the answer. But I never found it. And we eventually broke up. Looking back on it, I was just so consumed with negative thoughts that what I thought about eventually came true. It was awful. These days, I still have negative thoughts but whenever I get a negative thought, I practice this simple exercise that James and Claudia talk about in their book: I think of the negative thought and then I think in my head “no”. I think about it again and then I whisper in my head “no”. Whenever I think that same negative thought, I think “no”.
Say no to things you don’t like doing
I was listening to the Adam Grant podcast Work Life and he and Malcolm Gladwell were talking about how to say no to the things you do not want to do. Malcolm, being a journalist in his past life, was sent over to do a story on a hurricane in Columbia US. He dreaded doing this because journalists covering hurricanes would sometimes have to stay in the middle of nowhere for up to 2 weeks. Malcolm decided to take a different approach to the work: he went to Columbia in South America. When they called and asked him where he was, he told them that he had accidentally gone to the wrong Columbia and that he did not know any better because he was from Canada. In short, he basically did a bad job on the assignments that he did not want to do so that he wouldn’t be asked to do those same assignments in the future. Maybe this approach would work for you (I know in consulting, the reverse is true, if you do a good job, you get asked to do more of the same) but think about the things that you get asked to do that you really don’t want to do: hanging out with acquaintances you don’t really know, going to networking events where you don’t know anyone, going to restaurants just because there are rave reviews on yelp. You will realize that when you say ‘no’ to the things you don’t want to do in life, you will open up the opportunities to say ‘yes’ to more of the things you do want.
Say no to scarcity
Everybody should have an abundance mindset. When you have a scarcity mindset, you say yes to things that you don’t really want to do. If you don’t have a lot of money and need it right away, you will say yes to jobs that you may not want to do. If you feel that you are not good with girls, you will say yes to the first girl that likes you (but you may not like back). If you feel hungry, you may stop at the first fast food restaurant you see and order that milkshake and fries (rather than something healthier). Think about the difference when you have an abundance mindset – sure you may not have a lot of money, but a great opportunity is just around the corner. You don’t need to settle with the first girl that bats her eyes at you. You can wait until the right healthy, tasty and inexpensive food comes along so that you can fuel your brain and body with good food.
Say no to unhealthy habits
Junk food? Don’t buy it in the first place. Or switch it out with some fruit or nuts. Get in some physical activity on a regular basis. Take brisk walks. Go up the flight of stairs instead of going up the escalator. Park a little further than you normally would and walk a bit farther to work. Take a walk for every 30 minutes of sitting that you do or better yet, use a standing desk. I love lululemon’s quote: ‘good things come to those who sweat’. Have you sweated today? If not, how can you get your sweat on?
A final thought: Derek Sivers has this great philosophy whenever he is asked to do something. If it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a no. Hell yeah I want to start that business. Hell yeah I want to go for a run every morning before work. No, I don’t want to go to a networking lunch.
How are you going to say no to more things in your life?