How to Say Yes to What Matters & No to the Rest

I don't know about you, but I find that I have a really hard time saying no to things. Call me passionate, ambitious, driven, a pushover....really, there are probably lots of reasons that I struggle with saying yes to #allthethings.

Confusing People Pleasing with Responsibility

It could have to do with the fact that I've been a chronic people-pleaser my whole life, fueled and driven by my innate desire to be liked, loved, appreciated and valued. As I've gotten older, I've learned that my value doesn't lie in what I do, but rather who I am. I will make far greater impact by how I treat people and live life than by how many things I've checked off a to-do list.

I've also learned that people-pleasing is one hard affliction to break free from, which means I have to regularly check in with my motivations and thoughts to ensure I'm making the best decisions I can. Mahatma Ghandi said it perfectly: "A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

FOMO - the Fear of Missing Out (it's a real thing!)

But it goes beyond just being a people-pleaser. Ever since I can remember I've been fascinated and captivated by this big, beautiful world I'm blessed to live in. I want to see and experience as much of it as possible. I've always been driven to push myself, challenge myself, work hard, and spend the one life I've been given well. I don't want to get to the end of my life and look back with disappointment, wishing I'd been a better steward of the time I had. That would be failure in my eyes.....and the thought of failing at my life is terrifying.

Too often I allow this fear of failure to drive me, instead of the heart behind my passion. It's an easy thing to do because the line is very subtle and I've learned that, in order to navigate daily decision-making solidly driven by what really matters, you have to constantly ask yourself WHY you're making the decisions you are.

Here's the truth...

This is a very simple, real truth that I hope will sink deep into your heart and begin taking root: every time you say yes to something, you're saying no to something else.

This is a concept I was first introduced to when reading The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst a few years ago, and honestly - it completely and irrevocably changed my life. When we say yes to something, we are giving up something at a cost to something else. Sometimes the trade off is totally worth it. And sometimes (oftentimes for me, if I'm being totally honest) it's really, really not.

We all have the same 168 hours in a week to spend however we like. There are some things we truly have to do (like sleeping, eating, keeping our little people alive, etc) and then there's everything else. We have the opportunity to do those things, but it isn't a matter of life and death.

Did you read that correctly just then? There are only two categories of decisions we have to make on any given day: the non-negotiable things we HAVE to do (there aren't as many as you would think!) and everything else. What gets tricky is determining which things in your life are actually non-negotiable, which things matter most right now in the season you're in, and which things you can let go of for now.

Do you really have to?

What has always gotten me in trouble is thinking that everything I put on my to-do list is something I have to get done. Let me ask you a question. If you were to pull out your to-do list for today and give it a hard look, how many of those things are legitimately things that absolutely must be done? What would happen if they didn't get done? Would your to-do list look different if you knew you would die in 24 hours?

In Lysa's book she poignantly illustrates what happens when we live in a chronic state of saying 'yes' to too many things: "A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul." I sure know what that underwhelmed soul feeling is like....do you?

What if we started regularly taking the time to think about the decisions we make in terms of their ultimate impact? What if we started looking at our lives as a great sum of tiny moments that ultimately point us in the direction of our destiny? What kind of destiny would your moments and decisions point to?

Your 'yes' and your 'no' dictate your destiny

When you begin shifting how you think about time and priorities, the decisions you make will inevitably change. You'll start seeing everything more clearly. When you work at developing a habit of first filling your time with those non-negotiable "must-do's" and follow that up by allocating time for the things that truly matter most, your whole life will begin to feel more in alignment, less rushed, less pressured and way more fulfilling.

Now I'm not saying that you'll never be stressed or overwhelmed or frazzled ever again. Those feelings come with the territory of living life in an imperfect world filled with imperfect people just like you and me. But, what I am saying is that when we start making decisions led by our WHY - by our core values, those things that matters most to us - we begin living life in alignment with who we were created to be. We begin saying yes to the right things.

So what about you mama? How is your soul today? Are you feeling stressed and stretched too thin, about to break under the weight of all the things you've said yes to? If so, it's time to start putting your "no's" to work - and I promise, it doesn't have to be scary!! If anything, I think you'll find saying no to be an incredibly liberating thing.....you might even get a little addicted, so consider yourself warned ;)

How to start saying NO (and YES!) with confidence:

  • Keep it short and sweet: Very few (if any) people in your life are entitled to hear the justification behind why you need to say no. Be polite, but a simple, gracious no is more than enough!
  • Close the door, but leave the window open: Just because you're saying no right now, doesn't mean it has to be no forever. If there's the possibility of saying yes to something at a better time in the future, communicate that.
  • Give yourself a time: Rarely are there situations where you can't take at least 5 minutes to really think about whether you should say yes or no to something. Develop a default response of giving yourself the gift of time, whether 5 minutes or a full 24 hours, to make wise decisions (that you'll still be happy with tomorrow!)
  • Don't give yourself too much time: Remember, not making a decision is the same as making a decision. You're making the decision to not do anything, which does no one any good! If you find yourself spinning your wheels, it's time to push that fear of failure right out the back door and make a choice! You won't always make the right one, but I promise it won't be the end of the world.
  • Remember WHY you're saying no: It's all about what you're choosing to say YES to. Every time you decide your answer to something needs to be no, reframe your perspective. Instead of saying, "I don't have the money to spend on this right now" you could say, "I'm choosing to save the money I could spend on this in order to get closer to dream of financial freedom!" Doesn't that sound way better and more empowering?

Now it's time to put thought into action in your life! Take a look at your to-do list for today and your schedule for the week and ask yourself if you've said yes to the right things. If not, it's time to make some cuts and start saying no - so you can make room for al the best that God wants to overwhelm you with!

What will you begin saying no to this week, so you can say yes to better things?