The Power of Saying No

With a lot of things in life, what’s our real motivation to do them?

Please other people or prove them wrong.

Prove to ourselves what is possible.

Just for the hell of it.

Or because there is some direction behind it.

Have you ever taken a moment to sit back and figure out the real reason behind it. You feel like you lack direction or are unsure where your life is going but somehow never have any time. A lot of the time we get caught up in saying yes to things that really aren’t that important to us or have very little long term value.

I decided to go on a vacation to California last September, wanted to relax and just get away from the rush of life back home. What I wasn’t expecting was to also get challenged in a new way from the least likely person on my trip.

Part of my trip took me up to San Francisco for a day and I was able to connect with my friend Devin, who I hadn’t seen since college (7+ years). We hung out and got to see a lot of the city is a short time and our group ended up our night at some hole in the wall bar. Little did I know the most impactful part of that day would come over sipping tequila.

We had been catching up all day so the conversation at night shifted to what we wanted out of life. I mentioned I was unhappy with work and thought I needed a change. And of course the question came out, “Well what would you do then.” And I promptly responded, “I don’t know.”

Sound familiar to anyone?

It continued on with me making excuses about why I didn’t have time for this or that and that I really felt trapped in what I was doing. Working for someone else and their schedule and not making my life and health a priority. Then I got asked a simple question.

“What if you just said No?”

I immediately got defensive and said that I couldn’t do that, an absolute instinct, because I responded with no hesitation. Why was that my first reaction and why wasn’t I interested in something new if I wasn’t happy with where I was?

Many of us are people pleasers, I know I am, but it took a fresh perspective and someone to actually call it out in me. We get wound up in how others will react and how they will view us that it ends up paralyzing us and we just follow. Eventually if you want to have a great life you have to be willing to lead and step away from the crowd.

So at this point in the night I was hoping things would end with just an open question but instead Devin decided to be mean and genuine.

He said; “If you don’t know what you want to do and where you want to go then I challenge you that when you get home for an entire month SAY NO TO EVERYTHING. Then sit there and see what happens.”

I immediately started thinking of how I could get out of this. Why would I possibly want to say no to everything and be bored for an entire month? But he didn’t back off and being a competitive/stubborn person I decided I would give it a shot. Honestly was only planning on doing it for a week and then saying I forgot or would come up with some convenient excuse when I was in Illinois and he was in California.

This turned out to be one of the best and most challenging things I’ve ever done but I’m grateful that I did. That month of October lead to a lot of things, quitting my job, this website and blog, and trying my hands at a couple different other careers in the process. I know it sounds like I’m probably busier now but I actually have more time and freedom then ever. I enjoy my work because now I don’t live to work.

There is a lot of life that can be discovered when you realize that you have the power to say NO, but this is a decision you have to make for yourself.

Do you want something better for your life or do you want to just coast through it? If you’re not sure what you really want to do in life then say “No” and see what you are drawn to. If you don’t take the chance to slow down and choose YOU then you’re never going to find out.



So let’s clarify what Everything actually means. I don’t mean that you need to quit your job and move to an island to be a hermit. There are obviously things that you still need to do to make a living and pay bills. Those are what I consider non-negotiable things. The part that I encourage you to say no to is anything outside those non-negotiable items. For most people those non-negotiable things will be there job and maybe church on Sundays. Any social events, fight, bar, sporting event, etc are the things you need to say NO to. Sometime those will involve even saying no to family.   I’m a huge family person but even sometimes we get way too wrapped up in those things that they end up making us limited in venturing out and finding something new, different and better.

IMG_1301Is it a risk? Absolutely! But it’s also only a month.

See what happens…you will probably get a lot of push back from those around you. People will want you to do stuff, it seems especially when they know you can’t. Will you do it and take the first step to choosing you and a better life. It changed mine and I’m so glad I had a friend willing to make me uncomfortable so I could discover a better life.

If you need help in creating a mental shift you should check out Cold Shower Therapy. I’ve used it before and do when there are important decisions to make. It the basic concept that if you want something different then you have to do something different. Turning the shower to cold in the morning is an instant and very abrupt reminder to do something different. You’ll begin to find that change isn’t as bad as you think. You will adapt to the different if you’re intentional about it.