In the introduction to “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” author Greg McKeown writes, “The way of the Essentialist isn’t about setting New Year’s resolutions to say “no” more, or about pruning your in-box, or about mastering some new strategy in time management. It is about pausing constantly to ask, ‘Am I investing in the right activities?'”
Far be it from me to disagree with a New York Times Best-selling author and Stanford grad, but I kind of disagree with this New York Times Best-selling author and Stanford grad.
While I realize most of our New Year’s resolutions won’t make it past February, a New Year’s resolution done the right way can be a game changer. Before you can determine if you’re investing in the “right activities,” you’ve got to prune various areas of your life.That means saying “no” to the insignificant as well as things that seem important. The new year is as good a place to start as any.
Just Say “No” to People
Are you a “yes” person? You take on other people’s problems without much thought. It rarely occurs to you that you have another option. Sometimes it’s our ego–we can do the thing better, faster, so why burden someone else? Then of course there is the legion of people we feel like we can’t say “no” to–bosses, children, spouses and friends.
No matter how you squeeze it, you only get 24 hours to each day. When you say “yes” to something, you automatically say “no” to something else. Accept a lunch invitation from that gossipy co-worker, and you say “no” to hitting the gym on your lunch break. Say “yes” to chairing the school fundraiser and you’re really saying “no” to starting your MBA program.
Every request is not important. It’s not even necessarily important to the person who asked. When you opt out of other people’s to-do lists, the earth won’t fly off its axis. In the process, you’ll gain time and energy to work on the things that matter to you.
If you have a hard time saying “no,” I suggest you start in a specific area of your life for a specific amount of time. For example, you can refuse lunch invitations for a month. Decide what you will do with that time, read positive books, exercise, work on a passion project. It’s not that you are saying “no” to lunch as much as that you are saying “yes” to your own personal growth.
Even if you have no problem telling other people “no”…
You’ve Got to Say “No” to Your Putrid Self
The Resistance. Lizard Brain. Voice of Judgment. There are many names for that inner part of you that tries to keep you in your comfort zone. I call it your putrid self. It’s you–your thoughts and negative emotions–but it’s a grotesque version of you.
The putrid self is the reason you don’t want to be alone with your thoughts. It creeps in and reminds you of past mistakes. The putrid self tells you your limits. You can’t achieve that. You’re not smart enough. You’re going to get embarrassed if you try that. You’re fat (or too skinny), ugly, plain, stupid, socially awkward, smelly.
Don’t get confused. Your putrid self doesn’t hate you. Your putrid self is actually trying to keep you safe, safely in your comfort zone. That’s why he highlights your failings and downplays your achievements. The putrid self keeps you from risk.
If you want to embark on a new journey, do something great, or even take a different route to work, you’ll have to say “no” to your putrid self. Let’s say it together:
No, you cannot make me afraid of the world.
No, you cannot keep me in a box.
No, you’re not the boss of me.
And sometimes you have to tell your putrid self to just shut up already.
What will you say “no” to?
We only get this one life. We only get these 24 hours to each day. In order to say “yes” to what matters, you’ve got to say “no” to what doesn’t matter.
I won’t pretend to know what is holding you back from living your very best life, but I’m praying for your healing.
What will you say no to this year so that you can say yes to things that matter? Please join me in the comments section below and on Twitter (#HappyNoYear and #HappyNoYear2016). I’ll get us started. This year I’m saying:
No to perfectionism. Yes to progress.
No to big ideas. Yes to small action steps.
No to my putrid self. Yes to my passion-driven self.
“Pathfinders: What will you say NO to this year so that you can say YES to the things that matter?”