A Study in 'NO': How to Say 'YES' to the Things That Matter to YOU

A Study in No: How to Say Yes to the Things that Matter to You from The House of Muses

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How many times a day are you asked to do something by others? Big, small, five-minute, five-month project, effortless, endless struggle— it could be any of these things. I'm betting unless you rarely come into contact with other human beings, it's probably quite often. What if you said YES to all of these things? Even the things your boss asks you to do, even the things your client asks you to do, your family members ask you to do?

My guess is you would probably be overwhelmed and overworked.

Fantastic friends, overwhelm and burnout are real.

This is especially true for us creative folks. Now, we are all beautiful, generous, giving people who love to help out a dearest pal, but is this really in our best interest? Is it really in their best interest?

The answer is NO. Fulfillment and joy come not from saying YES to everything but saying YES to the things that really matter. There is a time when you have to pull out a very final, long dreaded NO in order to preserve your fire, your strength, your sanity.

The point is, we want to say YES to life's wonderful experiences as much as we can, but we want to say YES to the ones that matter to us. That stoke our fire. That make our heart dance. That make us want to gallop up thirteen flights of stairs and shout this is the idea we've been waiting for.

And to do this? To life this feeling every day? You guessed it. You have to exercise that 'NO' muscle until it's world class.

1. We MUST say NO to say YES.

At first, others might not understand, but trust me when I say you are doing THEM a favour as much as you. The efforts of a worn out, tired, sad person are not helpful to anyone. You will not be able to inspire and shine your brilliance under the weight of too much accepted obligation.

And it's true. This is a muscle that needs to be exercised. At this point, we may be so used to saying yes to everything we can— out of a feeling of empathy, or a fear of guilty feelings— that this muscle is on its way to atrophying. Trust me when I say that the more you practise saying no, the easier it gets. Start small. You will need to consider carefully if doing something will lead you to your true goals and ambitions, if it's in alignment with what you really want to feel and achieve. If it's not, or if you're not sure, this may be something to pass up.

Do you have a nagging gut feeling that agreeing to one more thing may be that Jenga piece that brings everything down? Say no. Alternatively, say no for now. Often there is a fear that if we say no to something, that opportunity will never arise again. In some cases, that may be true, but often, these opportunities for jobs, for work with clients, for publicity— whatever it is— will appear again. If you've really got a gut feeling that something will be AMAZING for you, say yes!

But remember, no is a complete sentence.

2. But doesn't this make me selfish?

Firstly, no. Absofriggenlutely not. This is related to what I was talking about above. Although generosity brings more generosity, and abundance breeds abundance, your ability to give to others is not infinite. Your ability to provide services for the people you want to connect with, is directly related to your ability to give yourself time to heal and regenerate— especially if you are in a type of service that requires a deep emotional investment. When you become depleted, exhausted and worn out, you are not providing the highest level of help you ARE capable of, to anyone.

It is very important to take time to take care of yourself, and in order to do this, undoubtedly, you must turn down some offers.

Selflove =/= selfish.

Not everyone will see it this way. If the people around you are used to you always being available for everything, and saying YES all of the time, they might be surprised, even hurt, when you say NO. Whether or not you choose to explain why you're saying no, is up to you (*see previous iteration: no is a complete sentence). What matters if that you know that caring for yourself enables you to better care for others.


This is what it all comes down to. Be able to say no to the things that don't really and truly turn you on, allows you to say yes to more of the things you would love to do. It's up to you. You could do 3 or 4 things at 120% awesome, or 10 things running at 70%. Believe me, when you're able to throw yourself into things and completely give over all of your creative energy to something you are endlessly passionate about, the results are infinitely better— and the experience will be, too.

Do what you love. Be great at what you're good at. You want to be known in your field as someone who is excellent at what they do. You don't get here by spending lots of time working on things you hate, and things that are a struggle for you. In the words of Danielle LaPorte, do what comes easily to you, and here you will really shine.

If it's just an I GUESS, then pass! Spend your time doing something you love fully, something that lights you up and leaves you glowing for days.

It takes time my friends, and it's a skill. But in the long run, I promise you will feel better for it. It will allow you to build the blogs, the businesses and the relationships that leave you feeling completely fulfilled and completely awesome.

Obligation is the death of creativity.