Just Say No To Always Saying Yes

Now Brewing: Ionix Supreme. During business trips, it’s tough to eat the way you want. Luckily, before jetting off on my trip this time I invested in the Isagenix system to keep my meals on track. So far, so good and the Ionix even helps me feel more awake which is much needed due to my wild schedule. 

There’s no denying that it feels fantastic to be the go-to guy or girl – the one your friends call when they’re having issues with their significant other, the one your coworkers come to during their work crises, the one your parents and siblings rely on. When someone tells you, “Thank you so much. I just don’t know what I’d do without you,” it’s likely for feelings of importance, worth and value well up inside you. And since everyone likes to feel valued, I’ve watched far too many people I care about become consumed with being go-to people and more and more often it’s Millennials, myself included, falling into this trap. We’re relatively new blood to the working world, still getting acclimated and learning our place in our organizational cultures, and saying “yes” we feel, is integral to prove our worth and advance our careers.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my problem with boredom. My need to always be busy, coupled with being a member of this Yes-Gen culture, hasn’t always been the best for my relationships, my health or even the career I thought I was doing such a great job devoting myself to growing. In a world of yes’s—here is why I’ve learned it’s often more better to just say no:

1. It’s Vital to Your Health. Throughout high school and college, my friends and I often went out for a bite to eat as a social gathering, never paying much attention to making sure these gatherings featured health-friendly choices. After college, dinners meant whatever I could muster up the energy to cook for myself or grab on the way home from work. This pattern continued until I looked at a picture of myself and thought, “Wow, this has got to stop.” Unhappiness with the way I looked and a disappointment in the fact that I’d let it go as far as it had motivated me to make a change. In early March, I committed to doing a Whole30, meaning no sugars, no carbohydrates, no dairy, and no alcohol for 30 days. The first few days of the month proved to be extremely tough. I battled headaches and general fatigue that felt much like the worst of hangovers as my body rid itself of the toxins I’d been consuming steadily for the past few years. I began cooking meals ahead of time on Sundays prior to beginning my work week and it felt great to have good, healthy options ready when I got home at the end of the day. After a while I even began to actually feel better. I had more energy and generally felt better about the world around me. Although it was a challenge, at the end of those 30 days I felt amazing and I lost a good chunk of weight to boot. Since then, I completed another Whole30 and had the same experience. Whole eating truly transformed my life and the way I think and how I feel about what I put into my body, making it easier to say no to unhealthy options because I know how great it feels to fuel my body with the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong—I still love my cheese and beer – I am from Wisconsin after all, so I’ll still chow down when I want a special treat, but by learning to say no at the right times, I improved my overall health and happiness. It’s key to remember that your focus should not be on what you can’t eat, but rather, on the effects that you don’t want from unhealthy options (like food hangovers, less energy or weight gain). By bringing your health to the forefront of your mind, making choices that keep you on track and saying no to temptations becomes just a tad easier. 

2. Your Friends Need You To. One of the qualities I most value is being a good friend. My mother, who is a clinical therapist (which is oh so much fun!), likes to point out that I set extremely high standards for my friendships. Growing up, I used to feel so disappointed when my friends didn’t live up to the expectations I had for them, whether it be trivial things like not calling at the times I needed them or bigger situations, like taking advantage of my financial status. For a long time, I felt embarrassed about the standards I set for my friendships, always thinking it was my problem that my feelings were hurt when they ditched plans or only called when they needed something. Then I read something:

“It’s easy to feel uncared for when people aren’t able to communicate and connect with you in the way that you need and it’s so hard not to internalize that silence as a reflection on your worth. But the truth is that the way other people operate is not about you. Most people are so caught up in their own responsibilities, struggles, and anxiety that the thought of asking someone else how they’re doing doesn’t even cross their mind. They aren’t always inherently bad or uncaring—they’re just busy and self-focused and that’s okay. It’s not evidence of some fundamental failing on your part. It doesn’t make you unlovable or invisible. It just means that those people aren’t very good at looking beyond their own world, but the fact that you are – that despite the darkness you feel, you have the ability to share your love and your light with others – is a strength. Your work isn’t to change who you are; it’s to find people who are able to give you the connection you need, because despite what you feel you are not too sensitive or too needy. You are thoughtful and empathetic, you are compassionate and kind, and with or without anyone’s acknowledgement or affection, you are enough.”

Wow! For so long felt like problem was me and that I shouldn’t care so much—but reading that quote really hit me and made me I finally start to understand that it wasn’t me at all—I just needed to surround myself with better connections. I started saying yes to the people who treat me the way I want to be treated and no longer have a problem saying no to those that don’t. By connecting with the people who truly value you and saying goodbye (and NO) to those who don’t, you’ll have more time to make memories with the friends who were there all along and probably weren’t receiving your full attention and acknowledgment. When you say no to people that no longer serve your happiness, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters—true friends and true hearts.

3. Your Career Depends It. Not knowing how to say no is a perfect recipe for workplace stress and stunted career trajectory. When you say yes to everything, you risk not having time to do the work that’s important or to plan your future career strategy. And by saying yes and doing everyone favors, you’ll quickly be asked to do more and more, until you have little time left for much else. To maintain a good work-life balance and keep yourself from burning out, it’s completely necessary – and absolutely okay – to say no at work, as long as you do it respectfully and carefully. Set consistent standards for yourself at work. Don’t regularly answer emails or calls after business hours unless absolutely required of your job and make sure to take time each day for yourself. I’ve found that this is especially important when working on tough deadlines or on business travel. When I find myself feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s often because I’ve over-committed myself and am not making time to do the things that make me happy. To combat impending feelings of burnFullSizeRenderout and stress, I make it a point to spend a little extra time doing something not work-related to help myself reset. In fact, because I recently spent two weeks on the road for work, I knew I wouldn’t be happy on another two weeks away without getting to decompress with friends before heading off, getting out of the hotel to explore the Virginia area once I got here, and making time to write this blog (and another side project!) when I had downtime. And you know what? So far, this trip is so much better than my last. By spending just small amounts of time working out, diving into your passion projects, reading a book, trying a new restaurant or taking an adventure, you’re less likely to become inundated by your job tasks. When you better manage your workload, you can actually improve your productivity and have proper time to your work done, unlike when you’re slammed and just throwing things together haphazardly. And when you’re actually doing good work, you’re a lot more likely to move your career forward and make a splash at work than the office pushover who can’t ever say no.

Although saying no can be quite difficult, especially to someone you care about, knowing how to say no in a smart and calm way is a professional and personal skill that brings both practical benefits in the short term and career respect, health longevity and happiness in the long term. Take the time to respect yourself and commit to setting personal and professional boundaries that help you achieve the results you want, get where you need to go, and connect with positive people who help you and won’t take advantage of your spirit. It’s the greatest gift you can ever give to yourself and when you treat yourself right, everyone else will too.

More on Saying No:

10 Guilt-Free Strategies for Saying No

How to Say No to Anyone (Even a Good Friend)

Why Saying No Gets You Ahead

Love an Ex Yes-Girl,

Kathryn E. Weast

One comment

  1. […] to my career, actually ones I wanted to work on, or teams I wanted to work with. So, I started to say no to things that didn’t align appropriately in those areas. As a result, I am more confident in the […]

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