In our last post, I wrote down a couple of symptoms of someone who doesn’t use the word “no” enough. I hope you took the time to take an honest assessment of your current situation, because the power of “no” is largely misused. Use it right and you can bring focus and control to your life. How do you use it right? Here are three ways:
Prioritize: Focus and progress begin with priority. You’ve got to know what matters most to you when given a choice between two or more ways to spend your resources. I asked you to create a list when we were talking about the word “yes”. Go through that list and prioritize your goals and your gifts. Which ones matter the most to you? Now carve out some time for those “number ones” on your calendar and don’t let anything get in the way of your plan.
Eliminate “Maybe”: A lot of us live our lives in the Bermuda Triangle of “Maybe”. Dreams get lost in “Maybe”. Relationships atrophy in “Maybe”. You don’t go to “Maybe” on vacation. You go to “Maybe” to disappear in confusion, insignificance, and apathy. If someone asks you if you can take on another project, don’t say “alright”, “I’ll see what I can do”, or “I guess so”. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do it well, just tell them “no”. Phrase it nicer, of course, but don’t hurt them by committing to something and then not following through. If your child is in the school play, don’t say “I’m gonna try”. Tell them “no”, if you are not going to be there. If you are dating and you know your relationship is not healthy, don’t keep telling yourself “maybe he’ll change” or “I’ll sleep with her, but I won’t have sex with her.” Say “no”. Once you begin to eliminate “maybe” and use the words “yes” and “no”, you’ll notice the sense of power and focus that you regain in your life.
Become a Person of One Mind: A lot of our stress in life comes from being in one place physically, but being in another place mentally. You are a finite being, you can only truly exist in one place at one time. This tip is about multitasking. I know, I know, you’re different. You can type an email, watch American Idol, and have a conversation with your friend about what’s going on in their life right now. Of course you can. The issue isn’t whether you can pull it off, the issue is whether you can be proud of the effort that you put into any of those things. Did that person you were talking to really get the best of your attention? Turn off the TV. Put down the cellphone. Shut the laptop. That’s not quality time. Try it. Do one thing at a time. You’ll find that focused time and attention will actually increase your results and your efficiency. Just choose one thing and attack it. Then move on to the next. As you do, fully immerse yourself in what you are doing and enjoy it.
The words “yes” and “no” have the power to create a life that matters; a life that is rich with memories, deep relationships, and fulfilling work. We just have to learn to use them rightly. “Yes” can open up possibilities when you are stuck in a rut. “No” can help you focus your resources and make progress in a consistent direction. The two most powerful words in existence are in your vocabulary and completely at your disposal. What are you going to do with them?