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Practice Saying No

andrea bednar saying no simplicity

This month's theme is Simplicity. How do you make your life simpler, more manageable, and less stressful?

We live in a time of unparalleled complexity, I'm sure you've experienced that as well.

As one small example, consider the complexity of your smartphone. How many apps do you have on your phone (actually stop reading and count them)? Do you use folders to organize your apps? How many folders do you have? How many screen pages do you have? Check the photo gallery of your phone. Have you used the favorites, the albums, the pictures files, the stories files, the suggested, the recent, the shared albums? How many apps do you have open right now? Do you use the 'optimize your phone'? How often? Are you aware of, and can you utilize all the bells and whistles your phone offers?

Then add your tablet.

Then add your computer.

That's just three devices. The amount of complexity in only these three devices is mind-boggling. 

Then add to those three little aspects of your life wildfires, double hurricanes, earthquakes, working from home, remembering your mask, homeschooling, caring for your parents, figuring out how to travel safely, figuring out how to conduct your business without travel, grocery shopping while making sure you're standing on the 6 ft line, ordering food online, voting during a pandemic (do not vote twice!), being safe and keeping others safe during the times when you do have to go to the office, figuring out how to zoom your grandchildren (or is it Facetime?)...and these are just the new circumstances we've added in the past few months!

Because of all this new behavior, everything requires thinking. It's exhausting. The more we deal with the unfamiliar, and the more options we have, the more complex life is.

We can't always eliminate "newness" from our lives. Things change, and we need to flex with those changes, but we can eliminate some of our options to make things simpler. 

To start, we can focus on all the opportunities and requests we receive.

People ask us to do things all the time (although it doesn't always sound like asking).

You must read this book (watch this movie, listen to this podcast)! Can you read my book and review it on Amazon and Goodreads? How about a zoom dinner on Saturday? Can you click on my page? I'd love a thought partner on this project. We're putting together a committee, and we'd appreciate your unique perspective. I'm about to jump into your field - can you tell me how you got started? I'm doing a podcast, and I'd love you to be a guest! I'm offering a webinar, and I could use some friendly faces in the audience. Social distancing block party -- can you come??

Fun and interesting things to do. Things to which we'd like to say YES! 

Let's start our simplicity series by talking about saying no.

While most of us are not good at this, some people are naturals at saying 'no.' If you aren't one of those lucky folks, read on. 

I saw an article recently that said billionaires say 'no' more often than they say 'yes' (is this because they have more opportunities to say 'yes' than the rest of us?).  According to the article, billionaires are very clear about what they'll say yes to and what they'll say no to.

Are you clear about your 'yeses' and 'nos?' Do you leave ambiguity lying around by not being clear? Unfortunately, being deliberately vague doesn't leave others ambiguous about what you'll do -- it leaves them thinking that you are a 'yes.' If you don't directly say 'no' people treat it as a 'yes'. 

Some of my clients say their issue with saying 'yes' isn't a lack of desire to say 'no' but a lack of skill in saying no graciously.  

If you'd like to play with reducing the complexity of your life, here are a couple of experiments:

1. Say 'no' to one thing each day this week -- something you would have previously said 'yes' to. Notice how that feels and notice what happens when you do that.

2. Observe where and what you say 'yes' to. Make notes of when you say 'yes' and are happy to do so and when you say 'yes', and wished you could have said no.

2. Make a note of how often you say 'yes' and are happy about it, but later your 'yes' turns into a burden. What are the areas in which this happens?

3. Consider how you could offer a 'no' graciously. Design one or two sentences that kindly say no, with no excuses. Create one or two 'no' sentences you would feel good about using 

Lastly, here's a quote from the author Ryan Holiday. His latest book is Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius.

We say that our families matter to us. We say that we want to be happy, that we are looking forward to things slowing down, that we love peace and quiet. Yet far too often our choices betray a sadder truth—that we are addicted to obligations, that we lack the stout heart required to deliver bad news and say the dreaded words, “No” and “Sorry, I can’t.”

It takes practice but you can simplify your life and have more time to enjoy the things you love.  

Have a great week.

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