2024 is here to stay, bringing with it opportunities. Some are good, some are bad, and some are in between. The question is: which opportunities should you say yes to and which should you let pass you by? This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as we’ve come into this new year, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.
There’s a lot of self-help literature out there about how saying yes in your life can really empower you, and most of it’s pretty good. But we want to take a little bit of a different stance. We want to talk about the power of saying no, and what that can achieve.
Today we’re going to be talking about the power of the small no.
This is a habit that I try to cultivate in my daily life, and I think it’s a habit that will serve you as well. Additionally, it’ll set the foundation that will allow us to apply more advanced treatment of this topic. What is the small no? Exactly what it sounds like. It’s saying no in small ways.
We’ve been conditioned by our society to say yes to practically everything, and this has created a real problem. Every time you say yes to something in your daily life, you carve out a piece of your attention, you carve out a piece of your focus, and you carve out a piece of your time, and you give all three of those things to whatever you said yes to.
All of those resources are limited, which means that if we say yes over and over and over again during a day, we’ll end up losing a whole big chunk of our time, attention, and focus, which is exactly what modern culture is trying to push us toward. When you see a candy bar at the checkout line and your craving appears, society is trying to condition you to say yes to buying it. When you see an ad on social media, society is trying to condition you to say yes to clicking on it. Or when one of your friends posts, society wants you to hit that like button.
Everywhere we go, we are constantly surrounded by these questions asking us to make a small choice, to say a small yes. But no one ever tells us what the real cost of constantly saying yes entails. We think that saying yes is somehow a ticket to a happy and pleasant life. By saying yes to all of these things, we’re fulfilling our desires, and in fulfilling our desires, we’re going to be happy, right?
The reality is that the inverse is true. The more you say no to yourself and to your desires, the happier and more stable your life will be. In addition to our resources of time, attention, and focus, there’s another resource that we have to manage throughout the day, and that’s mental energy. And if we’re constantly spending our mental energy on tiny trivial things, then when big important things come, it’s going to be much harder to say yes to them.
This is why so many people procrastinate so much. We’ve been saying yes to all of these small things throughout our day, and then when a big imposing task appears, we think to ourselves, I don’t have the energy for that. It’s much easier to get my satisfaction from saying yes to all these small things than it is to get it from saying yes to a big thing, and this is why it’s so important to say no to ourselves.
Let’s talk about a practical way for you to develop the ability to say no in your life. The point isn’t to say no to everything, just to trivial things so that we can say yes to all of the important things.
You might say the principle that we want to live by is Small No, Big Yes.
If you can practice this small no, big yes in your life, I think you’ll be surprised to find how much you get done, how much energy you have, and how good it feels. It will be hard at first, for sure. But this is how we’re going to do it.
I want you to take a piece of paper, and on one side, I want you to write no 10 times. Then at the top of the paper, you’re going to write Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. This is going to be our NO chart. That’s right. I want you to say no to yourself 10 times every single day.
It can be really small things, but there’s a clear qualification. Every time you say no, you have to be saying no to a desire that you have. So if you see a piece of chocolate, and you want to eat the piece of chocolate, and you say, no, I’m not going to eat that chocolate, you can check off your chart. If somebody invites you to go to a baseball game, and you have a prior commitment so you say no, that doesn’t count. These have to be things that you want to do, but you don’t do.
Keep it simple. These are supposed to be small no’s. If you reach your hand in your pocket to grab your phone to pull it out in a moment of boredom to check your notifications, and you don’t, that’s worth a check. If you get the impulse to watch YouTube videos and instead go for a walk, that’s worth a check. We want to do this over and over and over again, so we’re going to try 10 times a day. You might be surprised at how hard it is to actually fill up those 10 slots because of how strong our conditioning to say yes to our every desire is. Later this week, we’re going to talk more about why it is so incredibly valuable to say no but today, I just want to focus on this exercise. Try it this week, and then come back and leave me a comment, letting me know how you did.
Saying no can be hard. But if you can develop the habit, you’re going to find your life is happier, more stable, and you’ll be able to make better progress on the things that are really important.
YouTube Video Link: https://youtu.be/6F8uBMAfpWY
Thanks for reading and watching.
Want in on all the secrets of writing compelling books? Have burning questions for Seth about the business side of being an author? Join the email list for up to date info on the latest videos!