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How to Stop Saying Yes When You Mean No

I like how we create posts together. Recently a SPELer, frazzled & overwhelmed by an over-cluttered calendar & life, contacted me to ask how she could better manage the demands on her time. This post is the result of our exchange.



Live Life Well


Hello  & Welcome!


I'm Cindy & so very delighted

to make your online acquaintance.

I’m a huge fan of the word yes.


I’m a joiner. A supporter. An optimistic, overly-excitable creature that likes to say YES! to pretty much everything – especially to  helping someone in need. Few things feel better than making someone’s day by saying Yes from a pure place, don’t you think?


Yet I’ve learned that not every YES is mine to give.


There are sacred Yeses & sacred Nos. Sometimes we’re internally guided to say yes; sometimes we’re internally guided to say no.



"Love always gives the loving response—but sometimes the loving response is “no” …sometimes love’s lesson is learning to say no."


Marianne Williamson



We must get over the false notion once &  for all that mean girls (or guys) say no & nice/spiritual/loving girls say yes.



Sometimes saying yes is bold and brave and loving and kind.

Sometimes saying no is bold and brave and loving and kind.



Only you know which is which. Yes is powerful, and so is No, when they come from a place of authenticity & integrity. The paradoxical nature of this concept is difficult; we must get still to discern our WHY.



“The oldest, shortest words - yes and no - are those which require the most thought.”





What motivates us (subconsciously, semi-consciously or consciously) to say Yes when we mean No?

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Sometimes our desire to serve and for love and connection is so strong that we devote time to people & projects for longer than we should.  (For this reason, I have to be mindful about committing to the practice I’m sharing with you.)


Many of us, especially women, find that we can squander our lives by investing disproportionately in the lives of others. That is, living others’ lives at the expense of our own.


If our reserves are constantly depleted by letting others’ needs dictate our priorities, it comes at the cost of our own vitality. Decide to give your best energy to your most valued relationships. Begin by marginalizing life-draining connections while increasing your investment in dynamic, energy-giving ones.

Love Steers



Learning the power of the word No is about discernment & intention. Screening invitations, opportunities & relationships that come your way through the filter of fear versus love brings laser-lucid clarity.


My Fear Choice is yes, I’ll do it. Because I’m afraid if I don’t, I’ll miss out/disappoint/look bad/be misunderstood/won’t have another opportunity.


My Love Choice is no, I’ll skip it in favor of the still, small voice.



"Whatever it is, if you can’t put love in it, don’t do it!”


Bhagava Das



Honor the whispers of your heart. Go with your Love Choice & say the bravest two-letter word in the English language: No. Love is always the right direction, because instead of being driven we’re drawn.




Follow Your Own North Star



There is such a thing as sacred prioritization. If you want to succeed at what you’re called to do, sometimes you have to say no out of integrity instead of yes out of obligation.



"Your energy is a precious resource to be respectfully managed."


Gail Larsen



In order to graciously utter a great big, love-infused No when it’s time, you’ll need a compass that’s oriented to your own true north & nobody else's.


Make conscious & deliberate choices in the direction of your passion. The journey to our divinely-inspired dreams demands a lot from us, including holding onto our own convictions in the face of others’ expectations.




“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”


Pam Grout




Raising children, starting a business, making your art, manifesting your vision & living your dream require courage, tenacity & the willingness to confidently say no.


This creates a sacred space to do your most prized work, & develop your most fulfilling relationships & life.




We Teach People How to Treat Us (as the saying goes)



If we say Yes without discerning the right Yes for us, our Yes loses its meaning, its authority.


Get clear about boundaries. Become conscious of the subliminal signals you send out. Like: “I’m available. Take advantage of me.” If you’re sheepish, you risk being exploited.


When we hold our time in high regard, eventually other people will too. While some may be threatened by your new level of assertiveness, most will respect you. Either way, the gains far outweigh the hazards.


Your dreams inform your Yeses &  your Nos. Get comfortable saying No to things that pull you away from your truest desires.


Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to value ourselves & our dreams enough, even when we risk disappointing others. It’s uncomfortable to say No, but less uncomfortable than unmet objectives & resentment later.


Every time I’ve ever felt resentful was after I said Yes when I meant No. (Resentful of the asker for making unreasonable demands on my time when I’M THE ONE WHO SAID YES! Go figure.)


Sometimes a "No" can be far kinder than a resentment-laced Yes. God loves a cheerful – not a resentful – giver. But what if resentment is not always a feeling to overcome but a sign post to be followed?


Overtapping your well leaves you with diminished resources, whereas saying YES TO LESS directs you into the zone of your true strengths. A kind, firm no takes you in the direction of your dreams.


Saying No based on your values, desires, availability, or the feeling that something just isn’t right, is freeing. After the initial discomfort, learning to own that potent two letter word is wildly liberating.



The Power of a Positive No



  •  Every time you say No, the right person for the job gets to say YES.
  •  More Nos can actually help you be more generous with your Yeses.
  •  Saying “No thank you” today makes space for what you’re meant to say Yes to tomorrow.



“The more that is shed that is outgrown & useless, the more room for the supreme pleasure of what actually fits.”


Tosha Silver



On the path to your dreams, what you stop doing is just as important as what you start doing. By choosing a smaller number of tasks & doing them well, you don’t neglect opportunities; you maximize opportunities.


The trickiest part for me has been learning to say No to juicy prospects; things that might be really good, flattering or lucrative, because they deflect attention from my real work.


All that glitters is not gold. We betray ourselves when we say yes to things that don’t really align with who we are or what we want in our lives — when it’s not honest for us.


It’s all about prioritization. Honing your heart's core desires helps you concentrate your personal resources (time, money, energy) on what you’ve declared most important to you.


(If you’ve yet to define what’s most important to you, start by asking yourself: What would I do or create if time was no object?)


Say No to non-essential projects, tasks, requests & “opportunities” that zap your energy & enthusiasm & Yes to things that make you soar.


Granting yourself the permission to say No to demands on your time that don’t light you up & give energy back to you requires love & self-respect.


Allow your yes to be a gift.



“Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life.”


Natalie Goldberg



Pay close attention to the subtle flickers of your soul. Stand by your truth with grace. Make good on the promises you’ve made to yourself.  Say Yes to what makes your heart sing.


Your unique contribution to the world is invaluable – only you can do it, and you must. Don’t use up your “one wild & precious life” saying Yes when you mean No.


Make a stop-doing list. Single task. Do less. And do it better.


“Let your yes be yes & your no be no” & reap the soul-soaring rewards of your sacred prioritization.


Perhaps you’ll say with the SPELer who inspired this post, “I want you to know this saved my life, seriously it did. Thanks.”


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Now, my dear online kinfolk, if you have friends you love & care about who would benefit from busting out of Saying Yes When They Mean No, please share. Let the healed become the healers.

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