#272: The Upside of Saying No

Author and habit expert James Clear recently reminded me of a very powerful truth:

“When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.”

Think about that for a second.

Until I read that, I had always thought of yes and no as opposite scenarios—as equals.

But they’re NOT, especially when you’re making decisions.

In today’s short podcast episode, I explore why saying yes can be a problem—and why saying no can have a major upside.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smartphone, tablet or iPod.


What Happens When You Say Yes Versus No

When you say yes to something, you’re locked in.

And that commitment keeps you from taking advantage of other, sometimes better, choices. You’ve committed your capacity until that task or project is over.

What about when you say no?

The downside of saying no to a bad or average choice is minimal. But the upside is massive!

When you say no, you’ve only turned down only ONE thing. You still have the time and bandwidth to say yes to something much better.

So when you say yes to a client or project that’s not a fit—but you do it out of fear—you’re saying no to every other option out there.

Sure, you may feel you don’t have other options now. But just because you can’t see those options (because they haven’t materialized yet) doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

The ideal opportunity might turn up the very next day. But if you have said yes, now you don’t have the time or capacity to take it on.

Sure, you might try to do both anyway. But will you be able to do great work if you’re overcommitted?

There’s always a tradeoff. Something’s got to give.

You Only Have Limited Amounts of Time

All of us only have a limited amount of time to do all the things we want to do.

But we treat our time as if we have an unlimited supply. And we make choices accordingly.

We say yes to too many things, people, or opportunities.

Before we know it, we’re stretched way too thin—with little or no time for the people and things that matter most.

Our time here is not guaranteed. So choose wisely.

Don’t feel bad when you have to say no. Because when you do, you open up time and resources for other, better opportunities.



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