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  • Writer's pictureHeather Chavin

How saying yes to others means saying no to yourself

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

Find your brilliant inner guide to the RIGHT yes

One of the hardest truths I’ve learned is that I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do. Not far behind that is the truth that if I put too many things on my plate, I half-ass all of them and end up in a shame spiral.

There is no shortage of amazing ideas and wonderful opportunities. What that means is that I regularly have to say no to those amazing ideas and wonderful opportunities.

That hurts.

I have found that if I don’t acknowledge that hurt and mourn that opportunity, I end up saying yes. And then I have too much on my plate, I become the no-fun-to-be-around “busy monster” and the shame spiral of “not enough” starts.

I choose the word mourn very purposefully. For me, saying no is emotionally painful. The only thing to do with painful emotions is to feel them. The good news is that they don’t last as long as the neverending “busy plague.” It also means I have space to really be there and enjoy the things I say yes to. I’m either fully present with the people I love or kicking arse on the project at hand.

Knowing that I can only say yes to a few things has meant that I have to get really good at deciding what to say yes to.

So, how do I choose?

When I want to start a new project or someone asks me if I can do something, the answer now is, “Let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you.” NEVER JUST SAY A KNEE-JERK YES!

Yeah, I all caps yelled at you.

How the knee-jerk “yes” keeps us in busy mode

In running my productivity sprint, GoGoSprint, I have participants map out their projects. One of the key steps is to give each task a time estimate...and multiply it by three. Hands down this is the most common point of resistance and then the most common “aha” I get for my sprint participants. It’s a hard truth - but Humans stink at time estimation - life will start to get better as soon as you embrace this fact.

When I say a knee-jerk “yes,” I’m operating from the fantasy part of my brain that’s bad at time estimation. I am guaranteed to over-commit.

As a woman, I have been socialized to be a people pleaser, so my first instinct is always to say yes and take care of other people before I take care of myself.

So, the first step is to give myself the space to think about it, ditch my garbage social programming, and take a breath. Then I need to drink my own Kool-aid and map out what exactly is being asked of me. All projects seem doable and fun in my fantasy mind. Once the tasks are mapped out in front of me with my X3 time estimates, it’s time to ask myself how this supports my values and priorities.

Your core values are your guiding principles. They are where your deepest motivations lie. They can act as a barometer to help you determine if your choices and actions are in line with who you are and who you want to be. Your priorities are the actions you deem most important. When living in harmony, they support those values.

For example, if your core value is family and you’ve made spending extra time at work to make more money a priority, you may be out of alignment and lost in the rat race. If it’s money to put food on the table or save for college, then the priority is about providing for your family and the work becomes more meaningful.

Or perhaps freedom is one of your core values and as such, building your own business has become a priority. That next free webinar may give you a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) if you don’t attend, but will it actually lead to revenue generation? Probably not. It’s probably time to do the harder thing (and the harder thing is never more research).

If you don’t already have a handle on what your core values are, I recommend doing that immediately. Those values are the gatekeeper for what you say yes to and the guiding light for how you execute those projects.

If you don’t know your priorities, I recommend playing with the Eisenhower Matrix and mapping all of your time commitments out (include self-care and family time here folks!).

Here’s an example of my thought process.

Someone has asked me to edit their blog article.

My core values are excellence and fun. My priorities are maintaining self-care, nurturing key relationships, and building my business.

I can work to achieve excellence in editing, but the task itself is not so fun for me. Here, it’s a maybe.

So, whose blog post am I editing? Someone who is offering something in return that will help me build my business? Or is it a request for me to show some generosity and altruism? Giving to others when I have the capacity supports my self-care. It’s the kind of person I want to be.

So the question becomes, do I have the capacity?

One look at my Eisenhower Matrix and the answer is clear. It hurts but right now, I need to build my business and the kind of brain activity used to edit a blog post is the kind of brain activity that is most in demand for my business right now.

So, I choose me. I MUST choose me because ain’t no one else lining up to do my work for me.

Short-term pain for long term...survival! (And dare I say thrive?)

Having to say “no” to keep busy at bay is a very unpleasant task. Especially when you have to say no to someone you care about and someone who is very deserving (who btw is probably very capable of solving this problem another way - you’re not the only smarty-pants out there!).

The good news is that the discomfort is short and nowhere near as painful as living an overcommitted, exhausted life where you do things like get annoyed with your friends for wanting to spend time with you. Even though I have to say “no” to some golden opportunities, as long as I operate within the reality of limited time and energy, I make better decisions, my work quality is high, and I get to keep liking myself!

So, who do you need to say no to so that you can say yes to yourself?

76 views2 comments


Heather Chavin
Heather Chavin
Dec 28, 2020

I need the nudge often too! Being around people who are embracing it and trying our best to embody it is so helpful!


Dec 26, 2020

Really a fantastic article, Heather, and at I time where I'm really "paying for" not saying "no" more often. :-) Thanks for giving me the nudge to take better care of my priorities.

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