The Power of No: How Saying No Will Get You More of What You Want

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 2.47.21 PM

Do you get a crazy case of “the guilts” when you say no to someone? Even if it’s something you really don’t want to do? Does the bully loop in your head start taunting you with messages like, “you’re not showing your support for the community” or “everyone else will be there” or “you should feel honored that they even asked you”? 

Or, does that rarely happen because you find yourself over-yessing in all aspects of your life? That’s what I call it when we consistently say yes to others out of guilt, obligation, fear or the nasty habit of “should-ing” all over ourselves. You know, that ultimate act of self-betrayal where we convince ourselves that we “should” do something that we’re not really passionate about doing at all. Because society or culture or parents or peer pressure or whatever story we’ve been telling ourselves for years. 

It’s a chronic condition that can take the best of us down a slippery path of serving everyone else’s agenda but our own. It’s like handing over our power, our most precious currency, on a silver platter. We can never create more time in our lives; we can only maximize what we have by seeing every minute as a powerful choice between what matters and what doesn’t; between who we are being and who we want to become. 

As women, so many of us are conditioned to over-please, over-serve and over-commit to others. Suddenly we find that every inch of white space on the calendar of our lives is filled with meetings and activities and “to do’s” that don’t necessarily serve us. All those yeses that turn to regrets the minute the debt comes due. We feel powerless as our own needs and priorities fall into the old holding pattern of neglect, longing for our love and attention. 

So, it’s about time that I fess up. I know all of this because I’ve lived it (like crazy). I’m a recovering over-yesser. I spent most of my life, and 26-year corporate career, saying yes to pretty much everyone and everything but my own health and deepest desires. I paid the price again and again — Mayo Clinic-level illness, painful divorce, addictions to food and booze, a wildly successful career and a personal life in shambles. I thought saying no would make me less likable or promotable. Turns out, all it made me was less authentic and fulfilled. 

I’ve spent the past two-and-a-half-years practicing the art of turning YESes into NOs in order to become who I really wanted to be: a strong, healthy and inspired soulpreneur with a spacious and conscious life and a role model for authenticity, courage, and purpose. 

You can, too. 

Next time you’re staring down the barrel of a decision about your valuable time, slow down and breathe deep. Resist the urge to blurt out the knee-jerk YES (been there, done that). Buy yourself time to check-in with your true intentions and ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are you doing this for? In other words, is a yes serving you or someone else? 
  • Does the opportunity/person/group support what matters most to you? Your mission, purpose, values, soul goals, etc.?
  • Does saying yes out loud make your soul sing or your stomach hurt? Listen closely to your body.
  • What if the opportunity was happening in two days versus two weeks or two months? Would you still say yes? 
  • What else could you do or create with the time you reclaim by saying no? How would it feel to have more time to do what you love? 

My new mantra is “Say NO for the greater YES. In service of the woman I am becoming and the other women I will inspire.” It keeps me honest about the choices I make in my life — and it inspires me to stay focused on my mission to liberate a billion souls through my coaching work. Feel free to steal shamelessly if it resonates with you. (That’s exactly what I did when I first heard a version of it from my dear friend and fellow coach, Danielle Macleod!)

Saying no is stepping into your power and owning your purpose. It’s not a negative; it’s a resounding positive. For me, it got even easier when I reframed the possibilities and potential:

  1. Saying no to someone else means saying yes to you. It’s a choice to tune out the noise, trust in what you know, and elevate your soul priorities above all else. It’s the first step in clearing your own path forward. 
  2. Saying no creates space for magic, creativity and synchronicity. It’s a beautiful contrast to the busy-ness that can plague our lives and ultimately get in the way of achieving our greatest potential. The white space of simply being can create the conditions for what’s possible. The Universe has an uncanny way of delivering when we signal that we’re “all in.”
  3. Saying no invites an energy balance tipped in favor of what fuels your soul, not what sucks it dry. Exhaustion, burnout and lack of fulfillment are a direct result of the litany of yeses that drain your energy. I call these Soul Sucks. Imagine a quick audit of your life in terms of Soul Fuel (what lights you up) and Soul Sucks (what drags you down). Which list is longer right now? What Soul Sucks are you willing to eliminate in order to create more space for Soul Fuel? 

The real power of no is the opportunity to say yes to you — and to creating what you really want in this one wild and precious life (as Mary Oliver would say). 

So what will you start saying NO to today? 


Shelley Paxton

Shelley Paxton spent 25 years as a highly regarded marketing and advertising executive stewarding some of the world’s most iconic brands like Harley-Davidson, Visa, McDonald’s and AOL. Most recently, she served as VP, Global Marketing + Brand (CMO) of Harley-Davidson.However, in 2016 she walked away from the corporate world to nurture her soul and discover her purpose. S She christened herself Chief Soul Officer and called the journey her Soulbbatical. It did more than change her life, it became her calling. She now works as a certified professional coach inspiring others to realize their greatest purpose and potential by living and leading more authentically, courageously and on purpose. Shelley has been selected to train with Brené Brown on her Dare to Lead program this year. And, Simon & Schuster will publish her first book about the lessons from her Soulbbatical journey in January 2020.