This Year Let's Resolve To Say No

"No" can be a dirty word. I don’t like being the bad guy. I don’t like missing out. But by refusing to say no, I am jeopardizing what is most valuable to me.

For example: we’re well into the year at this point, and I simply cannot fathom why my New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more, cure cancer, solve the problem of world hunger, and resolve the national debt haven’t been chugging along…

Okay, okay, so maybe my hyperbole is showing. But, I’m beginning to think there’s a really important theme behind all these failed plans. We simply don’t make room for the practical whens and hows of our resolutions.  

If you’re resolved to exercise more, but aren’t going to bed early enough to wake up in the mornings, how will this exercise happen? If you’re resolved to return to family dinners, but you haven’t cut out some of the Netflix time, when exactly are these family dinners taking place? If you’re resolved to cut the clutter and finally give that closet a cleanout, but you spend your Saturdays at the mall instead of face-to-face with your clutter, who is going to give your wardrobe a restart?

We are resolved to change our lives, but we refuse to change our habits. We do not have the time or space to exercise, to sit down together as a family, to clean a closet, to read a book, to create something new.

If we are resolved to do these things, then we must choose them. Really, actually choose them. And this choosing means saying no. It means saying no to some of the things we are doing to make space in our lives for the things we want to be doing.

3 Practical Suggestions

  1. Create your (short!) list of priorities for the year. These could be anything from reading just three books this year to sitting down for dinner twice a week.

  2. Then create your own “Stop Doing List” – a list of all the things that prohibit you from accomplishing these priorities. 

  3. Then, just say no. It will hurt. But make it a habit. And moment by moment, no by no, you will see your prioritized life take shape.

It’s an idea easily spoken yet hard to live out: every “no” is actually a “yes” to the good things we have chosen to prioritize in our lives. This simple word can help us create a life defined by moments well lived instead of planners well crammed.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and co-author of Built to Last, writes:

"It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life." 

This year, I’m going to resolve to say no. Not “just because,” but for the sake of the good things I’m actually resolved to do this year, for the sake of the life I hope to lead.