The Power Of Saying ‘No’

The Power Of Saying “No”

This is something I need reminded of on an almost daily basis, and something I have definitely not mastered yet. As I’ve progressed through life; through the pressures of school, university and now the workplace, I’ve begun to see that saying ‘no’ is a form of empowerment like no other. In a world where there are no end of demands on your most precious resource of time, it’s a vote for yourself and your own right to choose how you spend that time. 

I’ve yet to find a person who puts it better than James Clear; so I’m going to quote him here:

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

Equally wisely, the economist Tim Harford says: “Every time we say yes to a request, we are also saying no to anything else we might accomplish with the time.” Once you have committed to something, you have already decided how that future block of time will be spent.”

Saying ‘yes’ to things that will not bring you joy or improve your life in some way, will end up leaving you drained and unfulfilled. So in a world that tells you that you’re not being productive if you don’t have your day planned out to the very last minute, I’m telling you to be selfish and be mindful of your choices — and I’m here to remind you that unscheduled blocks of time have infinite potential. Look at your time as a kind of Schrodinger’s Cat experiment; with your time being the cat in the box, which is in infinite possible states simultaneously (ssh, okay, it’s technically two states, but we can discuss quantum mechanics thought experiments later). Saying ‘no’ to a commitment ensures that your future time can theoretically be in any possible state; whilst saying ‘yes’ is the equivalent of peering inside the box, and seeing that the cat is dead. Saying ‘no’ is an exciting opportunity for ‘future-you’ to decide in that moment how to spend that time; and that’s a rare commodity.

Needless to say, I’m in love with the idea of potential; and taking back the power of my own time is going to be one of my main systemic habits for the year 2021. Of course, there’s a limit to how much one probably should say no, for fear of being unfriendly, but I think it’s really important to keep this one idea in mind; that ‘no’ is an opportunity, and ‘yes’ is a commitment.