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The Freedom from saying "No"

I was recently asked to serve as an interim Executive Director (ED) while a non-profit I care deeply for searched for someone more permanent.

I knew my answer instantly. It was a definite no.

Yet I struggled to give voice to the no for various reasons. I worried I was leaving them in a lurch. I wanted to create the sense of relief that comes from completing a daunting task by saying yes to them. I felt bad about the circumstances the board had found themselves in and wished I could ease their burden, instead of adding to their void by saying no.

No matter how much thought I gave it. No matter the questions they answered. No matter the information they provided. The answer I felt from within remained a no.

My mind would try to justify why I should say yes. It pleased my ego to say yes. I could learn so much if I said yes. I could avoid making growing my business a priority by saying yes, which means I could dodge the inevitable rejection and loss and failure a little longer with one yes.

So I hemmed and hawed. Until I couldn't put it off any longer. Then I reached out to my coach, a mentor and a friend. They all saw the no. They respected the no. They each supported me in responding no. They shared language for me to say no. They affirmed my decision and encouraged me to trust myself.

Trust myself? I hadn't considered this a moment where I was choosing to trust myself. Not when there seemed to be so many facets of myself weighing in with points and counterpoints like two lawyers making opposing arguments.

My friend, Jeff Kinsey, calls this the difference between the thinking we do and the thinking that comes to us. The conflicting thoughts, the guilt, the worry, the boost to my self-esteem, were all coming from the thinking we do. It was my ego that made arguments. But the answer that came from deep within, that was the thinking that comes to us. Trusting myself is listening to the thinking to comes to me.

So I trusted myself! And I said no. More specifically I said, "I can't do right by you and right by me if I say yes, so I have to say no!"

I experienced an immediate sense of relief once I said no. All the things I worried about evaporated like the rubbing alcohol on eyeglasses wipes when exposed to the air. The weight I carried around holding onto this decision lifted. The dread I felt about having the conversation gave way to a sense of peace and ease.

There's freedom that comes from saying no. The burdens of delaying such a conversation are more imaginary than not. That is especially true when a no is expressed with kindness and care for the receiver.

Taking stock of what you're saying yes to (and what you're avoiding saying no to) is an important step in preparing for the New Year. You deserve to enter the 2023 with intention so you're standing in integrity with what matters most to you! I'll be hosting my Annual Planning Workshop for the 21st time this January! NEW this year, the workshop will be recorded so you can participate when it's most convenient for your schedule and revisit the material.

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