FOCUS: Say No to Say Yes

Disciplines: Mental Models, Personal Mastery, Systems Thinking

Our success comes from saying no to 1,000 things
to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track and try to do too much.
—Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple


No might be the most important word in the English language. Whether and how you say no determines the very quality of your life. If you want to say yes to what really matters to you, you have to learn to say no with clarity, respect and kindness.

There is always a trade off when you say yes. Say yes to one thing and you’ve automatically said no to anything else you might have done with that time. For instance, I agreed to give a talk for my business the day got back from a family vacation. In doing that I said no to a totally relaxed vacation. Yesterday I said yes to a big, delicious piece of cheesecake. In that moment I said no to my earlier commitment to keep my calories down.

No is a simple word. It’s also powerful. That’s why it’s hard. When you say it, you’re afraid you’ll hurt someone, disappoint them, put them in a tight spot. And that’s good. You’re generous spirited. You want to be helpful, not hurtful.

The only trouble is, every time you say yes to something you really don’t have time for or interest in, the person you hurt, disappoint, or put in a tight spot is yourself.

Coaching Tips

Identify Your Yeses

To get what you really, really want, you may have to give up what you really want.
—Coach Cheryl Richardson

To help you decide when and how to say no, it’s helpful to get crystal clear on what you want to say yes to. Think about what matters most to you in your life. Think about your needs, your values, your goals, your dreams. Peel the onion. Reach down to your core. What is your deeper purpose? What is true and right for you? What is the message from your heart and soul?
The deeper you go into your yes, the stronger your no will be.

Write down 3 things that are yeses for you. They might be very specific or global. Here are some examples:

  • my family
  • making enough money to pay the bills
  • making lots of money
  • being healthy
  • helping people through my business
  • making the world a better place
  • loving fully and well

Say No

Now every time someone asks you to volunteer for something or invites you to a party, instead of answering instantly, stop and think about it. Ask yourself if this activity lines up with your yes. Consider what you’ll be saying no to if you say yes to this request.

By going through this thought process, if you decide to say no, it will be stronger and easier. You will be saying no to say yes!


  • For more help with Saying No, come to the Women’s Small Business Association Conference, The Seven Steps to a Highly Successful You on July 14, at the University Club in Pittsburgh, where I’ll be giving a keynote talk on the subject. Register at
  • Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore more deeply Saying No to Say Yes. Call Thursday, July 15 at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-218-862-1300 PIN 276583. No need to register….just call at that time!

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

Fresh Views E-zine Index

720 Maple Lane, Sewickley, PA 15143
TOLL-FREE: 1(888) 769-3494
FAX: (412) 741-2159