• Learning to say “no” in your work and life can change your life for the better.
  • Author Jessica Thiefels describes how saying “yes” to the wrong opportunities can have an adverse effect.

There’s one particular word I say every day that I’ve found to be life-changing. It’s one that we don’t say nearly enough. One that, if said when you truly mean it, can alter the course of your life.

That word is “no.”

While the word “yes” can be life-changing, we have a habit of saying that too often, often to our detriment. We often say yes because we’re simply going with the flow. Take this scenario for example:

You get out of work after a long day, and all you want to do is go home, put on sweats and relax. Your friend calls as you walk out the door with plans for happy hour. She really wants you to go, and she’s really excited — she’s had a great day.

Instead of saying “no,” and making the best decision for you, which is to stay home, rest, and show up as your best self at work tomorrow, what do you do? You say yes, go with the flow, and go out anyway. Because you don’t want to hurt her feelings or leave her hanging.

While this is a harmless example, and one late night won’t affect your entire career, there are many times when saying yes does have a negative impact on your life.

If saying no is life-changing, then why don’t more of us don’t do it? There are plenty of reasons:

  • Saying yes is easier.
  • We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  • We’re afraid of being too selfish.
  • We don’t want to make someone upset.
  • We’re worried about what someone will think of us.

Unfortunately, when you say yes but would prefer to say no, you’re saying no to yourself. On the other hand, when you say no when you want to say no, you’re saying yes to what’s important to you.

I’ve lived a life of saying no. I had five jobs in five years because I said no to bad bosses, poor treatment, low pay, and jobs that didn’t fulfill me. In choosing to say no, to not go with the flow, I’ve built the life that I love.

I’ve hurt some feelings, and I’ve taken the more difficult way out every time the easy one presented itself. But now I’m running my own business, getting ready to travel the world, and living a life I could have never imagined would be mine.

If you want to build the life you love, peppered with the no’s that get you there, here are a few tips:

Find your tribe

It’s hard to say no to things that don’t serve you if you’re surrounded by people who always say yes (and expect you to do the same).

If your friends and family don’t support you making decisions for yourself and your life, start networking. Spend time with people who have common interests and are actively building the life they love. You’ll be amazed how refreshing that is.

Get clear on what you want

It’s easy to say yes when you don’t have a clear vision for what’s ahead of you. I see this a lot when people accept a job that doesn’t further their career. Without knowing where they want to go, they stay in place, saying yes when they should be saying no.

However, having a clear vision for your life is no easy feat. Some people spend their entire lives getting clear on what they want. As you attempt to do the same — in less time — remember that getting what you want in life may not be related to your job. Perhaps you don’t know if you want to have kids or if you want to live in the same state where you’ve spent your whole life.

Take stock of your life: What isn’t working for you? What no’s will you need to say to start moving in the right direction?

It’s not an easy thing to do, but when you choose to say no, and not go with the flow, that’s when you begin to write your own story.

Originally published on Business Insider

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