My phone started vibrating and ringing loudly,  It was my 80yr old mother calling for the fourth time in two hours.  Was it an emergency?  Had she fallen again?  Was it yet another tragedy from 2020?  The answers to my questions were just a swipe of the screen away but I held back the urge and didn’t answer.   I knew that if I answered the call I would be on the phone for a minimum of thirty minutes, and that’s a quick call. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother dearly.  I enjoy speaking with her and sharing about the kids, work, and all that is going on in our lives living in a different state. It’s just, sometimes you have to say no.  Saying no puts you in control, of everything.  It gives you that little bit of power to feel good that you made a decision.  You become the one to dictate how you spend your time and what gets your energy.  Put bluntly, it gives you freedom.

It reminds me of that old Tom Cruise movie, Risky Business, where his friend Miles is imparting the wisdom of a teenager when he says, “Every now and then say what the f*ck. What the f*ck gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future. ”  Wise words. Or at least as wise as you can get from an 80’s movie.  Still, I prefer my version, “Every now and then say no. Saying no gives you freedom.”  Once you have your freedom, the opportunities are endless. 

This type of wisdom is one that will definitely have an impact on your day, week, or even your life.  This is no more apparent than this time of year.  We are on the cusp of the holiday season now that Halloween has passed and it is almost Thanksgiving.  Stores are being plastered with Christmas decorations and mask-wearing holiday shoppers struggling to get through the most challenging time of the year in the most challenging year of all time.

It doesn’t have to be that way for you if you just learn to say no!  Now is the perfect time to adopt this life-changing habit.  Why? You ask.  Because this time of year is the time where people are forced, guilted, or stressed into saying yes to the detriment of their pocketbook, time, and sanity.  Think about that for a moment.  Think back to all the yes’s you have said during the holiday season over your lifetime and you’ll be amazed that you actually did. 

In case you are struggling to remember some of the craziness from your past, let me share some of my infamous holiday yes’s to refresh your memory.

  • Five Thanksgiving dinners in one day, with three small kids in tow to different parts of town.  “Sure!  Why not!”
  • Playing football with teenagers half your age in an annual Turkey Bowl when you’re already injured and have to cook all day. “Sounds fun.  I’m in!” 
  • Standing on the top rung of an unbalanced ladder to fix the Christmas lights on your second-story roof in the rain cause because they went out and the kids beg you to. “Of course I’ll do it!”
  • Attending your friends 5yr old daughters 4 hour annual Christmas dance pageant.  “Wouldn’t miss it!”
  • Hitting up three Christmas parties in one night and doing multiple shots of Fireball at each. “Best decision ever!”
  • Taking a 6 am flight home after staying out all night on New Year’s Eve in Lake Tahoe. “Most definitely! Why wouldn’t we?”

Let me assure you, all of these sounded like good ideas at the time as I’m sure yours did too. I’m also not saying that each experience wasn’t enjoyable or that I have regrets.  I don’t. I always live life to the fullest and am always up for a new experience.  I’m just saying that being in the holiday spirit tends to put us in a different state of mind. We get so caught up in the season of giving that we feel we have to say yes to everything. We feel we need to give more of ourselves than at any other time of the year.  This is noble and worthwhile, just not at the expense of your own well-being.

Remember, you have to put your mask on first before you can assist someone else.  If you don’t take care of yourself, what kind of energy will you be sharing with others when you arrive at the third Friendsgiving in three days?  You won’t be your best self and they won’t want your irritated, negative self bringing the mood down anyways. Do your friends and everyone else a favor and say “No!”

“No, you can’t come over for Thanksgiving because your family is out of town.”

“No, I won’t go Christmas shopping at the mall with you.”   

“No, I won’t be participating in the secret Santa gift exchange at the office.”

“No, I’m not getting gifts for every niece and nephew that I haven’t seen in ten years.  

“No, I’m not doing that fourth shot of spiked egg nog.”

“No, No, No!  I choose to be free.”

This may sound harsh but think of it as “self-care” which is a term we can all relate to. The problem is that this is usually only experienced in brief spurts. We think of it in terms of glasses of wine, poker night, manicures, a night without the kids, etc.  Learning when and how to say “no” is one of the best ways to practice self-care and a skill we all should practice. 

Once you hone your skill you will have your freedom where the future is yours.  You can choose your own path and feel good doing it without the stress and anxiety of saying yes to everything. You can even choose to not answer a call from your mom like me.  Don’t worry.  When I didn’t answer, she just texted instead.  She wanted to know if we were coming to visit for the holidays.  I’ll bet you can guess what my answer to that was.

Rick Ornelas is the author of 12 Hours of Heaven: Lessons for a Better World. When he’s in his default YES mode he coaches businesses and individuals to ultimate success and brings together those who seek to make the world a better place.

Schedule your free coaching consultation at


  • Rick Ornelas

    Author, 12 Hours of Heaven & Founder-I Spark Change

    I Spark Change

    Rick Ornelas is a bestselling author, professional coach, and founder of I Spark Change. He teaches entrepreneurs how to level up their businesses to expand their social impact and spread positive change around the world. Rick wasn't always interested in helping others on a global scale despite being pushed repeatedly in that direction by a near-death experience, family tragedies, and deaths. It wasn't until the ever-worsening times of 2020 when he was laid off, isolated, and desperate that he finally got the wake-up call. His awakening came in the form of divine inspiration and an awe-inspiring spiritual connection when he least expected it. He went from isolated and hopeless, to writing a best-selling book, 12 Hours of Heaven; Lessons for a Better World in under three months while envisioning and creating an incredible future. Rick has been featured in multiple media outlets, including national/international television and radio. He’s a guest contributor for various websites, regular writer for Lifehack, and has inspired listeners across the globe as a guest expert on over 50 podcasts! His next book, 12 Hours of Heaven; Time on Earth, is in the works. Schedule your complimentary coaching consultation at