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As the pace of our work continues to accelerate, so does the speed at which we’re making decisions. It’s in these moments, when we’re facing tough decisions and making choices, that one reality becomes very evident.

Everything you say “yes” to means you’re saying “no” to something else.

I’ve learned over time to place a great deal of weight in every yes.” To be very transparent, I used to say “yes” to everything. As a perpetual people-pleaser, the concept of saying “no” was not very attractive to me. Clients would ask for something, and my go-to answer was always “yes.” Friends and family would ask for something, and my answer was the same. I still have a hard time exercising my “no” muscle. I like how it feels to say “yes.”

The problem with always saying “yes” comes down to depth. It’s hard to dig deep into any one thing when you’ve said “yes” to everything.

Consider this. I’m a business owner and leader. I’m a husband and the dad of two teens. I have a close circle of friends. I’m part of a peer advisory group, I serve on a non-profit board, and I’m active in my downtown business community. All of these things are valuable and are aligned with what I’ve defined as my life’s purpose. That said, I’ve learned that I have to be very strategic and intentional about where I personally and professionally spend my time, finances, and energy. I can’t say “yes” to everything, no matter how good it all sounds.

It would leave me spread too thin.

“Yes” vs “No” is really choosing to make decisions based on depth, not width. This recently showed up in our business as we were planning for 2019’s work and growth. Like many organizations, we were faced with multiple revenue streams that all presented value. That said, based on the realities of limited financial resources and even more limited time and energy, we couldn’t pursue all of those revenue sources. We had to pick some, not all. Decisions had to be made, and saying “yes” to one path would mean saying “no” to another. If we said “yes” to everything, we would be diluting our efforts and spreading ourselves thin.

Here are three guides we used to choose what we said “yes” to:

  1. Mission and Values — Throughout our decision-making process, we were careful to maintain a clear focus on our core values and mission. If something didn’t align with those, it made our choice easy. Using our values and mission as a measuring stick has served us well time and again, and it was extremely helpful as we were choosing our 2019 path.
  2. Eliminate the Distractions — It was critical as we were making our decisions to call out our distractions. Too many times there are options that look bright and shiny in the short term, but lack long term value or their value is minimal. They’re distractions. Once you recognize them as that, saying “no” to them becomes much easier.
  3. Put it on the Scale — We ran into two options that both showed the potential for value, and had to weigh them out by asking some simple questions. If we tried to do both things, would one or the other suffer? If we chose one and focused all of our energy in that space, would our results be better? Which option presents the greatest potential long-term?

In the end, by being very intentional about what we said “yes” to throughout our planning process, we developed an awesome strategy for 2019. We also ended up saying “no” to things that initially looked interesting. The result? We’re focused, and we’re putting our finances, time, and energy into the areas that are going to generate the greatest impact, whether that means growing our business, serving our clients, or prioritizing our relationships.

The Takeaway

Ask yourself, if I say “yes” to this, what am I saying “no” to? Being intentional to ask this question over and over, and having solid guides for measuring your “yes” and “no”, is key to making the right decisions even when they’re challenging.

Originally published at on February 19, 2019.

Written by

Creative, entrepreneur, blogger, husband, and dad — focused on cutting through the negative noise with a message of positivity and growth.

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