A few days ago I wrote Finding Fuck Yes. For those who didn’t read it, here’s a snippet that explains the concept in a nutshell:
When I was having relationship troubles in college I would call my Grandma Berna. She gave me the best dating advice ever: “From 1-100% how in are you?” I said something like 85%. “That’s as good as 0%,” she said, “Either you’re 100% in or you’re out. 99% is as good as 0%”
Either you’re 100% in or you’re out. Either it’s a “Fuck Yes” or it’s a no.
That’s a lot of no.
So for the last week I’ve been saying no a lot. More than ever before in my life. I’ve been saying no to things I’ve never said no to before. I’ve been saying no to people and projects and requests for no reason other than because it’s not a “Fuck Yes” It’s not easy but it’s surprisingly doable.
Here are some of the no’s I’ve written to people so far:
(I asked one guy if I could use his name in this article and he said he’d let me use his name in exchange for changing my “no” into a “yes” and going out with him. So I’m not using any names lol.)
“I just wrote that article called “finding fuck yes” and I need to walk the talk– I don’t really like hanging out for the sake of hanging out, it’s something I do too often considering how little I enjoy it. So the idea of just getting together doesn’t appeal to me. If we were working on a project or meeting to scheme about something specific, it would be different. But for now I don’t feel inclined to get together.“
The response: “Ok that’s fine”
Wtf? I can say no like that, without making an excuse or beating around the bush, with no apparent reason, and get “ok that’s fine”? I was ready for the worst.
Here’s another one:
And ok actually let me renege on my interest for wine / dinner! So cool & sweet of you but I noticed I’m not a fuck yes for it, and today I got overwhelmed after saying yes to too many things that I feel interested in but not lit up about. So I’ma take my own advice and get more specific about what I say yes to and what I say no to. THANK YOU FOR THE LOVELY INVITATION
He responded with: “That’s fair lol”
But I did have one really tricky no:
A friend of a friend was visiting Boulder this past week and I let him stay at my house. We had talked about doing a bunch of Boulder stuff— trekking around, doing hikes and meditations and brewery tours— but a couple days in I realized I wasn’t interested in spending more time together. I was trying to be a good host and to honor our plans, but I was burning out. We were socially incompatible. I wanted to be alone, writing, working on freelance projects, being with my team.
In the past I would have had a lot of trouble saying no to something so intricate and delicate. This person, from another country, who was sharing my house, came to Boulder to spend time with me and get to know the area. I had agreed to entertain him and a few days in I changed my mind. I was drained. It was really hard.
In the past I would have told white lies. I would have made excuses and tried to smooth it over and make it comfortable for him. I would have strained myself to keep him as happy as possible.
But I told the truth. I was clear and direct and when I finished my point I stopped talking.
And he got it. He heard me. He had some questions but was relieved to know the truth. He made his own plans for the rest of the week. And I spent the rest of the week recalibrating and doing what I wanted. When I dropped him off at the airport we hugged and thanked each other for the catalyst. It was beautiful.
I’m proud of myself for that. And I’m grateful to him for responding so responsibly.
I love this. I never noticed how often I said yes when really I felt lukewarm or reluctant. I never realized how little I was participating in designing my own schedule. It’s revealing and energizing to get a glimpse into what’s possible as I get better at saying no.
In Srinivas Rao’s beautifully written article called Say No To Everything That’s Not Aligned With Your Essential Priorities, he made this important distinction:
Mental Energy vs Time
The truth is you might have the time to actually say yes to many of the things that you say no to. But by saying yes to those things you take away mental energy from things that are aligned with your greater purpose. It might take one hour to participate in something, but the opportunity cost of that hour might be an entire day of lost focus on things that matter the most.
— Srinivas Rao
Time spent is not equal to time lost.
I’m not saying it’s a waste of my time to do random things. In fact it’s important to say yes when I’m confused or stuck or unable to find excitement or searching for a new perspective. Doing SOMETHING is almost always better than wallowing in boredom or confusion and waiting for a “Fuck Yes” to appear out of thin air.
I’m saying when I do know; when I feel intuitively that this invitation / request / option is a distraction from my highest excitement, HONOR THAT GUT FEELING FOR GOD’S SAKE.
This reminds me of a class I took in college about intuition. One point the professor made was that intuition is a muscle; it develops the more we use it and trust it and focus on it. Every time I feel a “no” for something, but say yes instead, I’m essentially voting for a weaker intuition.
“Don’t over-clutter your calendar with commitments that derail your focus, pulling you away from the work that you truly want to do. It’s not good for your career. It’s not good for your soul.”
— Alexandra Franzen in How To Say No To Anyone
Photo by the lovely and talented Jamie Katuna