Then you say no with kindness, in friendship, with confidence and you find that other people do not mind. Sometimes that is a surprise.
So if you have a big week coming up and you know you need a quiet weekend with your family, your yoga mat and your book, then you might have to say no to drinks after work on Friday, or coffee with friends on Saturday morning. Only you know how that quiet time will set you up for a generous-hearted, vivid, energetic week ahead. A week in which it is more possible to say yes to life.
Of course, the flip-side of this is respecting when other people say no. I have always admired other people's ability to say no, for example, "You go ahead, have a wonderful time, but I am going home now." I was always so busy worrying about not upsetting anyone that I forgot to wonder what it was that I actually wanted/needed to do.
A friend said, "But what about when people need to be persuaded into doing something, or when you yourself need a nudge to do something positive?" Use your discernment; you know when you are doing something that is constructive, empowering, fulfilling and when you are doing something because you were afraid to say no. Learn from this time and apply it to next time.
It's not about being selfish; it's about choosing wisely so that you become more selfless. It's not about using no to hide from the world and the things in it that make you nervous, it's about setting free a gigantic yes! to every opportunity that grabs you.
So, if you have a great project in mind: you want to climb Everest, say, or to write a novel, or to commit to a daily, hour-long meditation practice, and even if what you want is something smaller and quieter: to read to your children every night, or to spend more quiet time with the one you love, then you are going to have to clear a space in your life for that and you are going to have to say no to something in order that you can say yes to something else.
Some people say yes to so many things that all they have left after all of that is a big, fat no. No fun, no conversation, nothing new, no patience, no intimacy. When we say yes to all the wrong things, when we fail to find our friendly no, we lose out. Sometimes this has disastrous consequences for our health, for our future, for our relationships.
I am not advocating saying no to your nephew's christening because you don't fancy it, or letting people down because you can't be bothered to turn up, but I am saying that half the things you think you have to do, you don't. Nobody is harmed by you protecting your own energy and you will have a lot more time and enthusiasm for the things that you do choose to do.
It's a lot easier when you know what it is that you want to say yes to. And of course, like everything else worth having, you have to have courage sometimes to say no, the courage to live your life without trying all the time to be everything for everyone and to make sure everyone likes you.
When you learn how to say no to the things that don't matter, you find you have the time and the energy to say yes to the things that do. Simple.
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style"