I’ve been saying “no” a lot lately:

No to things I’d previously say “yes” to if I wasn’t being hyper aware of my mind, body, and general wellness level. No to the things that ultimately add up to more things in my life; and all that would additionally need tending. No to activities that ultimately don’t really serve me in the ways I want and need to be served at this point in my life. No to spending time with people that aren’t energizing or supportive in what is meaningful to me.

It’s not easy. People are disappointed. Some can be downright upset. But just as the seasons shift in nature, so do our own seasons. And when we feel the tides turning one way or another, we must listen. We must invest in ourselves. Otherwise, we’re denying a deep, core truth within and only serving to add angst to our daily lives to please others.

I’ve observed that when you start saying no, a few things begin happening.

You feel better about where your time goes.

We live once and each day could be our last. Literally. We all say and think about it, casually noting the great equalizer in conversation here and there, but I need to remind myself of this more often. So do you. Therefore recently, when faced with architecting my new home—where I spend quality time reenergizing, hosting, cooking, meditating—or getting drunk sampling beers at the best beer festival in the country, I choose the former. I would normally never pass on such an opportunity, but recently my body and mind told me where I needed to spend my weekend: on me and my space. And that feels good. I knew it was right. But that didn’t sit well with at least one friend, which reminds me that…

It’s only hard the first few times.

Like anything, saying no takes practice. It’s been extremely difficult getting over other people’s perceptions when I pass on events, activities, or general asks. But the fact is, their response is a reflection of what they’re working through. It’s not me, and that, in and of itself, is tricky to understand when close acquaintances are disappointed. But once you get past that hurdle, you realize that life rolls on, and the good news is that…

Regained time reveals new opportunities.

Last year I raced cyclocross and (mostly) loved the suffering. I’ve had large life shifts since last fall, though, and I knew ‘cross wasn’t going to fit into my personal hierarchy this fall. I sold my bike to free up space in my mind and my garage. It was something I needed to do. Am I disappointed? Of course. Will I race again? Absolutely. Point being, with the extra time not training into winter’s night and rushing to get to cold, snowy, muddy races, I’m able to be more flexible with tackling design work or a crossfit sesh. I’m able to more freely travel. I can choose to make (more) time for important people in my life. I can still ride to work or create an epic sufferfest for myself on the weekend. I’m not necessarily losing anything, but I’m deciding to rework my passions into what works for me right now. What do you need to rework? Because, the thing is, …

People you least expect start noticing.

When you start saying no to evoke certain changes in your life, or to establish personal boundaries for specific reasons, people notice. And not the people you think will notice, but the people that drop into your life from the sky and say hello. Colleagues. Old friends. Maybe an amazing new person that stumbles into some place you find yourself because you’ve created the time to be there. Who knows, but anything’s possible and it will absolutely happen to you. Trust me. You’ll grow closer to the people who respect how you’re living, and therefore generate more wholesome connectivity within your life.

There’s a saying that goes:

Life will unfold if we just get out of the nest of fear.

That thought can be applied to multiple facets of our lives, but try it on for size when saying no the next time you aren’t fully invested in something. Take the time to create space for you to explore what it is that fulfills you. Find that, at least once, and come back to your friend, friends, partner, etc., and be fully present with them. Because you took the time you needed.

You said no for you.


The cyclocross image is of Tim Johnson, professional cyclist and CX guru. This shot captures the various mental and physical elements that go into a ‘cross race.

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This article has 2 comments

  1. Thankyou so much for this reminder. As I sit here attempting to multi-task life outside of the country I have travelled to for an experience.

    I’m so glad we met in Costa Rica =)

    • Chris Arnold
      Oct 29, 2013 Reply

      I’m really happy to hear this was a positive reminder for your present endeavors in Chile. Very thankful we met, as well, Hayley! Keep smiling.

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