If there is one thing I think we all struggle with it’s saying the word NO. This is especially true in our modern times where there are so many things constantly trying to grab our attention.
Ask yourself a tough question:
What am I putting off that will make me feel better and move me closer to who I want to become?
This question certainly applies to our health and wellbeing. Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by non-essentials. Fast food, our phones, social media, endless binge-watching on Netflix, etc.
That’s not to say these things are always bad choices. But how often do we say ‘yes’ to these things and say ‘no’ to going for a jog, going to the gym for a workout with a friend, or cooking a healthy meal for our family?
Marcus Aurelius said:
“Most of what we say and do is non-essential. If you can eliminate it will have more time and tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment: Is this necessary?”.
Marcus is saying that too often we make choices that ultimately make us unhappy.
How many times have we regretted going to McDonald’s and we don’t want to feel out of place by saying ‘no’, but instantly regret it when leaving the restaurant? Or that time we wanted to try out that new gym class after work, but ended up binge-watching a new show on Netflix all your friends are saying is “the best show they have ever seen”. We stay in and watch because we don’t like the feeling of missing out.
Most of the time we are reactive to our environment. We do what our society decides as good and accepted and we follow suit. We choose to live a life decided by someone else and not by ourselves.
Benjamin Franklin famously said:
“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late”.
Of course, there are times when we must help others. The stoics would refer to this as serving the common good, a virtue in life. However, most of the sacrifices we make are not serving the common good or for a higher purpose. They are usually to please others. And we do it so often that it ultimately leaves us feel miserable about ourselves and with the horrible feeling of not doing what we wanted to do.
Today, think about what is not essential in your life that you are not saying NO to. Then think about what is essential that you would love to say YES to. If it helps you can write these things in a journal or on a piece of paper and slap it on the fridge door, to serve as a constant reminder to you.
Saying no takes courage and it’s not easy. But it takes courage to be successful in whatever we want to achieve. We can reach our goals and make a big difference in our lives that will provide us with the happiness and fulfillment we long for.
It all starts with saying no.