To find what you want in work (and life) start with what you don’t. And honor that No.

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For most of my life I didn’t know what I wanted. All I knew was I didn’t like what was happening, it didn’t feel good. But, I never said No. Only Yes, ok, I guess this is what I should do. Just kept going along. In part, because I didn’t think saying No was ever an option.

I’ve come a long way and now see there are always options. And that there’s nothing stopping me from taking the one that feels best to me. And nothing stopping me from saying No to stuff I don’t want.

Except my mind likes to try.

My mind loves to interject and spew out a ton of reasons why I should just say Yes to whatever it is when my body, heart, intuition, soul, desire, whatever you want to call it, is telling me it’s a No.

I’m pretty good at winning the argument with it and putting my mind in it’s place. I can see by now that mostly everything my mind will tell me as a reason to say Yes isn’t really true.

And I’ve learned that saying Yes when it should be a No doesn’t work out.

It never works.

1. By saying Yes I was trying to avoid the negative feelings I would have if I said No (my mind has tricked me into a storyline where I should feel bad about saying No). But, in reality, saying Yes and doing the thing I don’t really want to do feels just as bad, if not worse.

2. And for whatever reason, the things I say Yes to tend to go pretty poorly and even more stuff I don’t want happens. A downward spiral of shitty stuff similar to the mercury in retrograde effect. Every. Single. Yes.

3. And I’ve also then, by saying Yes, sent the message to others and the universe that this is what I want. They then respond with more of what I said I wanted. Um, I lied. And now there’s even more stuff around me I have to either endure or figure out how to say No to.

I’ll give a small work related example of these three things in action:

Let’s say you’re asked to take on a project that’s really not your thing. But you tell yourself many reasons why you can’t say No — maybe you think you will upset your boss. So you try to do it. But, you find yourself not so good at it, because well, it’s not your thing. There are other people in the office who would be faster at it, and it’s more work than you initially even thought it would be. So it takes up way more time than you expected, taking away from your other work. You’ve been putting in long hours to make sure your boss doesn’t get upset with you for not getting your other work done and now your partner, kids etc. are upset with you. But, you finish the project and everyone at work thinks it’s great and has no idea of your struggle, especially your boss (because you’ve consciously hidden it). And the next time a similar project comes up, guess what? It comes to you. Yuck. And maybe over time you find yourself as the point person in the office for this type of project. Double yuck.

Now, maybe there really is no way you could have gotten out of having to do the project. But did you even ask or explore the options? Did you even attempt to honor that inner voice saying No?

I’m just saying to look for where you might be just jumping straight to the Yes, when your No might be a real viable option.

This is one way we can make our work, well, ‘work’ for us.

 
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There’s another piece to this I’d like to point out. Besides all the arguments my mind throws out to convince me to say Yes, there’s also a more subtle underlying fear lurking beneath the surface.

It goes like this:

If I honor my Nos, what will happen in my life? Who will I become? And will people still like me?

 

I don’t really know who this person will be and what my life will look like. If I really paid attention and honored the Nos, I’ll be changing things and that might “rock the boat” (in work, relationships, social life, etc.). I may push up against current concepts of who I am — concepts held by myself and others. That feels scary.

With respect to work, you might wonder, what will my work look like? Will I upset people or end up getting fired if I start voicing some of my preferences to my boss and/or colleagues? Will my colleagues not like me if I don’t keep going to these after-work cocktail events I hate? Maybe my boss will get mad or feel betrayed if I ask to work on different kinds of projects and/or under someone else?

Or if I get really truthful with myself and my Nos, will I finally have to face what I’ve been feeling deep down, that it’s actually a No to this whole job or career path? I’m afraid of everything falling apart if I really own up to that.

Fundamentally all these fears comes down to basic survival fears. If I start honoring my Nos, “Will I be kicked out of the tribe?” and, “How will I survive?”

It feels like a lot of scary unknowns. So, it feels safer to just keep to what we know. To keep going along with the script, saying Yes and push aside the Nos.

But, as mentioned above that’s not actually a good strategy and not only for the those reasons.

To deny your Nos, is really a denial of you. It’s robbing yourself of the opportunity to find out what you like and to create an authentic life you enjoy.

How?

Well, often we don’t know what we really want, we just know what we don’t want.

 

We just know what we want to say No to.

And that No, honoring that No, this is where we can start in order to find what we want.

Only by honoring the No can we find our authentic Yes. 

The No opens the space.

No opens the door to the possibility of finding a real, true, authentic Yes.

 

What do I mean?

If I spend my time saying Yes to things I really want to say No to, I don’t get a chance to experience things instead that I might really like.

Instead, I fill my time with stuff that feels not so good and rob myself of the possibility of experiencing something different in my life.

And when you find that authentic Yes and stand in it, you begin attracting more and more of that goodness into your life. You’re saying to others and the universe, this is me, more of this please! It’s the opposite of a downward spiral of shitty stuff. An up-spiral of stuff that feels really good.

 
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So, you can see, the stakes here are actually pretty high.

It’s either keep saying Yes to that stuff you don’t want and keep experiencing the same stuff we don’t like

OR

Start saying No and possibly uncover a life you really love and enjoy. Where you get to discover your authentic Yes’s, what you want and a life that lines up with that and feels good.

So, all those fears about “rocking the boat” and getting kicked out of the tribe? They’re kinda worth facing. Getting to be you and have a life you like is a pretty amazing reward for facing those fears.

So what are some steps you can take?

At work, all day, you’re likely saying a lot of Yes’s that you’d rather have be No’s. And that makes work feel like hell.

So, the first step is to observe and find those Yes’s that you really want to be Nos.

Next, as I mentioned, a lot of those Yes’s might be optional. So, start with a little investigation there. What’s your mind telling you will happen if you don’t say Yes? Is it true? Maybe not.

And if it is true, then you can have another conversation with yourself about how much you’re willing to put up with.

And maybe the answer is you’re not willing to put up with it. There’s so much at work that’s a No you want to consider changing jobs (to doing the same thing someplace else or to doing something else entirely). Go for it. Life is too short to not get to be yourself and like your life.

And lastly, a word on those “rocking the boat”, “getting kicked out of the tribe” and “everything falling apart” fears.

First, that might not happen. You could be pleasantly surprised how much wiggle room there is to show up as you in your life.

Second, it might happen. But, don’t you think you’ll gain more than you’ll lose? And maybe, what you’ll lose wasn’t really all that real in the first place.