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The art of saying no!

07 March 2011

It continues to amaze me how many people who raise their hands during my presentations when I ask the question- 'Who has difficulty saying no?'

If you like to help people, which for most people is an innate quality, then over time we continue to say yes to any request that comes our way even if it's not aligned to our priorities because we don't want to feel guilty and let people down.

This was me 10 years ago, saying yes to everyone and everything. It was the year 2000 and I was studying my final year of physiotherapy, working 20 hours per week, training as a professional athlete 25 hours per week, trying to survive (cook and clean) and in my spare time...have some fun and help people!

At the Sydney 2000 Paralympics Games I won 2 silver and 1 bronze medal for the 100, 400 and 200m sprints. My goal was gold and something had gone wrong.

Reflecting on my disappointing performance in Sydney, I realised I had spread my self too thin by saying yes to everyone and everything at the same time as trying to achieve my own goals.

I was performing all my activities at a silver level!

I know many people may relate this to what is happening in their lives right now.

So what changes did I have to make to perform at a gold level not only as an athlete, but also as a business and as a person?

Here are a few tips that may help you to turn silver to gold in your day to day life:

1. Set very clear goals, define the process to achieve the goals and then stick to it.

For me I worked out that I did not have enough time in my day to achieve my goals and I needed to find some. I wrote done every single commitment/role I had in my life on a piece of paper. I then looked at my goals and compared them to my list of commitments.

The important commitments I had to DO.

Some activities I could DELEGATE to others.

Other activities I could DELAY.

Of course there were activities too that were not aligned to any of my goals and I had to learn how to DELETE them.


2. Learn to say 'no'.

This was very difficult for me in the beginning so I employed some one to say no for me. I then worked out a strategy in which helped me to not feel guilty about saying no.

Having clear goals and knowing exactly where my time was needed was the first step.

Secondly when I was asked to do something that was not aligned with my goals and was going to take time away from my very important priorities (VIP's), I was able to comfortably explain why I could not say yes to the person requesting my time. I would then come home to my husband and celebrate with him that I had said 'no' to something! I was staying true to my process.

It is much easier to celebrate saying no than to have to hide the fact that you have said yes to another activity that will take time away from your VIPs, particularly your family!

It is ok to say no. Giving your self permission to say no and knowing that it is ok is a wonderful feeling. You are then able to perform the activities that are important to you and others at your best level.

At the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games I finally won a gold medal again for the 400m. An incredible feeling!

I dare you to say no to something today!