“People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me’.” —Peter Drucker
In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown reminds us of an important truth, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
When I married my wife 23 years ago, I committed my life to her for better or worse, in sickness or in health. In front of many witnesses, I vowed to be hers until death do us part. And when I said yes to her, I effectively was saying no to 3.5 billion other women.
Similarly, when I chose my career, I said no to countless others that I could have chosen. I write and I speak and pursue the promotion of minimalism. I will never fly a Boeing 747. I will never perform open-heart surgery. And I will never play professional tennis. This is okay with me. I have chosen to make my life about something different.
Every day we are presented with countless choices of how to spend our time, our energy, our effort, and our money. The wisest of us recognize we always have the power to choose. And they choose to pursue their life’s greatest mission by repeatedly saying ‘no’ to things that distract from it.
Donald Miller is the New York Times bestselling author of Blue Like Jazz and StoryBrand. Recently, he wrote a Life Plan program to help people plan and live a meaningful life.
This past winter, while meeting with Donald in San Diego, he said something I have not forgotten. He said, “My goal is to take 1,000,000 people through the Life Plan program. And these days, I am saying ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t get us closer to reaching that goal.”
I have often reflected on this approach to life. It is no different than the advice of Peter Drucker, Greg McKeown, or countless other thought leaders on leadership and influence.
Successful people are adamant about saying ‘no’ to things that do not align with their mission. (tweet that)
Of course, sometimes the choices are obvious (I never was that good at tennis nor was there a long list of women asking for my hand in marriage). But the hardest work is done in the trenches.
Staying on mission is about learning to say ‘no’ to the urgent requests, the popular requests, and the countless opportunities in front of you to make an extra dollar.
What is your purpose? What goals do you have for your life? On what mission do you desire to live? And what plan have you developed to help you get there?
Go, pursue it with your heart and your life. And learn to say ‘no’ to all the countless opportunities that will only distract you from it.
Susann, The Biveros Effect says
Thank you for writing this. These were the words I needed to read this morning.
This resonates with me on so many levels. I wrote a post on my blog about my year of no. https://singlemomchiclife.com/2016/01/21/my-year-of-no/
It is still a daily struggle because I have a desire to do so many things but I keep reminding myself that not only is it ok to say no it’s imperative to your health, well being and future successes to do so.
Rene' Hardee says
Great perspective! This gives a lot of power to people who have trouble saying “No”. You have already been doing it your whole life!
“Weniger aber besser” (less but better)…my new motto in life.
Thank you for writing the truth so beautifully and simply. Your blog has been an inspiration to me as I struggle to meet my responsibilities in a manner that is consistent with my values. The ideas you present are difficult for me to absorb, but when can I internalize them, I feel a sense of rightness and peace.
Hi Joshua, I have moved on from a rather hectic career that wasn’t serving my purpose but one where you could earn a lot of money in. I felt a calling to do something else so transitioned out of it. Today, I’m doing what I believe is my mission but it’s filled with so much uncertainty. I continue to say “no” to the opportunities that come up and the possibilities of jumping back to the old work that I was doing. It’s a daily temptation :) but I feel by saying no to other convenient or profitable opportunities, I’m saying yes to my purpose and staying close to my truth.
Tony W says
Great that you speak to the gift of less choice. Sometimes less choice limits confusion and allows you to get to work sooner. Sometimes years or a lifetime sooner.
Recently, it became obvious to me that my life has taken a different turn. At this point, I’m not quite sure of where I’m going. I think this what we call a transition period, or maybe even a mid-life crisis. I said “no” to what I would’ve considered good/great opportunities in the past.
My strategy right now is simply to keep getting rid of everything I don’t need (or truly want) in my life. I’m bound to find what I do want with this elimination process.
Kris Stoff says
Thank you for the reminder of mission and purpose, it reminds me of what the scriptures say as, “singlemindness” Much needed today in a world of distraction!