I hate saying no. To anyone; particularly myself. I generally have an inclination to follow my impulses. For the most part, I don’t mind that. Life is generally more fun when we have the “yes gate” ready to swing open at any time.
On the other hand, of course, it makes sense to have limits. Part of maturing into adulthood, (and I will confess that I signed on to that plan with some reluctance) is developing the ability to say no to things that may be getting in the way of my well-being.
For example, when I think about my physical health, I really don’t need to buy 12 self help books to figure out the solution. I know what I need to do; eat well and exercise. It’s just that simple, and yet, so often I find myself indulging my eating urges as a way of “being nice to myself” and the whole diet and exercise thing gets put off until “tomorrow”.
It is tempting to see this as an issue of “self discipline”, but that never really works for me. All of my efforts to crank up my “No” voice by gritting my teeth and buckling down seem to lead only to short spurts of good health, following by failure and some level of self degradation. In short, it backfires. So, I need different strategies. I have always been more of a Yes person, so I may need to accept that and, perhaps, even tap on that as a strength.
The best wisdom I ever received on saying “No” came from the late author Stephen Covey who observed that it is easier to say no, when I have “a deeper Yes burning deep inside”. This seems to work better for me.
For example, thinking about how good I feel when I am eating well and healthy is more likely to get me to lay off the cheeseburgers than scolding myself for the bad habits of my past. When I think about how much fun my future years will be if I can stay healthy and watch my grandchildren grow up, (they have to be born first I know, but I can wait), a half hour on the treadmill does not seem quite so ominous.
It is true that finding that deeper Yes can take imagination at times, but I always have plenty of that if I reach back for it. Perhaps there are people who find ways to improve their lives by imagining a parade of horribles so that they will be “scared straight”. For me, I would rather find ways to spin dreams of a better life and try to let at least a few of those dreams gently carry me into the life I want.