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To say yes to your goals, get much better at saying no!

After a recent webinar, a hard-working, beautiful woman asked to connect with me via a video call. She said, with tears of frustration in her eyes, “I’ll take your course on retirement planning on one condition:  you have to put information in there on how to say no.”  I appreciate her point! 

In retirement, as well as the years leading to retirement, our goals and priorities can get lost and forgotten if others are busy getting us to do their wishes.

Warren Buffet, the second wealthiest person on the planet says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”  That’s startling.

An Example of Someone Who Needs to Learn to Say No

I have a dear friend, Annie, who recently retired.  We said for years when she retired she should not tell her adult children, because the only peace she got from them was when she was at work. 

Since she retired, we really miss her. We don’t see her as often as we would like for a few reasons. Her children often borrow her car “because she doesn’t need it as much now.”  When she has a car, it’s often parked at her children’s houses. She’s there doing their chores and babysitting grandchildren.

On the rare occasion we do see her, her cell phone is constantly a distraction. Her children are calling and texting with their problems expecting her to fix them.  

She says, “This is not what I want.  I don’t mind helping out some, but not all the time.”  She fantasizes about moving far, far away some days. As a coping strategy, she has started working part-time to get some peace.

When to Say No

I re-read Jim Collins book, Good to Great, recently and he challenges us to say no to:

  • Opportunities and things that don’t excite you, speak to your values or further your goals.
  • Superficial gatherings.  Focus on building lasting positive relationships instead.
  • Spending time with critical or negative people who drag you down.  Time is precious.  Spend time with people that energize you and make you happy.  Be around people you would like to be more like.
  • Overworking, especially if you are neglecting self-care and your goals.
  • Doing all the work.  You aren’t the only one on the planet (in your family, in your neighborhood or organization) that can do this.
  • Letting others steal your time.  Be assertive at managing your time.  Buffett says, “You’ve gotta keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no.  You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
  • People-pleasing.  “Successful people don’t neglect their deepest wishes and desires to accommodate and yield to other’s wishes and desires.”

Critical Moments Where No Is Important

Saying no is important any time your values are being compromised. There are times to have heightened awareness of what you’re saying yes and no to. 

First, if you’re entering a new work setting or organization. Bidding for time and reacting to the bids of others for time are certainly critical moments for how working relationships will develop (or not). 

Your early weeks of retirement will set the tone. People and groups that know and love you best may be at your door wanting you to work for them (usually for free, and you pay the expenses, too).  It is especially hard to say no to adult children because they know us so well. They know all the right words and facial expressions to use.  It is harder yet, with a grandchild or two sitting on our lap.  Don’t wait until retirement to set boundaries.  Help your adult children do what they should be doing for themselves long before you retire.

Sometimes Saying No to Good Opportunities Is Important, Too

It isn’t enough to say no only to things you don’t want to do.  At times you have to say no to good things to be able to say yes to things that are even more important to you.

How to Say No

Just say it:

  • No. 
  • Oh, hell no.  I use this when I want the conversation to stop immediately.  P.S. I, however, don’t recommend using it in the workplace with your supervisor.
  • I can see why that is important to you and it is certainly a worthy effort.  Sorry, I have some really pressing priorities I am addressing.  This is what I like to call the verbal hug and release.
  • I can’t even consider saying yes until I talk with my spouse.  
  • I don’t want to raise false hope that this can fit in my schedule.  I’ll get back to you. This is a good one if you need to say no through a different medium, say a text or email. Saying no not face-to-face is sometimes easier. 
  • I’ve just retired – it is way too soon to get locked into this big of a responsibility.  I will let you know if or when I can take this on in the future. This is the “Don’t call me, I’ll call you” way of saying no. 
  • I can’t make a decision about this on the spot.  I will need time to think about this and to review my highest priorities and schedule.  I’ll be honest, though, I am not at all optimistic that I can say yes.

How you say no matters, too.  Don’t shout, but speak slightly louder than you normally do to be more confident and definite.

P.S. you don’t have to explain why you are saying no.  It is your life – that’s reason enough.  In fact, the less said the better.  “No” is a complete sentence.

Meet Dr. Thia, MPower Co’s Director of Education

This article was authored by Dr. Cynthia “Thia” Crawford, MPower Co’s Director of Education. She has over 40 years of experience in adult education and is a specialist in both personal finance and positive psychology. She is a true pioneer when it comes to combining these fields. She is the author and coach of the online financial course Richer Retirement and the online well-being course Happiness Habitudes

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