Kate Holmes breaks down the importance of having honest conversations with yourself and others about saying “Yes” and reaching your goals.

If you’re anything like me, people know they can count on you. Bridesmaid in your upcoming wedding? Of course! A little help paying the bills and regular dinners at my house during hard times? Happy to help. Long weekend away in wine country with friends? I’m there!

Saying yes to things is exciting. Many of us take great pleasure in helping and providing for others and being a part of something. It’s only through honest conversations, though, that we discover if saying yes is actually a feel good distraction from being true to ourselves and going after our goals.

Finding the Confidence to Say No
Shortly after I launched my own business I was invited for a long weekend of fun, good food and wine tasting with friends. I love traveling, spending time with friends, and wine. The trip was calling my name; it was within driving distance and they had the rooms already covered so I’d only be out gas and food. I could do that, right? I tried justifying it but my gut kept telling me no. I knew I’d feel obligated to buy wine and eat at nice restaurants, and this nearly-free weekend would suddenly end up costing a few hundred dollars. I called, was honest about how much I’d like to go, but said frankly it hadn’t been in my plans and I needed to stay on track.

If I had shown a lack of resolve they would have had the upper hand and talked me into going. I had to find the confidence to gently say “no,” and It wasn’t coming naturally. I was still teetering on my decision with part of me wanting to be talked into going. I knew I had to say ‘no,’ though, so I pretended to have the confidence the conversation required. My (pretend) confidence was immediately met with support and understanding from my friends. By the end of the conversation I was filled with (actual) confidence in my decision, myself and the business I was building.

Everyone responds well to confidence. If you go into these conversations armed with excuses you’ll walk away feeling guilty, questioning yourself and leaving the other person with a bad impression.

I could have called and said, “I really want to go. I’m just so busy and don’t have much extra spending money. You’re really sweet to cover lodging but I should probably stay home and keep plugging away. Thanks, though.” That sounds like I’m in the middle of a pity party and may make them regret inviting me.

When you know you need to say no and put yourself and your goals first, try not to psych yourself out. Don’t over think it and talk yourself in circles, you’ll regret it later. Just be candid. Practice with a friend or in the mirror. Keep practicing until you’ve eliminated all excuses and you’re merely presenting facts, confidently.

When to Say No and Stay on Track
I’m assuming you’ve already defined your happiest life and have an action plan to go after it. That’s not always easy, but the honest conversations and tough decisions that follow present the real challenges. After all, a plan with no action will never achieve any results.

Since you have your goals all planned out, each new request involving your time or money must be met with an honest conversation with yourself. One that requires answering the following questions:

  • Is this event or request part of my plan? If yes, go for it. If not, you may need to say no, even if it is a fun weekend with friends.
  • If not, will it help me accomplish my goals? Sometimes opportunities we hadn’t considered or didn’t know about present themselves. It’s important to be flexible and say yes to things that are likely to propel us forward. However, if it will derail or delay your goals, you should probably say no. (Full disclosure: Wine helped me a lot in the early days of my business – and continues to – but it’s far more cost effective to buy it locally from the store.)
  • Am I afraid of hurting someone’s feelings if I say no? This is the toughest question. If you say yes, will it only hurt you? Your best friend’s wedding? You figure out a way to afford to go. Your best friend wants you to go to her Mom’s third wedding (in the Bahamas) to ease her awkwardness? Respectfully decline. Those that love, respect and support you will understand when you say no.
  • Do my goals suddenly feel selfish in light of someone needing me?
  • Are you truly able to help them, or will you ultimately be enabling them? Listen to your gut. Those little pangs you get as you answer the above questions tell you all you need to know. Dismiss the excuses and justifications flying around in your head. Revisit your list of goals you see every day and ready yourself to say no so you can stay on track and complete those goals.

The Benefits of Saying No
I wanted to go on that trip. I wanted to hang out, drink wine and stop thinking about my business for a few days. Who wouldn’t? It’s good to unwind.

I knew I would have a great time, but there would be a price to pay later. It would have taken a toll on me financially, mentally and emotionally. Instead, I was motivated to make the most of that weekend and I got a lot done. I was also motivated by the support and encouragement I received from my friends after I told them I wasn’t going. My absence was a good reminder to them that I was building a business. It resulted in them being stronger advocates for what I was doing and they sent referrals my way.

I can’t name one person I know that feels they have it all figured out. I can name quite a few, though, that are living their happiest life and continually have good things come their way. They’ve each been the result of continual honest conversations, creating and refining goals, and knowing when to say no. Ultimately, it’s been a string of constantly saying yes to themselves.

I’m proud to be among that group. It hasn’t been easy but I was taught long ago that nothing worthwhile ever is. Now, I’ve got to get back to my wine and friends.

Are you a social butterfly who finds it very difficult to say to a dinner party or a night out on the town? What happened last time you just said no to the party? Do you think it will be easier next time?

Kate Holmes, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®), is the Founder of Belmore Financial, LLC, a location-independent financial planning practice she started on her quest towards living her happiest life. Kate works with professionals in their 20s to 40s who are ready to challenge the status quo and go after their happiest life.

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