“’No’ is a complete sentence. It does not require justification or explanation.” – Unknown
No. Non. Nein. Nee. Nyet. Não.
“No” is one of the first words we learn to say and yet as adults, most of us find it incredibly difficult to say with conviction.
The thing I love most about my forties is that I am beginning to embrace those two little letters with all my heart. I have worked hard – like really hard – over the last 25 years of my life, and I am finally in a position where I do not have to say yes to every opportunity or request for my time that comes along.
Don’t get me wrong, I have received a lot of help along the way and understand wholeheartedly that I have debts to repay – of both financial and reciprocal persuasions. But those debts are finally becoming fewer and farther between.
I do not mean to imply that I am unwilling to help anyone who has not helped me. I am simply much more careful when choosing to what – or whom – I say yes.
2020 has been a life-changing year for most of us. Its turbulence and uncertainty have led me to pay particular attention to what lights me up. I am proud of the work I have done and continue to do as a physiotherapist. It fills my heart with joy whenever I am able help someone feel better. And I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity my good friend and colleague afforded me when she offered to have me join her in her clinic. I get to make my own hours, and this has paved the way for me to pursue my greatest passions.
For the past 5 years I have been toiling away endlessly on developing my own brand of therapeutic yoga, and it has begun to take flight. I am proud of what I have built and have become fiercely protective of my offerings because I want to stay true to my vision. There is no doubt in my mind that this is what I want to look back on and see as my life’s work.
As time marches forward, I see a significant professional transition on the horizon, one that is more aligned with the personal changes I have undergone over the past few years. I have many things I want to see come to fruition with my business and I am becoming increasingly better positioned to make them a reality. As exciting as all this is, it has led to some challenging adjustments to the way I conduct myself in my current daily existence, the biggest of which has been learning to say – and be comfortable with – the word no.
By far the most difficult thing I have had to say no to is making room in my work schedule for additional physiotherapy patients. Since re-opening our door following the mandatory COVID-19 closures, we have been incredibly busy – almost to the point of overwhelm. I am extremely grateful that I was fortunate enough to have a job to return to once the pandemic lockdown was over, but it was during the lockdown when I came to some vital conclusions, the most important being that physiotherapy – at least in the capacity of clinician – was not meant to be my career endgame. The new projects I have been working on are so vitally important to me that by saying yes to extra patients, I would be saying no to myself.
Saying no to working more at the clinic has not been an easy course to stay. I live and work in a small town that – as I have mentioned in other posts – is very much a part of who I am. I personally know many of the people on my caseload and to turn them away is gut-wrenching. Even more difficult than that is saying no to my good friend and colleague who provided me with this ideal working situation and climate in the first place. I know she is overworked and tired, and I would be lightening her load if I were to take on more patients. I also know that if I were employed at any other private clinic, I would have no say in the number of hours I worked or patients I saw, which would make pursuing my passions much more challenging. For this I am incredibly grateful. But I am also aware that my colleague is in charge of her own life and schedule the same way I am. She is free to make whatever choices she desires by determining what is most important to her. Remembering this has helped me stick to my guns – and my schedule.
The newest challenge I have had to face – one that fills my heart with gratitude – is deciding which opportunities to turn down. I do not have enough time to accept every invitation that comes my way to teach a class or run a workshop, and – and this is uber important! – not every opportunity that presents itself is in alignment with the image I want to project to the world.
Saying no has become such a vital and liberating part of my life that I actually practice saying it. I will rehearse in front of a mirror, customizing my reactions to a variety of potential responses from the party I am rejecting. It is fundamentally important that I remain polite and respectful, even when the other party is not, and equally crucial that I stand my ground.
My most epic fail at saying no occurred last summer when I was asked to run a free yoga class as part of a local street festival. The organizers presented it as an opportunity for self-promotion and gave me creative license on the content. The idea of standing in front of a crowd of people trying to encourage them to participate knowing they would be far more likely just to stand and stare while I led a class of none had me so worked up that I panicked myself right into tossing my cookies half an hour before I was supposed to take the stage. I emphasize supposed to because the event was so disorganized that they failed to produce the necessary equipment for me to do my thing. I have never felt such immediate and total relief as when the red-faced tech guy came to apologize for having to cancel my appearance.
I made myself take a long, hard look at that experience. I had said yes because it was part of a local event and I believed it was my duty to help my community in any way I could. I had also said yes because I had been on this do-something-that-scares-you-every-day kick in the hopes of desensitizing myself to public speaking. I genuinely thought that this was the type of event in which I would have to routinely take part if I wanted to grow my platform and ultimately my business. I literally worried myself sick over that gig for what turned out to be absolutely no reason whatsoever. I did not end up giving that class, and more importantly, my business has not suffered in any way because of it.
What I did gain from that experience was the knowledge that, moving forward, I need to be extremely cautious when accepting a request to be part of someone else’s vision. I have grown my brand to the point that I need to be completely comfortable with the final product. I need to maintain creative control over my branding since I have poured my heart and soul into its development. This will likely mean saying No to more opportunities than I say Yes. But I am finally ok with that and am prepared and equipped to do so.
When I lived in Kelowna, BC, I went on many wine tours. I was one of my favourite things to do out there in wine country. But one time on just such a trip, we ended up at a winery that included ice wine on its tasting menu. I loathe ice wine. It is way too sweet and reminds me of cough syrup. All of it. I’m sorry if I have offended any ice wine connoisseurs out there, but I just don’t like it. And I am pretty certain that trying more of the stuff will not change that fact.
When the server stopped in front of me and lifted the bottle, I raised my hand in a passing gesture and politely said, “none for me thanks.” As is customary in the hospitality business, the server asked us all where we were from. There were people from all over the globe in our small group, but the fact that I was originally from Québec, put a smile on his face.
“Ah, Now I understand!” He said, with an actual wink. Then he disappeared into a room behind the bar and returned with a different bottle of ice wine. “No wonder you didn’t want ours. The stuff you guys produce is…” He whistled and made and ok sign with his thumb and forefinger. “Try this instead.” And with that he poured a very generous serving of ice wine that had been brought to the winery the previous summer by a couple also from Québec. Since I thought it would be very rude to refuse, I drank every drop of the vile stuff. What a waste! If I had been honest and said No, someone who genuinely enjoyed ice wine could have profited from the server’s generosity. Instead, I spent the rest of the day trying – and failing – to get rid of the horrible taste in my mouth.
These days I worry much less about hurting someone’s feelings by saying No. This is not to say that I now throw “No”s out willy-nilly everywhere I go. It does mean that I think long and hard about any opportunity before I say yes. If, after proper consideration, I do not feel the familiar fires of passion burning in my soul, I politely decline. All the anxiety flare-ups I endured while practicing the art of saying No were well worth it. I now sleep better at night knowing the magic of these two little letters is helping me live my best life.
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