Here at Improve My Life This Year we’ve been talking a lot lately about the power of saying NO and the necessity of saying YES. If you are serious about improving your life, both of these words are essential. But how can you know when you should choose YES versus when you should say NO? I follow two simple principles that I call “Be Selfish” and “What’s the Worst that Can Happen?”
Before you scold me in the comment section for advocating selfishness, let me explain the idea. Someone asks for a favor. Should I say Yes or NO? My answer is that most likely, your selfish answer will be the correct one? Why? The reason is simple – no one knows you better than you. If a friend asks you if they can crash at your apartment for a week while they are apartment hunting, and your initial feeling is that you don’t want them to come, just say NO. Be selfish. Why? Because you have just recognized that you won’t be happy to have a guest staying at your home. If you go against your own desire, you are doing something called sacrificing. Normally we see that as a good thing to do, right? But here’s the thing, it usually isn’t. You will tend to feel resentment toward the people you sacrifice for. You may think that by helping your friend in this case, you are improving your relationship; you may actually be damaging it by setting up a situation where you are annoyed with your friend. And why didn’t you want your friend there? Maybe you need to study for tests this week and having someone there distracts you. You’ll be angry at your friend and yourself if you spoil your exams because you couldn’t focus on your studies.
And here is the great part of practicing selfishness and honesty in your relationships – it can oftentimes lead to better outcomes for everyone. For example, lets’s say you tell your friend, “Look, I’d love to help you out, but honestly, I have major exams to study for this week and I’m the type of person who can’t focus on my studies when people are at my place.” Your friend will most likely totally understand why you declined. And he might even come up with a counter-offer know that he is aware of your needs. “I’ll be out all day anyway. At night, I’ll head straight to the sofa and won’t bother you at all. In fact, I’ll even take care of the cleaning and dishes and cooking this week which should free up some additional time for you to study.”
By being selfish, you’ll be protecting your needs and forcing other people to conform to you – which is best for everyone. Imagine the opposite. You tell your friend, ‘Sure, come over and feel free to use my place!” Then your friend is crashing at your place, listening to music, talking to you – basically doing everything that you don’t want at the moment. Of course, you are secretly pissed off, your test results will likely suffer, and most likely you’ll be unhappy with your friend. But sadly, he’s totally unaware of all that, though he does sense you are annoyed for some unknown reason and now thinks maybe you aren’t as cool a friend as he had thought before.
Honestly stating your needs and honestly answering YES or NO is one of the best things you can do.
It works the same way with YES. We often answer NO when we really would like to say YES. You don’t ask the girl out because in your mind you are sure she will reject you. You don’t launch your business because in your mind you’re sure you will fail. You see a common theme here. Often we answer NO when we should answer YES because we are afraid. Well that’s where principle 2 comes – What is the Worst that Can Happen?
What is the Worst that Can Happen?
If you want to conquer your fear, simply ask, “What is the worst that happen.” Visualize it. Accept it. And then if possible, mitigate the risk of that. If you can survive the worst, then go ahead with that choice. Let’s see it in action.
I’d like to wear pajamas to work. So comfortable. What’s the worst that can happen? Get fired? I’ll wait to try that until my side businesses are successful enough to fully support me financially.
How about ask that girl out? She says no? I guess that’ll hurt you for a minute. But you can totally survive that. So YES, ask her out.
Be selfish and decide whether you can handle the worst case outcome. These two principles will make it much clearer whether you should answer YES or NO.