Saying No

No-Vember: Embrace the Art of Saying 'No'


A few weeks ago, I did something that surprised me.

It’s so simple that it seems silly that it surprised me.

But sometimes, the simplest things are the hardest to do. And I’ve learnt this the hard way.

I’m predisposed to burnout.⁠

That’s what I’ve come to learn on my quest to understand how I burnt out over a decade ago.⁠

It’s not that I’m genetically predisposed. ⁠

It’s that my personality and preferences are more likely to push me into the burnout funnel.⁠

I’m driven.⁠
I’m conscientious.⁠
I’m open to new experiences (say yes more than I should!).⁠
I have perfectionist tendencies.⁠
I’m a recovering people pleaser.⁠
I have high self-efficacy – so I think I can do everything and do it all myself!

So, I have to consciously and intentionally choose alignment over achievement.⁠

Recently, I had a Monday morning meeting.⁠
I’d booked it in my diary weeks before.⁠
On Sunday evening, I noticed I was feeling overwhelmed.⁠
I’d not got all the things done over the weekend that set me up for success for the week ahead.⁠
Things like batch cooking.⁠

I suddenly had this aha moment.⁠
My meeting the next day wasn’t urgent.⁠
It wasn’t important.⁠
It was interesting, though.⁠
But interesting isn’t enough when my wellbeing needs attention.⁠

So I did something usual for me.⁠
I cancelled the meeting.⁠

The part of me that is overly conscientious didn’t like it.⁠
The part of me that is a people pleaser didn’t like ‘letting someone down’.⁠

But my body did a massive sigh of relief.⁠
It was like she gave me a huge hug for thinking of her and giving her the time and space.⁠

So, instead of the meeting, I went on a dog walk and did some batch cooking.⁠

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
But believe me, it wasn’t easy.

Even as I write this, my high achiever is recoiling in shame.⁠

And that’s the inner work I have to do.⁠

I have to tolerate the disappointment of my inner critic to avoid pushing myself into the burnout funnel.⁠

Because if I don’t – that funnel will suck me up and spit me out!⁠

I’m sharing this story as a friendly reminder that you can cancel the meeting (maybe not the urgent or important one). ⁠

You can tolerate the disappointment of others so you can thrive.⁠

You can choose wellbeing over work – even in a culture that might not tell us that we can! ⁠

You can say no.
Even when your head doesn’t like it.

Dr Gabor Matē
Dr Gabor Maté When the Body Says No The Cost of Hidden Stress

This November I invite you to join me in an experiment.
The No-Vember experiment.
The month where we embrace the power and freedom in saying no.

Who or what do you want to say no to?

It can be people, places or things?

It can be externally saying no to others

It can be internally saying no to yourself.

Internal boundaries are as important (if not more important) than our external ones.

Is it about saying no to that glass of wine every night that leaves you feeling groggy the next morning?

Is it about saying no to non-essential meetings?

Is it about saying no to overbooking your social calendar?

Is it about saying no to scrolling on social media before bed?

My three no’s for No-Vember that start with me are:

  • Saying no to having my phone with me after 6 pm
  • Saying no to sugar
  • Saying no to going to bed late – early bedtimes literally make me a better human being!

My three no’s for No-Vember with others are:

  • Saying no to back-to-back meetings
  • Saying no to non-essential meetings for the rest of 2023
  • Saying no overspending for Christmas – keeping it simple and remembering what this time of year is really about

Take this month to focus on what you can say no to and where you need to create space and boundaries.

No is in the name of the month, so it’s an easy reminder. A reminder of our commitment to not just a full life but a fulfilling life. And saying no gives us the discernment between full and fulfilling.

What could you experiment with saying no to this month?

Who knows – your body might just take a sigh of relief like mine did!

Wishing you a wonderful No-Vember filled with meaningful moments and the courage to say “no” when needed.


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