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How to say YES to you by saying NO

Last week I got a thank you note from a coaching client that I’ve been working with for the last six months. Here’s part of her note... "I am so grateful for our coaching relationship, which is pushing me every day to be the happiest, best version of me. Looking forward to our next chat. Onward to the next big challenge!"

I’ll call her Abby. In our first call together, she shared that her current job was sucking the life out of her. She was working more than 40 hours a week in a small start-up and couldn’t depend on a steady paycheck. The startup was in a field that she didn’t feel super connected to, and she worked for the founder of the startup as part of a very small team. She knew she wanted her life to reflect her values more but she had no idea HOW to get there. And because one of Abby’s primary values is stability, she was experiencing crippling anxiety about how to pay her bills every single day. On top of that, she was also feeling guilty for not being able to fix it, for saying yes to it in the first place, and for not being more “grateful” for the opportunity.

One month into our coaching, Abby was offered a new job. Shortly after accepting the offer, she wanted to strategize with me about how to tell her boss that she accepted a new job and that she wanted to reduce her role and time commitment towards the startup. She hated the thought of letting her boss down, and she didn’t want to burn any bridges. I helped prepare her for that tough conversation and it went better than she thought it would. She continued to support the startup from a distance after starting her new job.

A couple of months later, tired of squeezing in work for the startup on her evenings and weekends, everything in her body was telling her she wanted to be done. And that was waaaaaaayy scarier than the business as usual, head down, pretending like it’s still working strategy. We got Abby in touch with her inner confidence so she could say NO to this and YES to herself. She felt guilty, and was tempted to offer that she’d keep doing a minimal amount of work out of obligation (oh boy have I been there too!). It was an honor to support Abby to prioritize what’s important to her instead of staying plugged in to what’s important to someone else because she felt guilty about going for what she REALLY wants.

Nice story there, but how do you say no to something even when it feels really hard?

  1. Tune into your values. Think of a time when you felt really lit up and alive. What was happening? For me, I need connection, creativity, adventure, authenticity - if those aren’t around, no thanks.

  2. Let yourself feel how you feel without judging it. Are you angry or sad or embarrassed or ashamed that you said yes to something again that you meant to say no to? Get out a blank piece of paper and write it down. “I’m angry // sad // embarrassed // ashamed that …”

  3. Move your body. Go for a walk or a swim or turn on music and move. Movement gets you out of the spinning monkey mind and back into your body (Shakira is right on this - your hips don’t lie).

  4. How do you want it to be? Imagine how you want to invest your time. For Abby, we talked about how she really wanted to spend that precious evening and weekend time that was going towards the startup. She came up with all sorts of activities that would be more fun / fulfilling / aligned for her.

  5. Take small actions towards honoring your values. What are some bite size ways you can honor your values and schedule them into your calendar. For example, if you thrive on connection and you’re at your laptop 40+ hours a week schedule that call with your bestie once a week. It’s important to you, so it will recharge you.

Getting to work with clients like Abby is why I love coaching so much. She went from feeling guilty and apologetic about saying no to feeling re-aligned with her own goals and proud of her dreams. And trusting that the startup founder would be fine without her, and in fact, maybe this decision would lead to hiring someone who was all in, and not just staying involved out of guilt.


Is there a place in your life where you’re investing a lot of your time and energy to a dream that’s not your own? I’d love to offer you a free sample coaching session to learn more about what you’re facing and how I might be able to help.
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