No: The Most Powerful Word to Relearn for Success and Happiness

We've been taught that it's good to say "Yes", to juggle a million things, to do and achieve as much as we can in as short a timeframe as possible! And as a result, stress and overwhelm are endemic in modern culture.

But the difference between people who succeed and those who don't (and between people who enjoy life, and people who feel stressed and overwhelmed) is not people who say "Yes", but those who are willing to say "No"! 

"No" is the most powerful word in the dictionary. What's interesting is that when you were small, you felt quite at home saying "No". When you first learned to say "No" - you probably loved it! It's that moment in our young lives when we suddenly realise we don't HAVE to do what we're told - and boy does it feel good!

But it's inconvenient for adults when children say, "No" - and sometimes even dangerous. So you were overridden, and sometimes shamed into considering other people's needs and feelings. You were taught that saying "No" is bad and selfish. It's no wonder your "No" lost its potency. You learned to do what you were told in order to feel safe, accepted and cared for - and to avoid feeling shame and guilt.

But now YOU are the adult and you have a choice. You can say "Yes", but critically you also get to say, "No".

The Dangers of Yes: Whatever career or subject we're interested in, whatever activity we want to do, wherever we want to travel, it's all available to us like never before in history. Literally anything is possible. Technology allows us to be in contact with everyone at all times - phone, email, social media, messaging. And on top of that, we make a huge number of daily choices too - what to eat, what to wear, how long we work for. There are things other people expect us to do - things we need to do and things we want to do. Is it any wonder that we're in a state of overload? We have a super-abundance of choices and tasks and it's stressing us out!

But by saying "Yes" to one thing, you're automatically saying "No" to something else. For example, by saying "Yes" to long working hours you're saying "No" to family or self-time, by saying "Yes" to going out every night this week, you are saying "No" to being rested and at your best during the day.

Get Clear on What Really Matters: One of the most powerful things we can do is relearn how to say "No" - both to ourselves and others. Because in this busy, modern world there will ALWAYS be more to do than time available. What you say "No" to, frees you up to say "Yes" to something else.

And this is where coaching really comes into its own. Just a few of the areas where coaching helps people include:

  • Figuring out their vision for their life, and establishing their goals
  • Deciding what really matters to them - their values
  • Trusting their intuition
  • Noticing and paying attention to their feelings and needs - self-care!
  • Taking a more balanced approach to their lives - work and life, family and self.

Know What to Say "No" To: It's about clarifying - a key coaching skill. Learning what to say "No" to is critical to both our clients' and our own success. When we're clear on our vision and goals, our values - what we consider deeply important, when we trust our intuition and acknowledge our feelings and needs, THEN we know what we need to say "No" to. Until then, we tend to say "Yes" to everything and end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

So, help your clients figure out what really matters - and then ask questions that help them make choices that align with who they are and what they want from life. Because when we say "Yes" ONLY to things that enrich and enliven our lives, and say "No" to the things that drain us or move us away from our goals - our lives take off. Success!

"There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you've mastered saying yes. So start practicing saying no. Your goals depend on it!"  Jack Canfield

If you liked this article on success and saying "no", you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>


  1. LauraBeth

    Very good article. I never heard the concept of no being something we should not say from an early age. I need reminders all the time on this subject. Its something I am a work in progress on. (-: Thanks!

  2. Jeanette Harris

    Great article! I just said "No" to something I did not like doing and I feel great! Thanks for this article!

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Jeanette, thank-you for taking the time to comment! And so glad you found this article helpful. Good luck with all your future "no"s! Warmly, Emma-Louise


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