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  • Writer's pictureChristian Elliot

Mistake #3: You Don't Say "No" Enough

“If you don’t guard your time, people will steal it from you.” Pedro Sorrentino

Do you constantly (or at least regularly) feel:

  • Tired, frazzled, like you “can’t get it all done”?

  • Guilty for not being there for important people in your life?

  • Like you never get enough time for yourself?

  • Embarrassed by how you’re taking care of your body?

I’ve so been there.


I remember a season of life where I lived with a constant feeling of guilt when accepting OR refusing the invitation from my kids to jump on the trampoline.

I felt guilty when I was with them because I wasn’t fully present, and I felt guilty turning them down because the request was so simple and meant so much to them.

Can you relate?


One look at social media and I had all the evidence I needed that other people were doing “all the things,” so in my mind, I could too.

I erroneously believed I just needed to streamline more, sleep a bit less, tighten up my schedule. Get better at multi-tasking. Be more disciplined. Outsource a bit more. Try harder. Ha…I get tired just reading that hit list of things I used to tell myself.

The problem was, whenever I optimized something, I’d inevitably fill the new white space with something else. With my schedule so tight, the smallest interruption would reverberate and throw off everything.

I naively planned as if everything would go as expected, and when it didn’t, I had no slack (or emotional bandwidth) to absorb the unexpected.


So many people who’ve been frustrated by past attempts to lose weight, naively begin their next attempt with the idea they just need to muster a bit more willpower than last time, and cram an extra thing or two (i.e. dietary changes and exercise) into their already-full life.

They believe if they can run hard long enough, they will (finally) lose weight, get healthy, etc.

My friend…it doesn’t work like that.


One of my vocational super powers seems to be helping people create a breakthrough in their health (or personal life) by helping them figure out how to do fewer things. In other words, I think hard with people, and give them the confidence and perspective to say “no.”

By saying no (often to some pretty big things) we start to free up the extra time required to truly renovate their health habits.

Wait, did you say…


Well…how’s that working for you? What’s your track record trying the “do more” route?

Here’s the deal. I know you may think there’s nothing you can cut from your schedule, and that more activity really will produce more results. For the slacker, that’s true. But if you’ve read this far, you’re not a slacker.

If you’re fighting with the idea of saying no more often, know this: At some point, life (and your health) is going to force you to start saying no to both “good,” and not-so-good uses of your time.

So, my question to you is: Would you like to be in the driver’s seat of those changes, or do you just want to keep tunneling, reacting to constant stress, and waiting for whatever ugly consequences are bound to come?


The rub with saying no is that we want to please people.

Saying yes is frictionless. There’s no disappointment or pushback from anyone.

Saying no however, that could create tension we’d rather not deal with in the moment.


Let’s look at it the opposite way.

Can I beg you to please consider joining me for a 6:00am exercise routine six days a week?

Sound refreshing? Or does it sound like offering a glass of water to a drowning person?

See, every “yes” you say, is actually simultaneously a “no.”

As James Clear puts it:

“When you say no, you are only saying no to one option. When you say yes, you are saying no to every other option.”

I’d submit that a better way to think about decisions is to recognize they are all trade-offs.


In the real world, we have to say yes to all sorts of things every day—personal hygiene, eating, working, meeting our kid’s needs, etc. It’s not like we can start saying no to everything.

The trick to saying no, and reaping the rewards, is to do it strategically.

A strategic no is calculated. It’s based on what you truly value. It keeps in mind the big picture trade-offs, and plays the long game. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t burden “future you” with unwanted responsibilities.


Want a quick way to clarify where you could use a strategic no? Here are three questions that almost always do the trick:

  1. How many things are of such importance that you want to be known for doing them excellently, and how many of those things can you really do at the same time in your age and stage of life?

  2. What aspirational identity are you stepping into, and what choices would you have to make today to get there?

  3. THE KEY QUESTION: If you were not already involved in such and such activity, would you happily take on the same responsibilities again?

See how those questions get you thinking differently?

The trick is to make sure you’ve spent the time 1) thinking hard enough to strategically set a new boundary (sometimes this means hiring an expert to help you see what you don’t know), and 2) tactfully letting the right people know about that new boundary so you can enforce it.


One good way to ensure less important things don’t fill up your calendar is to create your own “yes filter.”

Here are a few of questions that run through my head when presented with a new way I could spend my time:

  • Is this in line with my desire to be a better husband, dad, or coach?

  • What would I be saying “no” to by saying “yes” to this opportunity?

  • Will this require I shave time off exercise routine for more than a week or two? Beware the slippery slope here!

  • Does this downtime activity have a high potential to refuel me and make me better when I’m done, or will I arrive drained when it’s time to get back to work?

  • Can I become more efficient anywhere else (outsource, delegate, cut) to allow me the needed bandwidth to do this new thing well…without neglecting my real priorities?

  • What would “future me” thank me for choosing?

If something passes through that filter, there’s a great chance it will make its way onto my calendar. If not, I say no.


I can tell you from one recovering-perfectionist, overachiever to another, life on the other side of “no,” isn’t so bad. There’s a freedom in realizing your limits.

Life gets a whole lot sweeter—not always easier, but sweeter.

“No” is totally worth. It may feel a little weird when you start using it more, but trust me, you’ll never go back.

So where could you use a little more “no” in your life?

Give it a try…you just might thank me,


PS. Has your lack of an ability to say “no” caused you to neglect your health for too long?

Are you ready to make some sacrifices to pay off your health debt?

Show me a client with too many irons in the fire, and I’ll show you someone who (may even

be motivated but…) will have a really hard time losing weight.

Show me a client who has learned to say no, and I’ll show you someone who can get fit and healthy faster than he or she ever thought possible.

Want some help getting your health in order? Check this out.

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