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How to Strengthen Your Power to Say No

Are you one of those “Yes” people? The people who always are on the run because of their inability to say no to anyone, not even themselves? While such people are quite kind and gentle with everyone without exception, they tend to try to please everyone, often at the expense of their own unattended needs. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a commendable thing to do, being helpful to others. However, there are a couple of things you need consider: first, you risk others taking advantage of your good heart; and second, you’ll find that you have no time to focus on what matters to you – your goals, your principles, yourself. Often, not having the willpower to turn down things doesn’t only relate to your interactions with other people. It might also mean you cannot exercise self-control more generally, as when dieting, or trying to cut back on your smoking, for instance.

Going from I-will-please-every-single-person-on-earth to let’s focus-on-me-now is a slow and perhaps painful process, but this change in attitude is definitely possible.

Seeing the bigger picture.

When you visualize how a present action might affect your future it makes it easier for you to resist the temptation of yielding to yet another cigarette, or cupcake.

The idea is to live and see the present you through future lenses, to be constantly reminded of the immediate and upcoming consequence of any of your actions. This is a strategy for being in control of your willpower in the present; it’s about becoming impervious to your own weaknesses.

Boost your “I will not” willpower.

Thankfully, the ability to refuse or turn down any temptation is not inherent, it can be learned. It mostly resides in the ability to stick to certain goals, to keep our minds focused on what the end result of a struggle might be.

For instance, if you find it hard to set aside time every day to work on your speed reading skills, you might be tempted to keep putting it off and playing computer games instead. In this instance, it would be helpful to visualize a typical workday after you’ve increased your reading speed, where you have the extra time you need to get through your projects, meaning that you’re much less stressed and much more productive. Having your target immediately accessible at all times in your mind will almost ensure you will have the I won’t power needed to succeed.

Turn negatives into positives.

This is a great way to trick your brain to work with you instead of against you. Next time you’re in a mental argument and you’re saying to yourself, “No, I don’t need this extra serving of red velvet cake, I already had one. No I won’t eat it!” try this instead:  turn the conversation into something positive or constructive, like “I think I will go for a walk” or “I will call Mary.”

By turning a negative into a positive you comfort your brain, because you don’t let it feel there’s something it’s deprived of. In fact you take that need completely out of the picture and focus on something less damaging.

The overall idea to strengthen your power to say no comes down to three different but intertwined aspects of willpower:

  •  Strengthening your power to refuse temptation and distractions that are pleasant in the moment but harmful in the long term.
  • Advancing your goals and principles over any mundane and not essentially useful habit or lifestyle choice; that is, being able to let your constructive, beneficial needs prevail.
  •  Acquiring the power to say no by focusing on what you want to say yes to.

Remember, your power to focus on the things that matter can defeat your weakness to yield any day.

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