The real reason you can't say no

The real reason you just can’t say no and how it’s ruining your life


I’m going to cut straight to the chase here.

If you’re looking for the single biggest cause of the giant case of overwhelm that seems to be your constant companion in life right now, I can tell you what it is.

It’s your inability to say no.

And the reason you can’t say no is not what you think.

You think it’s because:

  1. You don’t want to be seen as impolite
  2. You’re flattered to be asked to do this thing
  3. You think ‘If I say no, then who will do it?’
  4. You think ‘No one can do this job as well as me therefore it must be done by me’
  5. You want people to like you
  6. You’re afraid of missing out on something

But none of these is the real reason you can’t say no (although number six goes close).

The real reason you can’t say no is that you have no idea what you want from life. You have no idea what your thing is. The thing that truly makes you ‘happy’. The thing that gives you a very deep sense of satisfaction right in the pit of your stomach. The thing that feeds your soul.

And if you’re like me, the unhappier you are, the more you say yes to in the hope that one of the requests and opportunities you’re getting will magically lead you to your thing.

The problem with this method (or coping mechanism) is at best, it is hopelessly inefficient. At worst it is life threatening.

Take me as an example.

Three years ago I had created a life for myself that I hated. This meant I said yes to every single thing that was presented to me because I was so scared if I said no, I might be saying no to the one thing that was going to make my life awesome. The thing that was going to turn everything around.

Unsurprisingly all I got from saying yes to everything was an extreme case of burnout (on top of bulk stress, anxiety and depression). It turned out that burning out completely was the best thing that ever happened to me because it forced me to re-build everything from scratch. But it was a long, painful process and one worth avoiding if you can.

So what was the one thing I (eventually) learned that could have short-cut that whole burning out/re-building from scratch process?

I learned that just like the actress who can’t nail her part until
she understands what motivates her character,
you can’t nail your life till you understand what motivates you.

But how on earth do you figure out what motivates you?

You can start with getting a grip on your personality type.

Two years ago I did a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test for the first time and the results absolutely blew my mind. One of the first things I discovered was that I am an introvert. I also discovered that being ‘introverted’ does not mean you are just really anti-social (and quite uncool), it actually means you get your energy in a different way to extroverts. The second I stopped fighting against the introverted side of my personality, my life took a turn for the better.

Since then I have done boatloads of reading and many different MBTI courses in an effort to know myself better. It was during one of those courses that I heard something that helped clarify exactly why I am currently experiencing a real sweet spot in life.

The course presenter was talking about what motivates people in life and mentioned that INFJs (my type) are highly motivated to help people bring order to their lives.

‘Whoah!’ I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I do on my blog.’

It appeared that quite by accident I had stumbled on the thing that gives me a huge sense of satisfaction in life. And it seems that so long as I have that thing, life is pretty sweet. Sure there are challenges that present themselves constantly (this is LIFE after all), but I seem to be able to deal with all those challenges better because I have my thing.

I also deal with life’s challenges better because I am not stressed out and over-committed trying out stuff I thought might be my thing.

So how do you find your sweet spot? How do you figure out your thing?

Well you need to know what motivates you in life. Over the course of the next five posts, Carly Toomey (founder of Type-Coach) and I are going to break down just that for you.We’re going to tell you what makes each of the 16 personality types super buzzy. 

So what do you need to do before you read on?

Head here and take the Type-Coach test (use the promotion code kelly). The Type-Coach test really zeroes in on your actual personality as opposed to the personality you think you have (preferred behaviour as opposed to learned behaviour).

If you don’t have $40USD to do the Type-Coach test, you can try my quick and dirty personality test here.

Once you’ve figured out your personality type, read the next post here.