A new goal of mine is to cultivate the habit of saying "No, but thanks."
Saying "no" is a fairly simple and straightforward task that requires very little energy, but why is it one of the hardest things for many of us to do?
For example, have you ever been on a diet and attended a party or a get-together? There’s food everywhere, but you told yourself earlier that you were going to wait and eat the healthy meal that you made for yourself at home. You walk past the kitchen towards the backyard when a friend or loved one stops to talk to you and offers you a slice of cake. Most of you probably can relate. You respond back nicely "No, but thanks.”
In a perfect world, it would end right here, right? Well sadly, that's usually never the case.
The friend or loved one, of course, tells you "Come on! It's just one slice of cake, enjoy yourself. I made it myself." Now all of a sudden your mind is starting to make excuses to turn your "No, but thanks.” into an "Okay, sure." You start to rationalize this new decision. You think to yourself “Well… it is only ONE slice of cake and it's a party! I don’t want to be the only person not doing it. Also, she made the cake, it would be rude of me to say no, right? I don’t want to be rude or mean.” Sound familiar?
So you give in, say yes, and eat the delicious slice of cake. Now what? Well now you have to deal with the repercussions.
“But Kaivon! It’s only one slice of cake, what’s the big deal?”
Good question, my imaginary friend.
Eating the cake in and of itself is no big deal. It will probably have no harmful effect on your diet and it’s totally fine to enjoy yourself every once in a while. The problem has to do with the repercussions of changing “No, but thanks” into an “Okay, sure.” Instead of strengthening your willpower, you are now cultivating the habit of making excuses and strengthening the habit of giving up and that my imaginary friend is the real reason why you should have stuck to your original “No, but thanks” reply.
We as humans are creatures of habits. Our habits define us. They define who we are today, who we are tomorrow, and who we will be 5 or 10 years from now. Every decision we make, no matter how small or large, has an impact on us and shapes our future. We can sit idly by on auto-pilot and let life choose which habits to strengthen and weaken for us or we can choose to consciously strengthen and cultivate habits that will help enhance our lives for the better. I’m not sure about you, but I opt for the latter.
It’s not going to be easy… at first. Nothing ever is. Remember the first time you tried to walk? Probably not, but I can guarantee 99% of you weren’t an overnight success. You likely failed at it over 100 times, but eventually after a lot of time, effort, and a couple bumps and bruises you got it right.
“Okay, Kaivon… but how does this relate to me saying “No, but thanks.””
Well, I’m glad you asked my inquisitive imaginary friend. Here are a couple of reasons why you were able to succeed.
The first reason why is that you never gave up. No matter how many times you fell, hit your head, cried, or pouted you kept at it until you succeeded. Your persistence paid off. The second is that you were more than likely thinking about the bigger picture. You saw yourself walking to your mom and dad, walking to the play-pen to grab your stuffed teddy bear, or walking to the kitchen to eat some of the dog food from the dog bowl. Deep deep down you knew the benefits of learning to walk far outweighed the benefits of being crib-ridden your whole life. Lastly, you had role models. Now for some of you, your mom, dad, or caregiver weren’t exactly good people or great role models... or maybe they were, either way, it’s irrelevant. The reason why these people are considered role models for you at this time was because they could do something you couldn’t do yet. Being around people who were doing what you wanted to do was helpful. It provided living proof that walking was in fact possible. You got the opportunity to study them and see how they were able to succeed. You probably mimicked their movements which helped you learn at a faster rate and seeing them walk inspired and motivated you to keep trying.
Keep that same mindset and use these same principles when it comes to developing and strengthening your new life-long habit!
#1: Never give up. Your persistence and hard work will eventually pay off.
#2: Think of the bigger picture. It will help keep you motivated when you feel like giving up.
#3: Surround yourself with people who already do what it is that you want to do. It will provide proof that it can be done, how it can be done, and inspire you to keep pushing forward.
Now here comes the best part… Over time that habit will become so innate and come so natural to you that it will take very little energy for you to perform it.
Think for a second… When’s the last time you actually had to think about walking?
You probably can’t remember, except maybe for that one time you accidentally stubbed your toe or twisted your ankle. The point is that the amount of substantial effort you once had to put into walking when you were a child is no longer needed. This is the secret weapon of successful people. They’ve cultivated successful habits and strengthened them to the point that they no longer have to think about it. It’s just something that they do and it takes almost zero effort or focus at all to get themselves to do it.
So what now?
Pick a new habit that you want to start or strengthen. Then ask yourself if the new habit is truly worth the amount of effort you’re going to have to invest. If it is, you will find it much easier to find the energy you need to keep pushing forward. If not, you will probably give up and let life have its way with you.
In the end, it’s all up to you.