Hacking Habits Part 5: Saying No

People think focus means saying ‘yes’ to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

Having a life you love is as much about not doing things that annoy and aggravate you as it is about doing things you enjoy with people you like. In the context of behaviors this means two things:

1. Go through your life every once in a while and notice what shouldn’t be there. Get rid of those things.

2. Make a habit of saying “no” to things you don’t want in your life.

As my mentor used to tell me, “When in doubt, don’t.” This idea is further illustrated by Nassim Taleb. Taleb says, anytime you’re trying to arrive at a decision by weighing pros and cons you’re not fully invested, so walk away. Whether this applies to the marriage you’re about to enter or the job you’re considering – if you’re trying to convince yourself – don’t do it.

When in doubt, don’t.

On a broader scale this advice urges you to develop a strong sense of what is not a fit so that you can avoid having these things in your life. Yes, you still need to pay taxes. But no, you don’t need to do most of the stuff that people do out of politeness or routine.

Principle: Knowing what is not a fit and saying no is as important as knowing what you want and saying yes. Get good at it.

Application: Go through your life and notice all the people, contexts, and things that impede, interrupt, or otherwise distract you from living the life of your dreams.

Make a list of them. Once you have, begin systematically getting rid of them. Once you’ve done this for a few of the items on your list, make a habit of noticing the primal “yes” or “no” response from your inner animal anytime it arises. If you get a “no” from your gut then do not proceed! If you’re feeling off about something, don’t do it. It’s that simple. Get good at saying no.

 Get good at saying no.

Awareness: Getting rid of things in your life that don’t vibe with you is an absolutely critical habit to develop. Noticing when things are dissonant and optimizing away from them is a major component in living the “life of your dreams”. Your dream life has a lot of things that aren’t part of it. Managing life instinctually breeds congruency. Immediately moving away from things that instinctually repulse you rather than compromising your own deep wellness is critical. Without obeying your own primal urges there can be no true integrity. When you do, your every moment becomes more perfectly expressive of who you are and what you want.



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