Saying No to Say Yes: A 5-Point Formula for Saying Yes to What Matters Most

Woman with dark hair wearing glasses holding her hand out in front of her faceR+ dog pros are good at a lot of things. We’re good at empathy and reading body language. We’re good at training plans. We’re good at situational awareness and leash handling and timing. We’re good at cheerleading. (“What a good dog you are!”) Some of us are blazes with a clicker, and we’re all fast with a tasty treat.

But most of us are far less skilled when it comes to saying no. Being the positive beings we are, saying no doesn’t come naturally, and is often accompanied by a heaping serving of guilt.

It’s time to reframe: What if saying no really meant saying yes? Because that’s the truth of it.

Every yes is a no
Saying yes to too much usually means saying no to the things that matter most—like building a successful business in order to help more dogs, taking good care of ourselves to avoid burnout and help more dogs, and spending time with our own dogs and friends and family.

It’s easy to overlook the very real fact that every yes is a no to something else. When you say yes to something you must make time for whatever you’ve agreed to. Time is finite, so making time for one thing inevitably means there won’t be time for something else.

This is how we find ourselves mired in guilt about not training our own dogs, or full of regret about letting another year go by without creating that marketing plan or starting that personal exercise routine, or whatever else our best of intentions intended.

Every no is a yes
It’s also easy to overlook that every time we say no we preserve room and energy for something else. We get so caught up in the guilt of saying no, or the fear of missing out on an opportunity, or our desire to help and serve, that we miss the positive in the word no—the space it preserves for the things that matter most.

Saying no to a client who’s not a good fit means making room for one who is.

Saying no to an all-day Sunday event means saying yes to some much needed and deserved downtime with your family or dog.

Saying no to scheduling consults outside of your normal spots means saying yes to a sustainable schedule.

Saying no to a non-work related request means making progress on that new marketing project to push your business forward.

You get the idea.

Deciding between yes and no
The things that matter most—that’s the key. Part of the struggle in saying no is that most things have value. There’s almost always a reason to say yes to an opportunity or request, a way to justify the time and energy spent. If everything has value, and time is finite, the trick is weighing the relative values of all the things we could choose to do.

Here’s a 5-point formula for making sure you’re saying yes to the things that matter most to you:

1. Know what matters most
Get really, really clear on your priorities and goals, both personal and for your business. How do you want to spend your time? What are you trying to accomplish? What matters most to you?

2. Evaluate each new request or opportunity
How does what you’re considering serve your goals and match your priorities? (If it doesn’t, that’s a clear no.)

3. Try to put it in your calendar
If you say yes to this, how much time will it take? When will that time be needed? Where will it fit?

4. Identify the no in the yes
If you say yes to this and add it into your schedule, what will you be saying no to? What will you not have time for because you made time for this?

5. Weigh the relative values
Which is more important—the potential new thing, or what you’d be giving up for it? Which better matches your priorities or serves your goals? Which is likely to bring you most success in the long run? Or the most happiness?

Saying no is hard. But reframing to focus on what you’re saying yes to makes it much easier to find the will to decline. Don’t forget the R+ when you do—always celebrate a decision well made!