“Focusing is about saying “no”.” – Steve Jobs

Is it harder to say “yes” or “no”? As Tony Blair once said, the art of leadership is saying “no”, not saying “yes”. Most of the time, it’s very easy to say “yes”. Apple had the same challenge back in the 1990s, when Steve Jobs shared this insight above.

Having said “yes” to too many projects, they were heading off in too many directions and didn’t have enough focus.

Shifting from the ease of saying “yes” to the more challenging choice of saying “no” was one of the fundamental changes in Apple’s management that enabled them to turn the company around and become the tech behemoth we know today.

So why exactly do we say “yes” so easily? According to some of the behavioural science blogs we’ve read, some of the reasons include a fear of missing out, compulsivity, the need to please others and, quite simply, to avoid confrontation.

Warren Buffet once said that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say “no” to almost everything. Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying “yes” too quickly and not saying “no” soon enough.

We need to learn to say a slow yes and a quick no. And this won’t happen overnight. As with every significant life change, it has to begin with changing our mindset, understanding why we always say “yes,” and learning ways to start saying “no”.

Developing and cultivating this habit impacts our mental health remarkably, as it allows us to value ourselves more. It also helps us prioritise our needs, and can open up opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise been feasible. 

It also allows us to set boundaries. Learning to say “no” begins by asking specific questions about the situation: will saying “yes” prevent me from focusing on something more important? Will saying “yes” make me even more tired or burnt out? 

It’s also helpful to be honest with ourselves – there is no need to lie about why we are saying “no”. Offering alternatives can provide another way to go about something and can help prevent you from saying “yes”. 

At WellsFaber, not rushing a decision is immensely powerful in our line of work. Taking time to think about alternatives, checking in with core values and maybe reaching out to a coach, friend or adviser helps to slow down the process and places you in a powerful position to say “yes” to the things that will benefit you, and “no” to those that won’t.