Leader, lead thyself: It’s ok to say ‘No’

“When you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘No’ to yourself.”

– Paulo Coelho

We do it automatically. It’s like a hard-wired response, similar to when people ask, “How are you today?” And we respond, faithfully, “I’m well. I hope you are.” When someone asks us for help, we are wired to say, “Yes,” even when we may not want to, and we make it work.

It’s how we demonstrate leadership in life, all of us. We step forward, when a lot of people are stepping back, and we fill in the gaps.

But understand what author/lyricist Paulo Coelho is saying: There’s nothing wrong with saying, “No.” It doesn’t negate your worth. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you don’t truly want to help someone else.

It’s important to understand our capacity for giving and our ability to deliver what is being asked of us. Practicing self-care is as important as caring for others because if we are not our best selves, it’s impossible for us to serve others, to teach others, to lead others.

There are so many positive things we can say ‘Yes’ to, it’s worthwhile to allow the ‘No’ to happen.

We should say ‘Yes’ to the opportunity to learn. Take the coaching your company offers. Take the language class you always wanted to take. Learn how to tap dance joyously! Every moment comes with the opportunity to expand our horizons, as people and as leaders.

We should agree to say ‘Yes’ to invitations to go on adventure. Check your life list and determine where you could go, what you could see, what you might experience. Who doesn’t want to eat a great, simple, fresh meal in a vineyard in Tuscany? Who wouldn’t want the chance to hike part of the Appalachian Trail? Who wouldn’t want to walk through history in Washington, D.C.?

We should say ‘Yes’ to meeting new people from all walks of life. From the C-Suite to the maintenance department, from the technology sector to the hospitality industry, from the performing arts to the automotive trades, everyone has an interesting tale to tell, an amazing education to offer us, a personal history rich with cultural heritage and knowledge. Such an education in the human spirit gives us greater depth as human beings.

So, it’s ok to say ‘No’ to one more meeting in your crammed week. It’s ok to say ‘No’ to a volunteer activity that you truly cannot fit into a busy life that you are actively living. It’s ok to say ‘No’ when you are at capacity. No guilt.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.