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As an introvert who’s also a recovering people pleaser, it still gives me a small thrill of rebelliousness to say no to things.

That’s probably because in years past, I used to be a total yes girl.

Before I’d fully accepted my more introverted nature (meaning I need a LOT of downtime and spaciousness, and I quickly get overwhelmed with too many plans), I was always overcommitting myself.

And before I’d gotten my people-pleasing ways (mostly) in check, my fear of disappointing people was intense. So without thinking, I’d automatically say yes to work projects, social invitations, favors, and requests of all kinds.

Cue the burnout and resentment.

Now I’m much more selective about what I say yes to. And to make sure I don’t slip back into old bad habits, I’ve come up with 7 questions to ask myself before saying yes to anything to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons.

1.  Does this align with my values?

Before you can answer this question, you first have to identify some of your top values. For example, some of mine are freedom, simplicity, connectedness, ease, and health/wellness. Anything that runs counter to my top values is an automatic no.

If you’re having trouble figuring out what your values are, a good place to start is to look back to your Passion Profile Quiz result PDF (or retake the quiz if you didn’t save the PDF) — on page 3 there’s a section called “Things you’re attracted to” that’s essentially a list of values. It’ll give you a good list to start with, and you can always edit/add to it as you go.

2.  What does my gut say?

Every single one of us has an intuitive voice that’s constantly communicating with us, trying to lead us in the right direction. The trouble is that most of us ignore or disregard our gut feelings in favor of logic and practicality.

Your intuition, however, is FAR wiser than your mind because it’s picking up on all kinds of subtle clues that you’re not even consciously aware of. So when you get a strong gut feeling that something is right (or very, very wrong), do yourself a favor and listen.

If you’re baffled as to how to start listening to your intuition, start by paying closer attention to your body and the way it responds to people, environments, and invitations. There’s a reason they call intuitive hits “gut feelings” — because a lot of people experience an actual physical sensation (a sense of “knowing” or attraction/repulsion) in their gut.

So when you’re considering saying yes to something, check in with your intuition — does the prospect of doing this thing feel light and airy and exciting … or like a heavy brick in your stomach? Your gut will never steer you wrong!

3.  What’s my intention for saying yes (or no) to this?

Intentions tend to come from one of two places: genuine or fear-based.

A genuine intention is one that’s based in positivity and authenticity. Once a year or so, I like to spend a weekend volunteering to help out with a new group of students going through the coach training program I graduated from. My intention for that is genuine: to connect with a roomful of new coaches and refresh some of my own coaching skills along the way. I always look forward to those weekends.

A fear-based intention feels very different. It looks more like, “I took on a new project at work because I don’t want to seem lazy” or “I RSVP’d yes to an out-of-town baby shower because I’d feel guilty saying no” or “I don’t have energy for this event, but my FOMO is strong.” It’s trying to avoid a bad outcome, instead of pursuing a good one.

Bottom line: Make sure your intention is good, not fear-based before saying yes to anything.

4.  What’s the opportunity here?

When you’re considering saying yes to an event, a project, a new job, etc., it’s easy to get bogged down by all of the logistics and effort it will take to make it happen. The overwhelm or fear of change might be enough for you to shut down a potentially great option prematurely.

So it helps to shift your perspective to look for the opportunity. Will this event give you the opportunity to connect with likeminded people? Will this project allow you to learn something new? Will this new job open you up to more growth potential?

Looking for the opportunity in the situation can help connect you to the deeper reason why you want to say yes to this.

On the flip side, if you’re struggling to come up with a good answer to this question, that might be a sign that there’s not a whole lot of opportunity here and it’s just not worth it.

5.  Is this a 9 or 10?

Anytime you’re considering saying yes to anything, I want you to pause and rank the opportunity on a 1-10 scale. On this scale, 1 = Hard No (as in, I have zero interest in this) and 10 = Hell Yes (as in, this sounds amazing and totally up my alley).

Now comes the part that’s easy to say and hard to do: Only say yes to the 9s and 10s.

Most people settle for the 7s and 8s in life, and then wonder why they feel less-than-satisfied.

It takes a lot of courage to say no to a 7 or 8 opportunity — one that’s good and has more pros than cons, but somehow doesn’t feel quite right. The fearful part of your brain will start to freak out and think, “But what if this is the best I can hope for?”

But I’ll tell you, the people who push past that fear and hold out for the 9s and 10s? Their lives are anything but ordinary.

6.  What would I do if I knew that no one would be disappointed either way?

OK, honesty time: How many times have you said yes to something because you didn’t want to disappoint a friend, colleague, or family member … and then kicked yourself later because you really didn’t have the time or energy or desire for it?

It seems like avoiding disappointing others at all costs is the kind thing to do, but you can quickly end up being unkind to yourself. Saying yes to everything because you’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings is a fast road to burnout and resentment. And it’s actually counterproductive to maintaining healthy relationships, because resentment only ever makes you feel less connected to the people in your life.

The best way to get clear on what you really want, regardless of other people’s reactions, is to imagine what you would do if no one ever found out what decision you made. If you could choose in total secrecy, what would you do?

7.  How much time and energy will this require? And is it worth that expense?

Sometimes you would absolutely love to say to something, for all the right reasons, but doing so would mean seriously overcommitting yourself.

So once you’ve checked in with your values, intentions, and all of the other internal factors, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Is this the right time for me to do this? Do I have the time and energy to devote to this right now?”

For example, Rachel and I have thought many times about writing a book. As someone who’s dreamed of being a published author since I was 5 years old, I really want to do this. But writing, editing, publishing, and promoting a book is a HUGE effort, and so far it hasn’t been enough of a priority to warrant that much time and energy. At some point, though, I’m sure that will change, and then my “not now” will become a big, fat “YES.”


So now I’d love to hear how this is relevant for you right now. What’s something you’re debating about saying yes to? How do you feel after considering your answers to these questions? Do you have any questions you want to add to this list? Share with me, in the comments below!

Much Love,

Kristen (& Rachel)


How to get out of Analysis Paralysis (October 2019)

When is it worth getting out of your comfort zone? (September 2018)

Side Chat: Honing your intuition (& knowing when it’s really fear) (June 2019)

How to know when it’s time to quit (a job, or anything else) (Mary 2019)


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9 comments | add a comment | Share this > Tweet this > Email this >
  1. I like these filter questions. They give you time to pause before answering and assure that your answer aligns with your priorities. I really love the 9/10 question. Especially as we grow and become older, we fill our schedules with more and more commitments. This means it becomes even more imperative to be intentional about our time. As always, thank you for sharing.

  2. Well this was refreshing, I would saying getting things aligned with values is super important. A lot of this that was written speaks- at least to my personal experience, about respecting yourself, your time, and energy. If it doesn’t serve you, then like Manson wrote, don’t give any fucks, and say no. Wonderful blog 🙂 keeping me inspired!

  3. This is great. I’ve been agonizing about taking on a casual teaching role (again) later this year, even though I’ve grown frustrated with being constantly a sessional academic. My reasons for stepping up yet again are, yes, fear of disappointing others, FOMO, even though I’ve done this job before and it’s never likely to lead to a more permanent position. Finally feel through these questions I can say no. Great post.

  4. These questions are great. It is the perfect roadmap for stressed out overachievers, such as myself. I struggled for years with my decision to leave my career in law to be a full time mom. After I made that decision, I was happy because I knew in the pit of my soul it was the right thing for me. That being said, every few years Doubt and insecurity would creep in and cause me extreme anxiety and depression about my choice. I think if I had this list of questions it would give me much more peace of mind when I would struggle. I could Then put my thoughts into something concrete and productive as opposed to just worrying.

  5. I think you could also reframe “what would I do if I knew no one would be disappointed either way?” as “would I care if I was the person doing the asking?”

    A friend says they can’t go to dinner because they’re so zonked from work… would I mind? Not at all! Don’t be harder on yourself than you would be on your friends!

  6. Thank you for this Magic 8 ball episode! It really resonated with me at the moment as I’ve been really burnt out lately. I’m studying my masters degree full time, working 30 hours a week, freelancing AND volunteering, plus the emotional drainage of COVID19 – I’m so exhausted lately. I’ve been pulling my tarot cards and I did a spread around ‘which card represents my troubles right now?’ – I pulled the 10 of Swords (Rider-Waite Tarot). If you google the imagery of that card you will think ‘YIKES!’ haha – the meaning of the card can indicate burn out and that hit the nail on the head for me.

    This blog post feels really good for burnout, as a lot of burnout for me comes from not saying no often enough. I also have been feeling guilty for not doing things that I’ve said I’ve always wanted to do – mainly write a novel, learning Japanese and improving my French. I get frustrated at myself as to why I’m not committed to writing my novel idea right now, I have a Google Drive doc where I add little ideas in it as they come to me – but I’m not committed to writing that draft right now. Same for my languages, I love language learning – and I have so many online resources I could commit daily study to but I’m just not doing it right now.

    It’s encouraging to read about someone who also has a deep, life long desire to be a published author but the time and energy is not right, right now. Thanks again for the blog! 🙂

    1. Samantha — wow, no wonder you’re feeling burnt out right now! That’s a LOT of things to be doing simultaneously, in the middle of a pandemic no less. To me, it sounds like these are all things you’re genuinely interested in and want to devote time to, but they can’t all be priorities at the same time. I think the question I posed in this blog about “is this the right time” might be especially valuable to you right now! You can have and do ALL of these things … but not all at once. Instead of feeling bad that some of these are falling by the wayside, you could choose to be excited for when the time IS right for writing your novel, learning Japanese, etc. It’s always nice to have goals to look forward to! 🙂

  7. Wow! Thanks, I really needed this. I have been in the same career for 16 years. Great career but not something I truly want to do. A year ago I decided to go back to college to pursue a degree doing something different, that’s more fulfilling to me. Now In my thirties as a mom, this new career answered all of my reasons to go for it and I’m halfway done! But I was just recently offered the “perfect” job opportunity doing what I’ve always been doing. It’s been eating me up
    Because Its literally the perfect job. But I’ve been hesitating to say yes because Its not what I truly want. I feel bad like I should be taking the position. I feel guilty. This article really helped me gain insight. It’s a 7,8 but I want that 9,10!! Thank you.

    1. So glad this showed up for you at the perfect time to validate the choice you know (in your heart) is the the right one for you. 🙂

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