By Touré Roberts
Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management.
The word no has to be one of the most powerful and liberating words in the human language. No other word does what the word no does! Rather than close doors, no often makes sure that the opportunities already opened remain accessible.
Balanced people love the word no. They understand that no paves the road to realizing greatness by creating space in our lives for the things our balance and destinies require most.
The power of no has so many practical benefits, but embracing the word no has also been known to make things awkward at times and sometimes can even shake things up in your life. Nonetheless, if you are willing to endure the uncomfortable moments of having to disappoint people, sometimes even people you love, or upset someone, some group, or some company when realizing your highest self requires that no, then you will discover a freedom that very few discover. If you can but endure the challenging moments that giving a difficult but unwavering no may cause, your life will reward you generously for your courage.
Ninety Percent No
I’ve come to believe that we should use no in life more than we use yes. If I had to suggest a percentage of nos you should give to things presented to you, I would put saying no at 90 percent and saying yes at 10 percent. Here’s why. Your yes is extremely expensive. There is nothing more costly in your life than your yes.
Think about it. How many times have you said yes, committing to something, only to regret it later? Although saying yes was the easiest thing to do in the moment, because it sidestepped conflict or pleased someone, you paid for it dearly in other ways. I have given yesses reluctantly in the past that in turn forced me to say no to things I really wanted to do and in some cases needed to do. My yes had trapped me. Sometimes my yes was expensive financially, costing me significant sums of money because making myself available to the one thing made me unavailable to another.
We must learn to conserve our yes for the things that matter most, and the only way to do that is to have a hefty amount of nos in our lives. Every person who is serious about sustaining Balance and seeing their life become the masterpiece it was destined to be should aim to employ the 90:10 no-to-yes ratio.
Speaking of masterpieces, think of the power of no in light of the working of great sculptors such as Rodin, Michelangelo, and Donatello. In their own way, they had to harness the power of no to realize their works. They began with material such as marble and brought forth astounding creations by chipping or carving away at the mass of stone to create works celebrated for generations. What’s amazing to me is that these great sculptures wouldn’t be possible without the mounds of debris from what was removed and discarded—or essentially told no—in the process.
Consider this for a moment. What was brought to life emerged from what the sculptor ultimately said no to in seeking out the yes of the creation they were envisioning. It was the power of their no that produced the priceless masterpieces of their artistry. Without the nos of Michelangelo, we would have no David looming larger than life. Without the nos of Rodin, The Thinker would have escaped us. Without the nos of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, there would be no Statue of Liberty. Likewise, unless you embrace your no and have the courage to defy the expectations of your life’s spectators, the world will be robbed of the masterpiece you are becoming.
No-Thing Is Beautiful
Rocking back and forth in a swing in Mexico reinforced this truth about the power of no. As Sarah and I reflected on how many things we had to say no to in order to enjoy our Mexico getaway, we started thinking about how important it is to exercise the power of no regularly and consistently in order to maintain our highest priorities.
Life events often put us in situations that apply so much yes pressure on us. Demands are coming at us all the time, even seemingly good things, and often because of a fear of missing out we are tempted to quickly surrender our yes. Life tells us that yes is where all the action is, but over time we begin to realize that our greatest blessings often occur away from the action, in the space that our no has created.
Because we said no to so many things, not only were we more present within our own lives and with each other than we’d been in a long time, but also our lives seemed to settle into their most authentic form. It was like our no allowed us to slow down in order to catch up. Have you ever been there? Catching up in life only after slowing down. Maybe it’s turning down what seems like a great invitation—to a party or vacation or concert—because you know you need the time in solitude to catch your spiritual breath.
On my trip with my wife, our no acquired for us clarity of purpose and calling, innovation and creativity, and the strategy to bring our most important assignments to fruition. We began to remember how it was in our simplicity that we had come this far, not in our busyness. It made plain to us how our cycle of success and fulfillment truly functions.
It is in our no-thing that we discover the power for the things we do, which then affords us the accomplishments, financial and otherwise, that reward us with the gift of more no-things that then empower us to accomplish even greater things! Read that last sentence slowly three times, and you’ll be able to pick up what I am putting down. If you learn to master no, life will reward you with the success that only your no can bring.
If you take care of no, your no will take care of you.
Adapted from Balance: Positioning Yourself to Do All Things Well by Touré Roberts. Click here to learn more about this book.
What would your life look like if you were able to break the patterns of inconsistency that keep you from your absolute best?
Balance by Touré Roberts brings a unique and eye-opening perspective to the evasive concept of balance. Transcending familiar theories of work-life balance, Roberts teaches that balance is a state of existence, a becoming that, when realized, not only brings forth the highest version of an individual but optimizes their life's output, productivity, relational value, and overall achievement.
“My friend Touré Roberts has written a very helpful, soul-settling, priority-clarifying, life-altering book called Balance. But before you read it, let me caution you. A truly balanced life may not be what you think it is.”
—Craig Groeschel, pastor, Life.Church; New York Times bestselling author
Touré Roberts is the founder of one of the most influential congregations in the nation, The Potter’s House at One LA, and he, along with his wife, Sarah Jakes Roberts, recently took the helm of a second location, The Potter’s House of Denver. He is the author of Balance, Purpose Awakening, and Wholeness. Learn more at www.toureroberts.com.