If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re reading this title, I imagine at least two things caught your eye.
First, the number “one.” You’re probably used to reading articles or listening to podcasts that offer you at least three or more goals for the new year. Coming across an article that’s suggesting just one goal may feel a bit, well, weird.
Second, the word “abnormal.” Admittedly, this word still feels like an interesting choice to me. I considered the word “counterintuitive” in its place, but all I could hear was the voice of my SEO (search engine optimization) friends telling me that “counterintuitive” has too many characters.
Fair enough. So, “abnormal” it is. And without further ado, here’s the one abnormal goal I think entrepreneurs and innovators should have for 2021.
Increase Your Ability To Say “No”
This is a goal about bringing focus to one’s life. As an entrepreneur myself and a friend to many other entrepreneurs and innovators, I’m well aware of the struggle that is “saying no.”
In my own life, the ability to say no always feels in direct conflict with my sense that I’m doing enough, producing enough, being enough. It’s why saying no feels so incredibly difficult: because when I do, my sense that I’m enough feels threatened.
If I say no to this project or to my involvement with this thing over here, how will I know that I’m doing enough? How will I know that I’m succeeding? What if my goals fail because I say no?
The very strong temptation is to think that everything you’re doing is equally important.
Otherwise, why would you be doing it (you tell yourself). After all, we always only choose to do what’s important, right?
Wrong. There is plenty of research out there which demonstrates that most of what people do in their work is whatever feels urgent to them; not important. Interestingly enough, it also turns out that most of what feels urgent to us originates outside of us.
The text we just received.
The email that’s been in our inbox all day.
The missed call from our boss.
No doubt that some of these things are genuinely important, but they also all feel urgent. And notice how they all originate outside of you. In other words, what feels urgent usually is being dictated by someone else.
Here are two reasons why the goal of saying no in 2021 will have the greatest return of any of your goals.
Saying No Brings Focus
The more goals a person has, the less likely they are to reach them. This shouldn’t be too surprising.
Imagine two people, both entrepreneurs. The first one has one singular goal to increase year over year revenue by 5%. Everything else she and her team do, outside of the inescapable daily duties, is in service of that goal.
The second entrepreneur decides to set seven goals, including increasing revenue, expanding internationally, develop three new products, improve customer satisfaction, and the list goes on.
Who do you think would be more likely to reach their goal(s)? I’d argue entrepreneur number one, and if for no other reason than because she will be more focused. But notice that you can’t have this kind of focus without having to say no to other (often very good) things.
Saying no brings focus. Focus enables innovation and entrepreneurs to reach their goals. Here’s why.
Saying No Creates Energy
Saying yes to everything (or almost everything) drains your energy. What’s more, the energy drainage is much like the proverbial frog in the pot of water heated just slowly enough that it never notices its own impending death.
When we say yes without saying no, we’re increasing the temperature of the water which we’re sitting in. Slowly but surely we’ll not be in good shape.
Saying no is an energy creator. This discipline gives our life more space and in the process gives us more of what we need to keep going.
By the way, the “no’s” don’t have to always be huge and critical. In fact, I think the best way to figure out where a “no” may be needed is through a life audit.
Lay everything you do in your life out on a piece of paper or word doc. It’ll be tempting to leave some things out, but it’ll defeat the purpose if you do that. So, write out literally everything you do.
Taking care of your dog all the way to crunching numbers for your business.
What you’ll quickly discover is that you do a lot, but not everything you do holds equal value or importance. Now ask yourself, are there any things on this list I can say no to?
This process will give you energy back you never knew you lost. It’s critical for the entrepreneur and innovator, both of whom absolutely need more energy, to do a life audit.
A Bit About The “Abnormal” Part
You could be reading this and still wondering why I called this an “abnormal” goal. Plain and simple, it’s because I believe that the discipline (and art) of saying no has become truly abnormal. If you’re not saying yes, then something is probably wrong with you.
Or so goes most of the work culture in America, anyway.
Saying no can often generate shock and resistance to whoever is impacted by the “no.” That shock and resistance is often underneath why so many people struggle to say no. It has become abnormal and counterintuitive for entrepreneurs and innovators to practice the discipline of saying no.
The most successful leaders will tell you, however, that this is the only way to move “up.” You don’t move up by holding on to everything — that’ll keep you right where you are.
So for 2021, consider the areas in your life where a “no” may be needed. While it may feel abnormal or counterintuitive to whatever it is you’re trying to achieve, it really is in your interest.
And keep in mind, the interest here is of the compounding sort. Little by little, year over year, and you’ll find yourself years from now deeply grateful.
Only saying yes, on the other hand, is much like a compounding cost: little by little, year over year, and you’ll find yourself years from now deeply regretful.
Written by: Bryan Forbes