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I’m betting that this message is evergreen, even though it’s birthed from today’s headlines – which is that Simone Biles pulled out of the team competition at the Tokyo Olympics. Wow.

Today’s message is evergreen because it has to do with being able to say no, even when there’s a bunch of pressure on you to not say no. Like in Simone’s case, millions of dollars in advertising were on the line, as advertisers expected that millions of people would tune in to watch Simone compete, and see their ads in the meantime.

And yet, she said NO. There may be only a few in Simone’s inner circle that know exactly where that NO came from, so I don’t want to presume to guess.What does catch my attention though, is how hard it is for many of us to say no. We can easily get wrapped up in who we are going to disappoint or let down if we say no. And then we take responsibility for that disappointment as if it’s our responsibility to make everyone else happy.

Of course, there are places where we say yes to things, and we know it will be demanding or stretch our resources. But, where we get in trouble is when we say yes to things, and believe that once a yes has been voiced, there’s zero room for renegotiating that agreement. And that’s not the case.

It seems, for Simone, she recognized that pushing herself meant it could lead to an injury. If that’s not a good boundary I don’t know what is.

So, I wanted to offer a resource that might be helpful as we navigate saying no. It comes from the book The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes by William Ury, who co-founded the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

He suggests that for any “Positive No,” there needs to be a Higher Yes. In Simone’s case, it might be a Higher Yes of safety and well-being.

Some other everyday examples:

  • If it’s saying no to someone who has asked for your time but you just don’t have the bandwidth, the Higher Yes might be a commitment to being rested and present. This way you can give your best to your partner, family, or team.
  • If it’s saying no to a regular habit of unhealthy late-night dessert, the Higher Yes might be wanting to experiment with how much more clear-headed you feel after not flooding your body with sugar.
    You get the picture.

For anything you might be wanting to say NO to, and you’re finding it difficult, give some thought to what the Higher Yes is for you. And then, give space to your brain and body to embrace the Higher Yes. Once you feel it, somatically, notice how much more confidence it brings to your Positive No.