This is the second in a three-part series about how to say “no”. If you missed last week’s post “Just Say No” click here to read it.

Years ago, I was attending a retreat led by the wise Barbara Stanny, where she led us through something called the “Values Exercise”. In all honesty, my first attempt was a complete fail. I had so many things I was doing: wanted to do, felt responsible for and ‘had’ to keep on top of, that narrowing my list of ‘values’ down to the suggested five was met with, “are you kidding me”?!

As I gained clarity into why I was saying “yes” to all the things I was doing; identifying my core values became easier and easier. A few years ago, I updated my values list and I haven’t change them since – I love them! I read them often and they are my guiding light for when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

Here’s why.

Knowing my core values helped me gain clarity on where I am willing to use my precious time and energy. Before I answer with a “yes”, I pause and ask myself; is this ‘yes’ in alignment with my core values? The bottom line is this – a lot of women (my former self included) are trying to do everything; the result is feeling tired, down-right exhausted and depleted. Not fun or healthy for you or the people in your life.

So how does this work? Below are my values – what matters most to me, and an example of how I use them to make decisions about how I use my time and energy:

  • Unscheduled time: Allow time for randomness. Walks, quiet time, quiet mind, writing, creative, puttering.
  • Forward movement: Something every day that moves my business & life upwards.
  • Meaningful connection: Conversation, quality time with my husband, son, friends, spontaneous encounters.
  • Inspiring others: Coaching, teaching, writing, conversation.
  • Healthy living: Movement, stillness, sleep, laughing, nutritious and delicious food.

A “yes” must fulfill one of my core values, and cannot fill up my unscheduled time. It’s as simple as that. If I’m asked to coordinate a fundraiser event – that’s a no (a hard learned lesson after years of saying yes). Even though I’m good at event planning and coordinating; I’ve learned that my personality and energy type is one that needs down time every day.

I am not a high-energy person and most of my life I was living as if I was a ‘type A’ personality. It made me very tired and without ‘downtime’ I depletion settles in quickly, which serves no one and certainly doesn’t serve me.

When someone reaches out and asks if I have time to talk – that is a huge YES and falls under inspiration, connection and even forward movement because with every conversation I learn something. Last summer I was asked to volunteer for a couple hours reading to kids. That received a “yes”. It’s short term, falls under ‘meaningful connection’, ‘inspiring others’ and I love kids – it fed my soul!

Do you see how this works?

Knowing your core values also helps to prioritize your time and stay focused. I’m currently in business building mode, so forward movement has priority over volunteering. Recently I was asked to help fundraise for an event. I was honored to be asked, but explained that I was using my time to focus on my building my business and I asked them to check back with me next year. Had I said ‘yes’ I would have needed to use my ‘unscheduled time’. 

Now it’s your turn. What are your core values? I found this fabulous PDF for helping you determine your values. Click here to download it. And remember values can change. It’s a good idea to review your values once a year – in fact, it’s a great way to kick off the new year, or perhaps make it a birthday tradition!


This is the 2nd of my 3-part blog series around the art of saying “no”. Remember to take the Busyness Quiz for more insight and tips!


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