168. Not always an easy choice.

Last week I unintentionally opened somewhat of a Pandora’s box when I introduced The Habit of Saying No.

It seems I touched a nerve – a very raw nerve – with a number of readers calling to share their stories of how not acquiring The Habit of Saying No has played, and continues to play, a troubling role in their relationships with friends, family and colleagues.

I listened to numerous examples and, while each one reinforced to me why The Habit of Saying No is a prerequisite for a happy life, there were two stories that I believe most readers can identify with and, with permission of both callers, I would like to share their stories.

The first of these was related to me by a young mother of two. She and her husband have been married for seven years and she lived at home with her parents until the day of her wedding. For the first year of their marriage they lived in an apartment just two blocks from her parent’s home and they soon developed the habit of having dinner every Sunday evening at that home with her parents.

Shortly after their second anniversary she became pregnant and they purchased a house across the city, about a 30-minute drive from her parents.

What they did not do once they moved into their new home was to let her parents know that the family dinners, as enjoyable and appreciated as they were, would no longer take place every Sunday but rather, randomly from time to time, when doing so was convenient for all parties.

Her pregnancy was a difficult one and they spent time at her parent’s home meaning that Sunday dinners continued “9 out of 10 weeks” as they had before.

She gave birth to a beautiful, healthy boy and some 18 months later added a baby girl to her tribe.

A first child always brings many changes in the home and the second adds even more, but the one thing that did not change was the expectation of her parents that they would all show up for dinner every Sunday.

On those occasions when she attempted to explain to her mother why they would be skipping a particular Sunday, her mother always pointed out how disappointed she would be, having looked forward all week to seeing the kids and grandkids, and was there any possible way they could squeeze in just a little time to spend with them?

She loves her parents dearly and knows that they truly enjoy her company and that of her family. She knows that Sunday dinners at her parent’s home without her family being present is certainly not the same for her parents and leaves them feeling somewhat empty.

She also realizes that her primary responsibility is to her family and there are times when they would like to just stay home on a Sunday and relax, prepare for the week, spend time with their kids. Or perhaps have friends over for a barbecue or a visit or just do anything other than visit her parents.

It is not that she does not want to see her parents but sometimes there are conflicting interests and yet she finds herself convincing her husband to load the kids in the car and drive across town for dinner every Sunday because, saying no just brings pain and disappointment to her parents.

She has not realized that by never saying no to her parents she is always saying no to herself and her family.

The other story is a bit more sinister as it involves a workplace situation that is causing great deal of anguish for the caller.

Sadly, I believe this story to be quite common as I frequently hear different versions.

As he describes it, he works for a boss who knows no boundaries and has no respect for the personal lives of his staff.

His boss will routinely call him at 5 PM, at, the supposed end of the workday, to “request” a task requiring several hours work, to be completed by 8 AM the following morning.

That same boss will, without hesitation, send an email at 10:30 on Sunday night again “requesting” a report be prepared and available for presentation at 7:00AM:00 the next morning.

As unpalatable as this is, there is obvious risk in approaching a boss to discuss the inappropriateness of his behaviour.

On the other hand, saying nothing is a form of positively reinforcing the behavior, thereby ensuring it will continue.

In both of these examples saying no comes with a price and the question we always need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to pay this price or continue with the price we are presently paying.

The Habit of Saying No, albeit a powerful one, does come with a consequence and if we are unwilling to deal with the consequence we need to explore a way to find peace with the existing status quo because if we fail to do so, we expose ourselves to the long-term damage caused by unresolved anger and ongoing stress.

The Habit of Saying No may well provide the solution to this dilemma but only once we realize how much harm we are doing by constantly saying no to ourselves each time we say yes to all those expectations placed on us by others.

The Habit of Saying No will always bring freedom to our lives but it may take some time before we can truly appreciate and enjoy our newfound autonomy.

Sometimes it’s a tough choice but almost always, it’s a worthwhile one.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.


167. Jut say no, if no is what you want to say.

In my day job as a coach I have met many intelligent, articulate people, possessed of a powerful grasp of the English language, who have no difficulty expressing themselves in eloquent terms and yet find themselves unable to utter a tiny, two letter word.

Their inability (or unwillingness) to use this little word frequently brings a great deal of stress and anxiety into their lives and yet, despite knowing unequivocally that saying this word would eliminate all of that stress, cannot bring themselves to say it.

If you haven’t guessed, the word I’m referring to is “No!”

I recall reading an article many years ago that suggested that folks who struggle to use that word run the risk of bringing inordinate amounts of discomfort into their lives which potentially leads to long-term, stress-related illnesses.

So why is it so difficult for some people to use that little word?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question however there is an overarching theme that seems present in all those who are plagued by this affliction.

When you talk to these folks, and ask why it is so difficult for them to say no, they will tend to use words like “guilt” or “sense of duty” or “keep the peace” to validate to themselves their reasons for never saying no.

Those words all have strong, powerful emotional attachments and it is easy to conclude that it is their feelings of guilt, sense of duty or keeping the peace that drive their need to please others without giving much thought to the consequence their actions are having on their own psyche.

The Habit of Saying No is not one of selfishness but rather one of selflessness. It goes a long way in staving off the unpleasant and deleterious effects that always saying yes have on our mental and physical health.

There is a handy solution for those who suffer from this affliction. It is to accept as fact that they own each and every emotion they feel and that when feelings of guilt compel them to say yes when they would rather say no, they need simply perform an “emotions check” and substitute those guilt feelings for others more feasible.

A small amount of practice makes this eminently possible and the rewards will be immense.

The challenge with never saying no is that it brings truth to the old saying that “what gets rewarded gets repeated.”

When a request or stated expectation is always followed by the word yes then the person hearing that word is more likely to make future requests. This means that each time we say yes we are training others to keep asking for more.

Those who never say no have, ironically, also mastered the habit of saying no, for each time they say yes when they want to say no then they are saying no to themselves, thus denying themselves the lives they want for themselves.

There is high potential that over time always saying yes leads to deep feelings of resentment that will do little to reduce the requests from others while doing much to eat away at your very core.

The Habit of Saying No is the first step to saying yes to yourself and by so doing you are freeing yourself from the damage that “guilt, sense of duty and keeping the peace” wreak on us all.

And the better we feel about ourselves the easier it becomes to base our yes or no decisions for the right reasons as opposed to obligatory ones.

And that’s not a bad way to live.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.



166. Much can be achieved in two hours.

“How do I immerse myself in this home-based business I’m pursuing when I’m juggling two jobs, two kids and I’m trying to help my dad as he struggles to adjust to life on his own as my mother passed away four months ago?”

Melanie’s question was not that different from many others I have fielded in the past week.

For the past two weeks we have been discussing The Habit of Total Immersion. The discussion began when we suggested that moving to Mexico and living with a family for six months was a far faster and more effective way of obtaining fluency in Spanish than enrolling in a local program and attending a few classes each week.

For most of us, though, uprooting our lives in order to fully immerse ourselves in a new language does not fit within the bounds of practicality and we have to find a more amenable and, most likely local, method of producing those results.

With our options narrowed and limited time available, immersion really means our willingness and ability to practice exclusive focus as a means to achieve desired results.

For Melanie, this might mean that she carve out one or two hours each week to devote to the building of her home-based business.

Her success will be far less dependent on how much actual time she spends building her business and far more on what she does with that allotted time.

Unquestionably Melanie’s life is a busy and hectic one. Almost all of her time is accounted for and the very reason she expressed determination to build a successful home-based business is so that at some point in the future she will have the financial wherewithal to not have to work two jobs, but instead have as much time as she wants to devote to the family she loves so much.

Melanie clearly understands that if she can commit two hours each week to building a business, it means that for those two hours she does nothing other than focus on business building activities.

For those two hours she does not take personal phone calls, answer emails or texts, spend time with the kids and her dad, clean the house, do grocery shopping or any activity other than those that move her towards the success she wishes to experience in the business.

In other words, Melanie’s success is solely dependent on her ability to fully immerse herself during those two hours and practice exclusive focus for every second of those 120 minutes.

Clearly, another person pursuing the same goals as Melanie but with the luxury of being able to do so full-time will have a better chance than Melanie of achieving those goals in a much shorter time frame.

For Melanie to have any chance at all she must bring The Habit of Total Immersion into every second she spends on building her business and if she implies this quality and intensity of focus the future may well become filled with the freedom of financial security and the luxury of unlimited family time.

With only two hours a week at her disposal, reaching this goal may take her several years, but without The Habit of Total Immersion there is very little likelihood of her life changing at all.

After talking with Melanie for quite some time, I am convinced she is one of those rare people who will do whatever is necessary to achieve the goals she sets for herself and The Habit of Total Immersion will unquestionably shorten the time it takes her to get there.

Go Melanie Go.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

165. Only one thing at a time.

Our discussion last week on The Habit of Total Immersion invoked a few heated calls from people questioning the practicality of total immersion.

The callers all agreed with the example that it is far faster to obtain fluency in Spanish by moving to Mexico and living with a family for six months than it is by attending one class a week but they also pointed out the impracticality of putting our lives, families and careers on hold while pursuing such an endeavor.

And they’re absolutely right. Few, if any, of us can simply uproot and relocate on a whim.

But, does that mean anything less than 24/7 immersion doesn’t count?

No, of course not. The Habit of Total Immersion is really a counter to the idea of multitasking, while also serving as a powerful reminder that our best results come from exclusive focus and not from scattered functioning.

One of the great mistruths of our time is the idea that we are capable of multitasking. Multitasking – performing several functions simultaneously – simply means that we are doing a whole bunch of things really poorly.

We are not designed to multitask and, indeed, lack the necessary equipment to do so effectively.

If you think you are an exception and multitasking is within your capabilities then try having a telephone conversation while watching a TV show and writing a report.

Let me know how that works.

The best and most concentrated use of The Habit of Total Immersion means focusing exclusively on the task at hand to the complete exclusion of all else.

Exclusive focus means if you are working on a report then that is all you are doing. You’re not pausing to answer the phone, send a quick text, read an email or, succumbing to that most productivity-robbing activity of all, granting access to the person knocking on your door uttering the biggest lie in the business world, “do you have a moment?”

Productivity “is defined by dictionary.com as meaning “the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.”

In other words, productivity or progress is about producing results and enhancing both effectiveness and efficiency in as short a time as possible.

The Habit of Total Immersion means immersing yourself fully, totally, completely and unequivocally in what you are doing and maintaining that intensity or focus until either the task is completed or the time allotted is all used up.

For many, this is a difficult task as we have conditioned ourselves to become slaves to what is euphemistically known as “Bright Shiny Object Syndrome.” Also known as BSOS.

The affliction of BSOS prevents us from exclusively focusing on anything for very long as the moment any object captures our attention, e.g. a ringing phone, an incoming text or email or an interrupting human we respond immediately as if we were chained, in slave -like fashion, to the distracting object, and immediately redirect our focus to its needs.

We then assign an importance rating to this interruption and, all too often, the rating we give it is of higher importance than the task we were focusing on moments earlier.

BSOS is the greatest known thief of performance and productivity and is the sworn enemy of The Habit of Total Immersion.

If you really want to see rapid progress in any and all areas of life then make exclusive focus and The Habit of Total Immersion your model for rapid growth.

You will be amazed at what happens when you become a whiz at “uni-tasking.”

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

164. Don’t put your toe in the water, dive in.

You’ve made a decision. You’re going to learn a new language.

Now what?

Well, if you’re like most people, you will probably enroll in a local course with classes once or twice a week or you will purchase a linguistic program like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur and spend a little time each day attempting to learn the vagaries of a new language.

Over time, you will develop a sense of grammar and punctuation, sentence construction and nuance and your vocabulary will continue to grow a few words at a time

If you happen to meet a native speaker of this language, you may be able to commence a conversation, but it is highly unlikely you will be able to speak with much fluency for a very long time.

You will dutifully complete all assignments and your progress will indeed be measurable in tiny increments.


You can try a different method.

Let’s say you were attempting to learn Spanish and decided time is of the essence and your need for fluency is urgent.

Perhaps then, instead of the above, you fly to Mexico, seek out a family, offer them a vast amount of money to allow you to move into their home and, for six months, you spend every waking moment with them, going to work, out to eat, visiting with their friends, going to movies, all the while living your entire life in Spanish.

What will your level of fluency be at the end of six months, as compared to a few hours a week in a classroom?

It’s an easy question. Obviously, by the end of six months, you will have achieved a high level of fluency and, although your grammar may be a bit suspect and your vocabulary a bit wanting, your ability to communicate in Spanish will be light years ahead of anything Rosetta Stone can provide for you.

Why? Because you have done the one thing that, more than anything else, is necessary for all of us if we wish to achieve rapid growth and massive change.

You have practiced total and complete immersion.

The Habit of Total Immersion is the one habit we must all embrace if we are truly serious about bringing massive and permanent change into our lives.

The Habit of Total Immersion represents the difference between dabbling at something or becoming so committed to an outcome that you devote every available moment to enveloping yourself in every facet of the result you are trying to achieve.

Athletes don’t become superstars by training for 30 minutes each month. Maestros don’t become superstars by tickling the keys on rare occasions. Surgeons don’t become world class by operating a couple of times a year.

Developing extraordinary proficiency requires extraordinary commitment and The Habit of Total Immersion is the only assured pathway of making quantum leaps in progress. It is the difference between incremental gain and massive leap.

Many of us undertake change with the desire for massive results coupled with the willingness to commit to only minimal contribution and once we realize our expectations are not being met we forgo even that scant effort while justifying that we “gave it our best.”

If ever you are serious – truly serious – about implementing massive and permanent change into any area of your life, please commit to making The Habit of Total Immersion a key part of your strategy because diving head first into the deep end of the pool will always help make you a better swimmer than dipping a toe into the shallow end.

The longer you stay in the pool and practice your strokes the faster you will become the swimmer you want to be.

It’s a pretty straightforward concept, isn’t it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.