Have you ever told yourself no? I definitely have. I’m talking about thoughts like “Why bother applying? I doubt that school would ever accept me,” or “This business idea isn’t going to work. I’m too old/too young/too inexperienced.”
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Or maybe “He’d never date me. I might as well move on.” Or “My boss won’t promote me anyway. Why should I even ask?”
From what I can tell, we all doubt ourselves from time to time. The problem, of course, is that telling yourself no prevents you from getting started at all. When you decide not to act, you deny yourself opportunities.
Once I realized this, I started following a simple little rule that has helped me stick to things and persevere when I normally would have given up. Here’s how it works and why you should use it.
Don’t Give Up At The First “No”
Most of us will do just about anything to avoid failure. (Why do you think celebrities, congressmen, and athletes say and do so many stupid things to cover up scandals of all types? They desperately want to avoid failure as long as possible.)
I think this is natural. Nobody wants to fail. On a smaller scale, you and I also want to prevent failure. And that’s why we come up with reasons for why we shouldn’t do things that we want to do. And it’s also why we abandon our ideas as soon as we get any type of negative feedback.
But here’s the thing: No rarely means impossible. No rarely means never. Usually, if someone tells you “no” what they really mean is “not right now” or “not in that way.”
Keeping that in mind, I’ve started to follow a simple rule that helps me get past negative feedback and gives me a little bit more perseverance when I would normally call it quits.
Here’s the rule: Don’t give up at the first, “No.”
Maybe it’s you telling yourself no. Maybe it’s someone else shooting you down. Either way, don’t stop the first time you hear no. Negative feedback is a signal to adjust your idea, not to abandon it. There’s no reason to act as if you’re destined to fail. Instead, use the word no as a trigger to tweak your approach.
How to Overcome the Fear of Failure
One common reason we tell ourselves no is because we don’t think we’re ready yet. “I’m not experienced enough.” Or, “I need to learn more.” Or, “I need to figure out a better plan first.”
We do this because we want to succeed right from the beginning.
But, I’m starting to realize that the time has come to abandon the need to be amazing in favor of taking action. You don’t need to be fantastic at the start, you just need to be there at the start.
If you set your bar at “amazing,” it’s awfully difficult to start. -Seth Godin
When you start your first business, you’ll probably make a thousands mistakes. When you write the first draft of your book, it will probably be terrible. When you ask someone out for the first time, you’ll probably say something stupid. When you go to the gym for the first time, you’ll probably feel out of place. When you surround yourself with people who are better than you, you’ll probably feel untalented or unintelligent.
If you’re in this for the long haul, then this won’t be the only time you do these things. There will be plenty of time to become amazing. Anything can happen once you get started, but only if you get started.
Of course, if you really want to, then you can dream up reasons for why now isn’t the right time, this isn’t the right place, and you’re not quite ready… but I don’t think that’s your job.
It’s not your job to tell yourself no. It’s not your job to deny yourself opportunities. It’s not your job to prevent your own progress. There are enough people in the world who will do those things for you.
Your job is to embrace rather than ignore. Your job is to pursue rather than prevent. Your job is to tell yourself “yes” instead of “no.”
That’s your job.
It’s Not Your Job to Tell Yourself “No” | James Clear
James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research. You can read his best articles or join his free newsletter to learn how to build habits that stick.
Image by Dmitry Guzhanin (Shutterstock).