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An Invitation to Just Say No

Updated: Apr 10

When was the last time you quit something? When was the last time you said no to a request?

pen and paper with the words "it's okay to say no"

But wait, isn't quitting bad? Weren't we always taught "winners never quit" and "once you commit to something, you stick with it"? I encourage you to reconsider that perspective with an invitation to quit. An invitation to simply say no. To let go of things that no longer serve you.


Learning to say no and allowing myself to quit things that no longer serve me has been an eye-opener. It started when I began researching Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This resulted in me clarifying my values and committing to actions that related to those values. I encourage you to do the same, whether you are a professional in the behavior analysis field or not.


My story


A quick anecdote here. Without going into too much detail, I quit my job as a clinical supervisor for an in-home ABA company in early 2022. I worked in the field for 13 years at this point. My resignation came after weeks of immense burnout. It was a combination of home stressors on top of work life. I requested modifications to better balance work and home life to reduce my burnout. Unfortunately, my needs did not align with the needs of the company, so I chose to prioritize myself and resign. I did not have another job lined up (whew another one of the things we were always told to never do-Quit without a job lined up).


Over the next several weeks, as I transitioned cases and left the clinical field, I closely considered my values as I sought a new position. This led me on the mission toward freelance work and independent practice. It's been a whirlwind as I ventured out into identifying what I wanted out of my life. Saying no and allowing myself to quit was what I needed to live a values-driven life.


Perhaps you're reading this and thinking I love my career, can't relate. Rest assured, this message is not solely focused on employment. I encourage you to read on to further explore the benefits of saying no.


What are your values?

It is encouraged to first evaluate what your values are. Loving Health has a helpful list for evaluating your values across multiple domains of life. It's easy to spout out a few common and generic values like 'family' or 'financial security'. However, to live within your values means diving deeper.




Of all that I hold, what can I put down?

We have seemingly endless responsibilities. From work expectations to coursework, family, taking care of the home, and countless others. I challenge you to consider all of your responsibilities and what you can comfortably let go of. It doesn't have to be drastic. Please don't all go quit your jobs and come back to blame me when shit hits the fan. 🤣 But I imagine there is at least one action you can make to better live within your values. And it's very likely letting go of something or saying no. What no longer serves you? What provides more stress than value in your life?


We all have stressors and that is not something we can expect to ever change. But if stressors are prohibiting you from living a values-driven life, then what changes could you make today to better align? As your boss assigns you another case when you're already at your personal capacity, could you advocate for yourself? "No, I am unable to take on another case at this time due to X, Y, Z. I appreciate your support and understanding." Contrary to previously held popular belief, it is okay to say no. Say no more often.


Why say no?

Saying no and quitting things that do not add value to your life is a powerful way to practice self-care. Self-care is more than spa days and bubble baths (though I will say bubble baths are one of my favorite self-care activities). Self-care can be considered a repertoire of values-directed actions. Allowing yourself to be a whole, fulfilled person, living in alignment with your values in every facet of life, is perhaps the most radical form of self-care (Fiebig et al, 2020). In order to achieve this, you may need to let go of things that do not add value to your life.


Final Thoughts

Identifying our values and making values-directed actions is not a one time thing. It is an ongoing process and a commitment to behave in a way that aligns with what we hold as valuable in our lives. If you're anything like me and struggle with saying no, consider today how advocating for yourself by quitting that which does not serve you can liberating.


Resources

Fiebig, J.H., Gould, E.R., Ming, S. et al. An Invitation to Act on the Value of Self-Care: Being a Whole Person in All That You Do. Behav Analysis Practice13, 559–567 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40617-020-00442-x