“No” Is the New “Yes!”

Figure out what you don’t want to find out what you do want.

“Small” is the new “big.”

“Orange” is the new “black.”

“40” is the new “20.”

And “No” is definitely the new “Yes!”

I notice that when I ask my clients what they want in their lives, 99% of the time they answer with what they do not want.

I used to think this was negative thinking, a self-defeating mindset, but I’ve come to see that it’s actually a combination of not completing the terrible twos, plus the contradictory side of human nature.

Most grownups still need to stamp our feet and say, “No!” before we find our “Yes.”

The terrible twos are a time of psychological differentiation between you and your parents. It’s a time to discover that you have the power to exercise your own will. That you, too, have authority within the family.

As you oppose your parents (At dinner: “I won’t eat my vegetables!” At bedtime: “I’m not sleepy!” In subzero weather: “I won’t wear my jacket!”) you glean that you have an independent life of your own.

When upset and dissatisfied, children think, “I’m running away from home!” but teenagers think, “I’m going to save up and get my own place.”

In this context, “No” precedes “Yes.” It’s not negative. It’s natural.

By pushing against what you don’t want, something inside clears the way for what you do want.

The quickest route to clarifying what you DO want is to make a “NO” list. Write down what you don’t want, for example:

  • I don’t want to work at my crappy job anymore!
  • I don’t want to date an emotionally unavailable person ever again!
  • I don’t want my kids talking back to me disrespectfully!
  • I don’t want to be in debt!
  • I don’t want to be physically sick!
  • I don’t want to be overweight!
  • I don’t want to waste my life procrastinating!

Now for the fun part. Translate each item you do not want into what you do want. Don’t be surprised if at first you’re stymied. Many people bump up against their own undeveloped younger self when finally confronted with responsibility for fulfilling your own desires. Let’s give it a try together.


Using our example list (above), here goes:

I don’t want to work at my crappy job anymore!
Translation: I DO want … ummmm, hmmmm, I DO want … a meaningful career …that helps others … and … to be appreciated by my peers.

Notice the feelings that come up. They are usually contradictory. You may feel hopeful, and undeserving. You may feel energized and paralyzed. You may feel excited, and get a sudden craving for mashed potatoes (or whatever your go-to comfort food is). You may impulsively enroll in a career course of some kind, and just as impulsively want to quit just three weeks later.

“Adults are only little children grown taller.” ~ Milton Erickson

“No” is not going anywhere. As renowned psychiatrist Milton Erickson so wisely pointed out, adults are not very grown up. But we can appreciate our childish tendencies and use them to our best advantage.

Get well-acquainted with your “No” so that it doesn’t sabotage your newly clarified goals. “No” can work for you and against you.

So raise your self-awareness and catch yourself when “No” comes up so you don’t get stuck there.

Instead, enjoy stamping your foot vigorously … which will clear the way for your next big “YES!”