Food for Thought: What should we say “No” to?

kayak Lodi Lake

Last weekend I did two things that felt really good. I went kayaking with Rodrigo (a.k.a Joãomy husband) in Lodi, the small town where my mom lives. It was so peaceful, and I hadn’t been kayaking in many years. Perfection! I also went to yoga, where, as usual, I had some a-ha moments.

I used to practice yoga a lot. Like every day. Or at least a few times a week, sometimes at home and sometimes at a class. I loved it. The community in my classes, the spiritual side of yoga, and all the emotional support were the main reasons I loved it so, but the physical benefits were a big plus for me, too.

its all yoga

I continued my practice after Noah was born but stopped during the crisis of my pregnancy with Gabriel and never went back regularly. Two kids, a full-time-ish job, and blogging meant that I just “didn’t have time” for yoga anymore. I missed it. So I kept reminding myself to go back. And, finally, I did. And it felt so good.

My teacher, Michelle, is one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever known. She infuses lessons into her yoga classes, lessons that leave me feeling inspired in ways I don’t always expect. On Sunday she mentioned that we have to say no to things that we want to say yes to. Yep, say no when we want to say yes.

Maybe you can relate to this. I live a daily struggle of trying to fit more into my days. I never have empty space in my day, and that leaves me feeling anxious because there are so many things I want to do. If only I could squeeze in more hikes, more dates, more social time, more cuddles with my kids, more trips, and more exercise! (While my kids live totally in the moment…)


I’ve never thought of saying no to things that I actually want to do. I’m pretty good at saying no to the unnecessary or not-so-fun things: the extra work at my job, the social event with people I don’t love, the invitation to something that doesn’t suit me. But if I’m being honest with myself, it’s not really enough. I need to cut out even some of the good stuff because life shouldn’t be a struggle to fit it all in–it should be about enjoying what we do have.

Would my life feel less “busy” if I said no to more? Would my job feel better if I gave my students less work and we focused on really learning the things I’m trying to teach them? Would my family relationships improve if we did less, even if it meant doing less of what we love? Would my social life feel happier if I said “no” to more invitations? Most important: could this lead to more space in my life?

Since Sunday, I’ve been thinking about what good stuff I may need to trim away. I can’t really think of anything. That’s the challenge! But a couple of times when I found myself wanting to pounce on something, I told myself to hold off. It seems wise to let things go with the promise that I can return to them later if I have time. Somehow I doubt I will, and that’s OK.

What advice do you have for minimizing activity and cutting back on things, even things that you love? What should we say no to?

P.S. Previous posts in the “Food for Thought” series:

Should we raise our kids to be bilingual?

When should kids be away from their parents?


Photo courtesy It’s All Yoga in Sacramento


  • Natalie says:

    I’m definitely guilty of saying yes to way too much–both the things I want to do and the things that I feel like I’m pressured into saying yes to. When it comes to my blog and traveling (both things I LOVE), i tend to say yes to everything interesting that comes my way, and that backfired majorly this summer when I just got burned out. Saying no to blogging for a few months (and even canceling some press trips I was looking forward to) even though I didn’t want to quit was one of the best things I’ve done lately!

    • Jenna says:

      Yes. I hear you. As I mentioned at the end of this, I now try to say no first and then reassure myself that IF I end up having time, I’ll try to do it. But I never end up having time and feel grateful for not trying to squeeze in everything.

  • Hi Jenna! First of all, it was so good to meet you this past weekend and spend some time together. Second of all, yoga is going to be beneficial for your mind and body EVERY time you go, so don’t feel too bad about not being regular with it any more. I really love how you’ve shared the lesson you learned in your latest yoga class. I also enjoy it when I come away with a new take on how to “take on the world.” And sometimes that “take on the world” attitude is what needs to change, because being more present requires not treating everything like a task. We’ll never have enough time for all the things we think we should be doing, but maybe we have just enough time for the things that really matter. Deep thoughts! hahah! Have a fabulous week and keep in touch. 🙂
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted..The great travel stretch, 40 Under 40, updates and my weekly workoutsMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Ashley,
      It was so nice to meet you, too! So many truths in what you’ve said here, and yes, we need to know that scaling back is not something to feel bad about. It’s necessary for health and happiness sometimes. Have a wonderful week and trip to LA!

  • This is why I’ve pretty much stopped blogging. My freelance writing career keeps me too busy. Thankfully I have a travel column in a newspaper that keeps me tied to that side of my writing, so I finally feel OK about letting the blog float along for a while as I figure out my career. When I added the blog three years ago it brought many great opportunities and friendships. It also became a drag, and even though I wanted to say yes to it, I finally allowed myself to tell it no. I’ve been much happier since that time.

    • Jenna says:

      Good for you that you knew when to stop and that it was a positive change! Because my day job is so different, I enjoy blogging, but I can understand how it can get overwhelming. No reason to feel overloaded–that’s not what life is for!

  • Venice Ng says:

    Thank you for sharing, prof. Jenna. I say “no” all the time because my main focus is finishing school. I say no because I set priority for life, and ask myself what is important for my life and my family life. For example, I will go exercise because being healthy and happy is one of the top of my priority. Going to my friend’s birthday is often “no”, but if she is sick, I will be there for her.

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