Psychologies works with selected partners who pay to promote their products and services. Learn More

How to make sure that saying “no” at work serves your longer-term goals.

In this final post on the topic, we explore how having a longer-term view of what you want, or don't want, to achieve in your career will have a real impact on day-to-day choices.

This is the fourth and final post exploring “How to say ‘no’ at work and still succeed” (based on my series of videos for Life Labs, on the same topic).

If you have read the other posts in the series by now you understand more about where your own compulsion to say “yes” comes from, and started to get some helpful ‘checks and balances’ in place so that you can make more managed responses.

In this post we are going to consider how having a longer-term view of what you want, and don’t want, to achieve in your current role will have a real impact on the choices you make day-to-day.

How do you make sure that saying “no” will serve your goals?


Simply put, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know how to get there?

Thinking about your longer-term goals, so that you can say “yes” to the things that will help you get there and “no” to those that won’t, is an important factor in saying “no” at work.

Sometimes we get so mired in the day-to-day, that we lose sight of these. Taking time out to think about whether it is actually what we want to be doing, or to think about what we would like to be doing instead or in the future, stays firmly on the back burner. 

These days few of us have clear linear career paths – we may even have several careers during our working lives – and setting out one path only to change direction is   

The trick is to establish goals that focus you on the things that truly matter. These things may seem simple but are often overlooked.  

They include such things as actually enjoying your work. If you get up every day dreading the thought of going to work, you need to do something about it. 

We spend so much time at work. If you like your job, but don’t love it, what’s missing? Is there a way of filling this gap in your current role?

You may be tempted to say yes to something because it suits your short-term career goals (that next promotion or a salary increase). It may even bring you other shorter-term benefits which include earning enough money to maintain the life style you’ve chosen – or pay the rent.

But beyond these, how will it serve your longer-term work, or life, goals? 

Growing your self-awareness of your strengths and values and matching these to the things that bring you joy and the promise of fulfillment, is a good way to set goals. 


Setting a life direction can be a good alternative to setting goals, and somehow less scary. 

These days few of us have clear linear career paths – we may even have several careers during our working lives – and setting out one path only to change direction is no longer unusual. 

Think about the things that would create a fun, meaningful compelling journey. Some questions you can ask yourself are:

“How do I want to spend my time?”

“What daily activities make me want to leap out of bed?”

“What do I want to learn?”

“Who do I want to spend my time with? Talk with? Collaborate with?” 

The answers to these questions will help you to set your goals. The specific goals you choose may change in time, but by setting them you have determined the direction of travel. 

Rather than adopting goals you hope will change your life once you reach it, do it the other way around. Choose the journey that for you will be awesome – full of activities, personal growth and people you enjoy spending time with – and use it as your compass. 

Your direction may take you on a different path to the one you are on now. This doesn’t mean that you should take immediate decisions to change jobs, or careers, but it does mean that you are a start of a journey that may eventually lead to these decisions. 

You will also become your own arbiter of what “success” looks like. For you.

To close with, I’d like to invite you to take a few minutes to think about your personal action plan going forward. 

What steps can you take to set your own rules about when to say “yes” and when to say “no”?

What are the actions you can commit to today/this week?

What are you committed to working on, going forwards?

And, finally, is there someone who will hold you accountable? This may be a friend, a colleague….or even a coach!

Louise Rodgers

Louise Rodgers

Founder & coach

The competing pressures of modern life can make it hard to keep a sense of who you are, what you want, and the steps you need to take in order to live your “best life”. I give the individuals and businesses I work with the opportunity to stand back and take stock. A skilled thinking partner to work with while you do this may be all you need in order to find clarity, a renewed sense of purpose and a good view of the road ahead. I call this process reflect, reframe and refocus and I do my best to make sure it is a fun, creative and thought-provoking journey of self-awareness. Before training as a coach with Barefoot, I co-founded and ran my own PR agency. I know what it’s like to build and lead a creative start-up, to juggle multiple projects and to find some balance between work, home and family life. I have found my niche in working with creative individuals and entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Past clients have included one who runs a ninja training gym, another embarking on a new career as delicatessen owner and a third who now heads up a social enterprise business.

Enable referrer and click cookie to search for eefc48a8bf715c1b ad9bf81e74a9d264 [] 2.7.22