Like many zillennials out there, I grew up glued to my couch watching Hannah Montana. And one of the greatest joys of my life was being able to rewatch the entire series as a 22 year old. (thank you Disney +) 

I rewatched the series purely for entertainment and nostalgic reasons. But, as the episodes rolled through, I discovered a pretty obvious pattern. I noticed that every single episode goes a little something like this:

Miley is living her best normal girl life and commits to doing something. And then Hannah is being her rockstar self and commits to doing something without remembering Miley already had a commitment the same day, at the same time. Instead of being reasonable about it and working through it, she tries to find a way to do both things at once. And –– sweet niblets –– she always ends up failing. 

As a kid, this used to be funny to me. But now, with my 22 year-old eyes, I can’t help but think it’s a bit stupid. And, as with many stupid things, there is a lesson behind it. Boy, I never thought I’d be saying that about a Disney Channel show.

The big lesson here is: learn how and when to say no.

Miley/Hannah most certainly did not know how to say no and prioritize what actually mattered to her and thus, she always ended up in sticky situations. We do not want to be like Miley/Hannah.

And, I’m not sure if this is going to be a wakeup call for anyone, but this happens a little too often in real life too. We don’t know how to prioritize our time and say no to the things we need to say no to and we always end up overwhelmed and doing stuff that doesn’t bring us meaning. 

I’ve found this to be especially true for those of us who are just starting out in our careers. 

‘Say yes to everything’ is common advice we always get and, while there are some benefits to saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way, I don’t think it’s the most useful advice. Especially if you already have enough on your plate. 

I understand the pressure of wanting to say yes to everything, even the things you don’t really feel enthusiastic about. I’ve certainly said yes to things I shouldn’t have said yes to, one too many times. And while it feels like you have to constantly say yes to gain as much experience as possible, you shouldn’t do it at the expense of your happiness or your time. 

When you’re starting out in your career, your most valuable asset is your time. So you must learn how to use it as best as you can and that means learning how to prioritize and how to stop saying yes when you really want to say no. 

The word no has a negative connotation so it’s not exactly a word people want to use often. But we must flip that switch! Because no is not a bad word. And, when used correctly, it holds a lot of positive power. 

I know this is easier said than done, especially when you don’t feel you have the right to say no. But remember: you are the one in charge of your life and you can decline opportunities without feeling guilty. 

As I’m starting out in my career and experiencing this yes/no dilemma first hand, I have started practicing this amazing mindset to empower myself and learn how to say no for the right reasons. Whenever I’m faced with a decision, I always remind myself:

If it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no. If it’s not a hell no, say yes.

And I go from there. 

I learned about this mindset through the Praxis community and it has helped me prioritize what I believe is important to me and what will help me grow. And, most importantly,  say no to the things that aren’t pushing me toward my goals. It has also helped me identify when I’m saying no because of fear and when I’m saying no because I really do not think it aligns with my path. 

Through practicing this mindset, I’ve discovered that it requires a bit of introspection and honesty from your part. You have to get good at recognizing if you are saying yes or no for the right reasons and not because you’re either scared to lose an opportunity that you don’t even want, or it just feels more comfortable to say no. 

The more you practice and the more you condition your mind to think like this, it will become a natural thing. A habit if you will. And little by little you’ll learn the appropriate times to accept or decline an experience and avoid a Miley/Hannah situation. 

How about this? The next time you have a hard time prioritizing your time and projects, ask yourself: would Miley or Hannah say yes to all of this? If your answer is yes, you might have to review what you’re choosing to commit to. And instead of saying yes, empower yourself to say no! 

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