5 steps to knowing how to use the power of “yes” to help you set healthy boundaries.

Owning your ability to say “yes” and “no” is one of the tasks of honoring healthy boundaries. But it can be hard sometimes to know which answer to give, especially when wanting to please the people we care about.

In fact, it can almost feel easier to go either one way or another. We tend to swing into all or nothing when we get tired or scared about making these kinds of decisions, saying yes to everything, or no to everything.

Neither of these extremes helps us feel confident and safe within our boundaries. Either we are overrun by the demands of others or we run the risk of becoming disconnected and isolated from others. (Not to mention missing opportunities to grow and learn!)

A better way is to own your “yes” and “no” with confidence. This is part of having healthy boundaries. YOU get to decide what you do with your time and energy!

Here are 5 steps to help you determine when to say “yes” or “no”!

Step One:  Ask yourself 2 questions.

  1. What are the things, people, activities, and pursuits that energize me? What grounds me? What brings me that feeling of peace and satisfaction? (These are the experiences that align with your values and your sense of meaning and purpose in life.)

2. What are the things, people and activities that drain me or I feel resentment about? Are these experiences within my control or out of my control? What am I doing that I don’t want to be doing? What does my inner wisdom tell me should be happening for my best good?

Asking yourself these 2 questions can help you sort through the many decisions you have to make each day regarding how you spend your time and where you focus your energy

Step Two: Recognize that you have one bucket of time and energy

We moms are always racing to cram more into our day, and it sets us up for exhaustion and frustration. When you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s probably because you have too much demand and not enough time or resources. Your inner wisdom will guide you in knowing how much time you really have to get the things done that are most important to you. And when you take on a new job, a new baby, a new move, a new anything, remember that you are ADDING to an already full life, so be prepared to adjust your expectations and be flexible!

Step Three: Front load your “Yes” and it will become clear when and where you need to say “No”.

These “Yes’s” can guide you in knowing when to say “No” because you have already committed to the activities that most align with your values. (And you only have one bucket of time and energy, right?!)

  • I will say yes to getting 7 hours of sleep each night. (That’s if you don’t have a child up at night!)
  • I will say yes to taking a nap if I didn’t get enough sleep.
  • I will say yes to eating breakfast each morning!
  • I will say yes to which activities at my children’s school that make the best use of my time in staying connected to them.
  • I will say yes to being treated with respect and kindness.

Everything else that comes your way will have to fit into the time and energy you have left or else you may have to say “no”.

Step Four: Practice saying “no” with confidence and grace.

Did you know that there’s a way to say “no” that is so kind and confident that people will almost thank you?  It goes like this:

“Thank you so much for thinking of me, (or asking me) but I’m not able to take that on right now. I’d love to help another time.” And then you change the subject.

Saying “no” does not mean that you’re not a nice person. It means you are taking responsibility for your life. When you say “no” you are simply choosing which things you can reasonably take on and which things you cannot. This is what keeps you and your family healthy and strong and free of resentment.

Step Five: Remember that you are responsible for you and not for others.

With the exception of your little children’s safety and well-being, you are only responsible for yourself. (Notice I didn’t say that you are responsible for your children’s happiness!) This allows you to let go of feeling responsible to make others happy or relieve their stress. When you say “yes” it’s because you want to! You may gift a friend some of your time to help her out, but it is your choice, not something you owe them.  At times, you may feel a duty to help or to serve in some way. Duty is honoring the values you hold dear NOT being obligated to please others.

You can trust your inner wisdom to guide you as you decide where to place your time and energy. With permission, you will be better able to hear that internal voice guiding you in each decision.

Consider printing out this Boundary Statement and reading through it once a day until it becomes second nature to you

I have a right and responsibility to say “yes” when I need to and “no” when I want to.

Though I may love saying yes, knowing when to say no is the sign of mature and responsible human beings. Choosing wisely how I give of my time, my energy, and my heart is how I preserve my core wellness. My priorities may shift as I go through different seasons in my life, but I trust in my inner wisdom to help me choose boundaries wisely. I release myself from expectations that may be unrealistic and commit to letting go of guilt and regret as I make difficult choices. As I say “yes” with a clear heart, resentment has no more place in my life. Saying “no” at times becomes a clear and reasonable choice when I give myself permission to take care of myself.




  1. Ashleigh

    I really love step 3 of the process. It’s a good checklist of what needs to come first before I take on new obligations.

    • Leigh Germann, LCSW

      Isn’t it great to make decisions from the place of what we DO want rather than what we DON’T want? It’s a small shift that has made all the difference in my life! Thanks so much for your thoughts!


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