N = No and Know

Sections of this topic

    Reflecting on the right word for N, I kept coming back to the word No. Then I was in the class that I’m helping to pilot for a client called Renewing Life – which integrates the mind, body and spirit partnership – and I know why No is the right word. We discussed the following activity in class, which explains it all. I’m using the exercise with permission so that you too can increase your ability to know when to say No. These are the facilitator instructions for you to conduct the activity yourself. I encourage you to do so!


    1. Each person is to take out two sheets of paper. Give the following instructions one at a time as you do each one.

    2. On the first sheet of paper write the word: SHOULD. On the other side of this piece of paper write the word: WHY.

    3. On the second sheet of paper write the word: KNOW. On the other side of this piece of paper write the word: NO.

    4. After everyone has written these words on their papers, the facilitator tells the participants to crumple, crunch up, rip to pieces, and destroy and throw the SHOULD and WHY paper into the wastebasket. (This is usually done with great drama.)

    5. Explain:

    Should and WHY are questions with no answers. They are both examples of “stinking thinking” as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. Louise Hay, in her book, You Can Heal Your Life, says that she believes SHOULD is one of the most damaging words in the English language.


    • imply we are wrong, or we were wrong, or we are going to be wrong
    • teach us NOT to listen to our own intuition or inner knowledge.
    • often have us feeling drained or guilty

    Instead of thinking about what we should or shouldn’t do, ask yourself if an activity is LIFE-GIVING. Will this action give my life meaning, will it give me energy? If it will, then it becomes something to plan to do and look forward to….something you could do…or might do.

    WHY is in the same category. There is no answer to the question “WHY?” It is okay to try to make sense of the things that happen to us. Making sense of something is different than finding answers to the WHY questions in our lives…”Why me?…Why didn’t I take better care of myself?” (Sounds a little like the SHOULD question!). WHY does not produce results. It just reinforces staying stuck. It is like trying to change the past, instead of saying, “Now that this has happened what am I going to do with it?”

    MAKING SENSE is more realistic. It is answering questions in a different way.

    6. Now take the second sheet of paper with the KNOW and NO on it.


    • From this course you have more knowledge – you have gained skills, self-awareness, and self-acceptance.
    • From your illness or the struggles with the illness of those you love, you have grown, you KNOW yourself and what you need better, and you may have a greater sense of what you want from your life and what you have to contribute. Knowledge is healing.
    • From these same experiences you have asked yourself your limits and have grown in your ability to say NO to those things that are not life giving, or dissipate that energy you need for living.

    Saying NO to others is often saying YES to you. It is setting healthy boundaries and helping add focus and direction in your life.

    NOTE: Use the NO page to demonstrate when you hold it right side up then “Say NO (then turn the sheet upside down so the word is now ON) to turn your immune system ON.”

    This is the whole course! You now KNOW much more than when you started Renewing Life and you can say No to things that will drain your energy and say YES to yourself.

    Fold the KNOW/NO paper and keep it in a safe place always. You now KNOW how to live in the NOW.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.