How to Say No, Resist Temptation and Stick to Your Goals
Learning how to say no is one of the most useful skills you can develop, especially when it comes to living a healthy life.
Say no to unnecessary commitments, and you have the time you need to recover and rejuvenate. Say no to daily distractions, and you have the space you need to focus on what is important to you. And saying no to frequent temptations can help you stay on track and achieve your health goals.
This, of course, begs the question: how do we avoid distraction and get past the urgencies of everyday life, so that we can actually live healthy and do the things that are really important to us?
It seems like a big task, but research is starting to show that small changes can make a significant impact. In fact, here's one change you can make right now that will make it easier for you to say no, resist temptation and stick to your health and fitness goals for the long–term.
How to Say No: Research Reveals the Best Way
In a research study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, 120 students were split into two different groups.
The difference between these two groups was saying “I can't” compared to “I don't.”
One group was told that each time they were faced with a temptation, they would tell themselves “I can't do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I can't eat ice cream.”
When the second group was faced with a temptation, they were told to say “I don't do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I don't eat ice cream.”
After repeating these phrases, each student answered a set of questions unrelated to the study. Once they finished answering their questions, the students went to hand in their answer sheet, thinking that the study was over. In reality, it was just beginning.
As each student walked out of the room and handed in their answer sheet, they were offered a complimentary treat. The student could choose between a chocolate candy bar or a granola health bar. As the student walked away, the researcher would mark their snack choice on the answer sheet.
Here's what happened…
The students who told themselves “I can't eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, the students who told themselves “I don't eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time. This simple change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.
How the “Right Words” Make It Easier to Say No
The same researchers were also interested in how the words “can't” and “don't” affect our willingness to say no over the long–term and stick to goals when faced with repeated temptation. After all, most of us can turn down a candy bar once, but eventually we slip up.
In other words, is there a way to say no that makes it more likely that we'll stick to healthy habits and avoid unhealthy ones?