It’s OK to say NO

This article was originally published on June 5, 2017 and has been updated.

Hey it’s “Remps” here. Remember me? I re-introduced myself a couple of weeks ago! I want to touch again on the importance of resilience, of being true to yourself, and about both your physical and mental wellness.

As a former elite level athlete and someone who suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury, I can tell you all about what it takes to achieve both physical and mental wellness. While I am not a qualified medical professional, I do know a few things about the subject of resilience after all I’ve been through.

One of my favourite sayings is “be the HERO in your own movie”. You might think that to be a hero, you always have to push yourself to the limit, to always say “Yes!” to challenges. Because that’s what a hero does right? A hero always answers “the call.”

The reality is a true hero sometimes says “No.”

A true hero will listen to their inner voice and to the voices of their biggest supporters and they will learn the magic of “just saying no.” As I like to remind myself constantly, my inner voice is there for a reason and your inner voice is wise – so make it welcome. Pay attention to it!

Resilience and courage come from your inner core. In the preface to my book, “Still Standing”, I wrote “we all have our own story” and more importantly, “you are not alone in your struggles.” I wrote those words and share my own stories and thoughts on tapping into your inner resolve, in the hopes of inspiring you to have the strength to both find, and listen, to your own inner voice.  

Here is what I know.

Whatever challenge you are facing, be it a health challenge, a physical challenge, or a mental struggle, each and every day you are called upon to be strong, to be the hero in your own movie simply by getting up, getting out of bed and beginning your day.

For me—after my spinal cord injury—my challenge was as simple as moving one toe. As time passed, my challenge was overcoming a looming Percocet addiction to refocus all my energy on becoming a member of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team. These were huge challenges that came about, in part, due to huge adversity.

Resilience is what got me through, of that I have no doubt.  

However, equally as important were those days I learned the magic power of saying “No.”

Sometimes, whether it’s a new opportunity, a new level of training, a new business idea, or even a chance to share your story with others in a way that might be meaningful and helpful, you have to first determine your own mental state.

I learned that being a hero wasn’t always about working harder. Sometimes, being a hero was to actually stop work. Stopping allowed me to get healthy, to get in the right mental state and to care for myself so that I could care for my clients and/or my fellow teammates.

I allowed myself a vacation, and took a full week off to get away from the city and disconnect. I literally slept for the first four days, that’s how truly tired my mind and body were. It wasn’t until I stopped that my body had “permission” to really shut down and relax.

Every one of us often faces pressure to “embrace opportunity” and to “make the most of life” and other such catchphrases,  but I’m here to tell you that when you face multiple challenges and have jumped many hurdles, it is equally important – and an act of both resilience and courage – to ADMIT that you need to take a break, that you need to step down from your responsibilities. “Strap the oxygen mask on yourself first” and just breathe.

I remember words spoken during a shift at a critical game in Sochi that still resonates with me even now: “Calm your breathing down. Focus.” What was true then is true now, whether it’s in high pressure stakes situations like Sochi or the daily challenges we all must face, the simple act of breathing is critically important.

I find the meditation app “Headspace” exceptionally helpful. It took at least nine of the first ten sessions before I actually started to feel like I was “getting it” but after sticking with it I began to feel the calming presence of just slowing down. Meditation can sometimes make a busy person feel restless, but separating yourself from everything that’s going on around you will help you refocus and recognize the importance of simply “being.”

I love the grind and I thrive on pushing myself to see how much I can accomplish in my life but being the hero in my own movie meant saying “no” to work and stopping, even when I didn’t feel like it.

Ask yourself, how can you be the hero and start saying “No” in your own life? Listen to your inner voice. It’s wise.

Kevin Rempel

I help people adopt the mindset about life and people with disabilities that drive results and embrace change.