It’s OK to say NO

Hey it’s “Remps” here. Remember me? I introduced myself a few weeks ago and since then I’ve spent some time talking about the importance of resiliency, of being true to yourself and about both your physical and mental wellness. While I am not a qualified medical professional, after all I’ve been through I know a few things about the subject.

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. One of my favourite sayings is “be the HERO in your own movie” and 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!

Resiliency 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.  

Here is what I know. Whatever challenge you are facing, be it a health challenge, a physical one 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, later 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. Resiliency 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 development 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 it 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.

Each of us often face 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 resiliency 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 using the meditation app “Headspace” exceptionally helpful. It took at least nine of the first ten sessions to actually 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.”

Recently, I also gave in to the idea of a vacation. I 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 til I stopped that my body had “permission” to really shut down and relax.

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.