A key concept in strategic planning is not only determining what goals to pursue, but also identifying what you should not implement. There are always more good ideas than are feasible, and a true strategy involves prioritization and choices.

Author Michael Bungay Stanier put it this way: “Strategy is all about saying no to the stuff you want to say yes to.” Think about that one for a minute. Saying yes to certain good options and no to other good options is easier said than done.

I think the ability to make such decisions has roots in the level of self-discipline we have cultivated in our personal lives. If we are able to set our own boundaries and say no to things we want, then we grow that muscle to flex in our organizational lives.

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” said Rabbi Stephanie Alexander. Her examples include spending, eating unhealthy foods, going as fast as your car’s speedometer says you can or instantaneously responding to the message alert on your phone. If we always respond to temptation on small issues, we won’t have the discipline when we really need it for tougher choices.

It is even sometimes hard to say no to bad choices, but it becomes even more difficult to say no to good things. Try to strengthen your “no muscle” this week by setting some boundaries for yourself. Then say no to things, even if they are desirable, that don’t meet your criteria. I predict you’ll enjoy the power that comes when there is a clear demarcation between what is your priority and what isn’t.

— beth triplett

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