Self-help gurus and motivational speakers worldwide will tell you that "yes" is an empowering word, and indeed it is. "Yes" opens doors and breaks down barriers. "Yes" gets people to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things that help open their minds to new philosophies and perspectives.

But "no" is also a powerful word, and one that we all need to employ more in both our personal and professional lives. "No" doesn't even have to be such a door-closing, brick wall of a word. It can simply mean, "No — for now." Here are a few reasons should you get to know it better.

Time is our most valuable asset

Time can't be bought, sold or replaced. Therefore, we need to make sure that we're always choosing the right opportunities that drive us and our organizations toward our ultimate objectives. We must keep in mind the strategic methods that further our progress in getting there.

Every choice we make should bring us closer to our end goals. If we're too close to problems to see the forest for the trees from a long-term perspective we risk spinning our wheels.

Weigh choices carefully before saying "yes"

Before taking on an opportunity, you should ask yourself, "Does this project further my organization's or personal objectives? What will we learn or gain from the venture? Will it be time well-spent?"

Ask yourself hard questions — the answers may help you reveal hidden opportunity costs or see potential ventures and projects from new viewpoints that make the decision to accept or reject it clearer.

Think in terms of long-term investments

Say "no" to short-term opportunities that may not help propel you down the path to reaching your ultimate goals.

Organizations and people tend to focus on instantly gratifying or rewarding activities (e.g., doing what it takes to make finances add up this quarter) vs. those that are most productive over longer-term horizons (e.g., changing business strategy or processes to ensure their financial house will be in order for many months to come).

Focus on curing problems, not symptoms. Here are a few sample questions to ask yourself when weighing opportunities going forward:

  • Does the opportunity further my ultimate objective(s)? How so? Are there alternate or better vehicles for doing so — and is there a simpler or more direct route?
  • Do we accelerate our speed of progress with regard to accomplishing preferred tasks, goals, products or projects by taking this opportunity on — and to what extent?
  • Can we learn from this venture or leverage existing talents and capabilities in new ways? Does pursuing it convey new skills, opportunities or resources?
  • Will participating in the opportunity grow my contacts, connections or personal network?
  • Does the amount paid do more than simply cover the cost for our/my time? Beyond pure financial incentives, what value will be gained from the exchange?
  • Will it provide an opportunity to showcase our/my talents? To whom and to what extent?
  • Is promotional visibility provided, and if so, how much? How well does the proposed audience for the project match the one I'm ultimately trying to reach?
  • Will others underwrite the expense? To what degree? Is this an opportunity we or I could achieve on our own? How difficult would it be to do so, what would it cost, and how much time would it take? Are we getting any discounts or bargains with regard to pursuing it in this instance?
  • What benefits are achieved by taking part in the exchange? How does participation help me further our goals and/or build leverage?
  • At what expense of time, effort and energy — not just financial rewards will the opportunity come?