by Kelly Fredrickson

My good friend Maria Sirois wisely says, “No is a sentence—learn how to use it.”

Like everything else that is worthwhile to do, it is great in theory but hard in practice. During My Year of Whittling, I learned that the only way to truly change my behavior and live a different way was to practice the way I wanted to be. I did a series of 30-day practices and learned that the brain is plastic and can be rewired through daily routines.

For much of my life, I have thought that my value came from making other people happy. Saying No to anyone or anything was hard. But slowly, I realized that saying No to some things opened up room and time in my life to say Yes to better, more important things. And, amazingly, my family didn’t fall apart, and I was happier and better at my job. I said Yes only to those things that really made a clear impact.

When I was little, the thing my dad used to say that bugged me the most was “That’s unnecessary.” I hated it. I thought everything was necessary and important and equal. By saying No to some things and prioritizing what was left to do, I learned to finally accept that what he said is true. Some things are unnecessary, and those are the things that I need to say No to. No is a sentence, and I am learning how to use it.

There is a lot that I say Yes to every day. I still like making other people happy, and I have learned that it is important to make sure that I don’t exhaust myself in the process. I need to be happy, too. I am a mom, and a wife, and a friend and a manager, and I have an awesome job. So there is a lot I want and need to say Yes to, but if I am to succeed at all the things I want to be and do, I have learned that I can’t say Yes to everything. I need to make room for the quality Yes by saying No to the unnecessary. Yup, Dad, I can hear you.

I need to listen to my inner voice and say No to the things that do not serve me, and make room for the things that do. That is the art of whittling—chipping away at the unnecessary bits so you can let the beauty come out. Say No, chip away, make room and time for what you really need and want.

From her roots as a broadcast producer and art buyer, to her legacy as a creative marketer, Kelly Fredrickson has worked with award-winning creative leaders across a number of national agencies (Hill Holliday, Modernista!, MullenLowe), attracting the industry’s best talent and creating the conditions for great ideas to flourish for brands like Anheuser-Busch, Cadillac, Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS, Reebok, and Bank of America. Kelly advocates for great work on a daily basis and rallies teams to great solutions. Kelly recently left Bank of America to be the president of MullenLowe Boston, a global advertising agency that champions challenger brands like JetBlue, E*TRADE, Royal Caribbean, and Nuveen. She uses her CiPP training every day as a manager of 500 incredibly energetic creative people. This post was originally published on her website,