As an alternative to saying “no”, try offering a conditional yes.
Instead of “I can’t do X”, try “I can only do X if Y.”
This forces you to make a crucial shift in how you think about opportunity: it takes you from focusing on the mere fact that you can’t or won’t do something and it challenges you to think about the conditions that would make something worth your time.
Whenever we say “no”, it’s for a reason. “No” means “There are specific conditions that make me unwilling or unable to meet your request at this time.” By thinking about your “no” in terms of what what would make it worthwhile, you not only turn some of your “no’s” into “yes’s”, but you also improve your ability to think about your choices as expressions of power and priority.
Negotiate your way into a life that contains more “yes.”
Focus less on what you can’t do. Focus more on challenging the world to meet your standards.