Protecting Your Mental Energy: How to Say No to the Wrong Things

KSL Newsradio’s Amanda Dickson, author of “Wake Up to a Happier Life,” shares ways to protect your mental energy.

What are the wrong things?

Some things are wrong for everybody – like resentment or cruelty – those are no-brainers. But other than the obvious ones, the wrong things are not as easy to identify. They are different for everybody. What is right for me may be absolutely wrong for you. The wrong things do not further your mission in life. Think of yourself as the CEO of your own life. You’re in charge of the way you spend the resources of your corporation. So, if you’re in the business of raising children and experiencing joy, the greatest job offer in the world may be the “wrong thing” for you. For some people, camping is the most soothing and restorative activity, but for other people, it’s the worst thing they can imagine. It drains them of energy. They dread it. They spend every minute longing for it to end. So – what are the wrong things for you? Trust your gut reaction.

• First question – do you get excited about it? Enthusiasm – the root of which means to be filled with God – can give you a good clue as to what you’re supposed to be doing.

• Second question – is it a good expenditure of your life’s resources? Be your CEO.

Who are the wrong people?

Sometimes the most important thing you ever do in managing your life is saying no to the wrong people. People who suck the life out of you. Energy vampires. Energy vampires are often the super-needy. These are people who you dread seeing, people who, while they may be wonderful people, for whatever reason don’t belong in your life. You’ve got to put your life first. Are you going to spend your time with people out of guilt and obligation or are you going to live authentically? Add up all the hours you spend worrying about seeing that friend who sucks the life out of you. . . what could you do with those hours?

How do you say no?

Any way that works for you – because saying no is that important that even if you do it poorly, it’s better than not doing it. For me, I try to focus on humility and clarity. It would sound something like this, “Please forgive me – this is not about you – I’m just not able to do this for you or be this for you . . . I wish you every success.” Done. Stop talking. Don’t explain. Don’t get into it. Just stop. You’re done. This is a clip we could all learn from!

How is physical energy related to mental energy?

Thoughts can be energy vampires just the same as people. Don’t let the dead take away from the living. Energy vampire thoughts can kill you, too. Think of it like this – you wake up, you’ve slept well. You’ve had 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (who gets that?) You have a good breakfast, maybe even exercise, but you feel terrible – completely lethargic – wholly lacking in enthusiasm. Why? Because you are still chewing on some argument in the past or worry about the future. You’ve got to let that go. Those energy vampire thoughts are robbing you of your mental energy. (The opposite is also true – you can have no sleep, but you wake up thinking a happy thought, anticipating a joyful event that day, and you feel great. The mental overcomes the physical.)

Always Remember Why

Always remember why – why are you protecting your mental energy – why is this important? Because every minute you give to a relationship that feels guilt-based or a project that isn’t right for you – you are taking that minute away from your life and your children. You only get so many minutes – who gets them? You or them? Your children or them? I sometimes imagine a picture of my son over the face of the person who is trying to take my time, and all I see is my son – so saying “no” gets really easy.

Amanda Dickson co-hosts Utah’s #1 radio morning show on KSL Newsradio. She sits on the boards of the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and the National Advisory Board for Hale Center Theatre. Amanda earned her B.A. in English and her Juris Doctorate at the University of Utah. A mother of two and stepmother of three, she and her husband, Aaron, live in West Jordan, UT.

“Change It Up!” can be purchased at Deseret Book (, along with her first title “Wake-Up to a Happier Life.”

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