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Why Women Need to Say "No" To Get Ahead

09/21/2013 10:15 EDT | Updated 11/21/2013 05:12 EST

In Toronto this week, some 800 women who probably share ambition and the desire to move ahead in their careers attended a Women of Influence Arianna Huffington lunch sponsored by Deloitte and were lucky enough to hear inspiring words from keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, who introduced her concept of The Third Metric.

Money and power are the first two metrics -- the essentials in the traditional work environment.

What women may bring to the mix, and these elements comprise the Third Metric and are deliberately loosely defined -- are wisdom, wonder, and the concepts of giving and well-being, (says a summary report in The Huffington Post).

Shrink Your 'To Do' List to What's Important to You

It was suggested that, instead of following the existing (male) ethic of working 24/7 and congratulating each other for competing and succeeding and devoting our lives to getting ahead, we should look at redefining success and how to measure and to achieve it on our terms.

A piece on Arianna's blog dating from a conference on The Third Metric held in London recently explains.

"I was very interested by the idea that dropping a project can be the way forward," says skin care expert Maxine Warsh. "I've been guilty of letting distractions get in the way of what I really want to do. You don't have to batter your brains out trying to finish or learn something you no longer have time or need for -- simply stop doing it."

Edit Your To Do List

Such intriguing takeaways resonated with many of the women in the audience. Continuously adding more items to our To Do lists isn't the route to well being. You don't have to follow through on every idle plan or half-baked project -- you don't have to learn German or how to ski, said Arianna. Drop them. This frees time and leaves more energy for what is most important to you.

The key word here is YOU. We don't like to think of ourselves as quitters. So we go on and on, long after we've lost interest. Or we may be working so much overtime that life has lost its pleasure. Many of us forget that "life is not a dress rehearsal." A weekend spent staring at a computer screen instead of with your friends or family--is a weekend that's gone forever.

Saying No

Another comment that will probably stick in many memories, judging by the audience reaction, was the comment that NO is a sentence. Women tend to say, "No, because..." Men rarely do. This strong take home message was that women may need to change their ways and stop making excuses or thinking up reasons when we don't want to do something. No is sufficient. However high we may have advanced career-wise, most of us still say, "No, because..., as in, No, I can't finish that project at home tonight because the computer is on the fritz and my husband is in Dubai and the kids all have flu..."

I hope the concept of The Third Metric finds a large audience as receptive as we were, because it could create a ripple effect in how we view work and success and that will be a plus for everyone, not just for women in the workplace.

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