In a speech at Yale, she said this one word is, in fact, what led her home to herself when she lost both her personal and professional direction.
In a move similar to many in the entertainment industry, Lady Gaga has a number of sources of income, and has been encouraged/pressured into a number of deals over the years. Deals like pushing a fragrance, for example.
In 2015, however, she got real about the cost of those kinds of deals at a conference on emotional intelligence at Yale.
"I have had to make decisions like, why am I unhappy?" said the pop star. "Okay, Stefani/Gaga hybrid person, why are you unhappy? Why is that you want to quit music, a couple years ago? I was like, well I really don't like selling these fragrances, perfumes. I don't like wasting my time spending days just shaking people's hands and smiling and taking selfies. It feels shallow to my existence. I have a lot more to offer than my image. I don't like being used to make people money."
Then she summed the cost to her personally:
"I feel sad when I'm overworked and I just become a moneymaking machine and my passion and creativity take a backseat. That makes me unhappy."
Fortunately, she decided not to stay unhappy. She made a major shift--one that changed everything. What was this magical change?
"I started to say no," said the self-made millionaire.
That's right: she took control over her life, her business, her time, and her energy by saying no.
"[N]o. I'm not doing that. I don't want to do that. I'm not taking that picture. I'm not going to that event. I'm not standing by that because that's not what I stand for."
And what happened when she started saying no to things that didn't feel in alignment to her. Things that felt, perhaps, shallow?
"[S]lowly but surely, I remembered who I am," she shared.
There are all sorts of reasons you say yes to things when you really want to say no. Maybe you feel like you "owe" your business partner because she was really there for you a number of years ago ... so when she reaches out about a favor you feel obligated.
Maybe you feel like you have to attend that upcoming event with an acquaintance because you said you would ... despite the fact that what would be more nourishing would be for you to stay in with a book.
Maybe you feel like you're forced to go home for Thanksgiving because otherwise you'd look like a "bad" son ... but what would serve you (and possibly your family) more is attending a Friendsgiving.
Yes, of course there are things you need to do in order to support the people you love. But there are countless other things (especially for those who aren't as important to you) that you could say no to ... and Gaga would argue you'd do well to say do just, because it's your precious energy at stake.
The holidays are coming up. It's a good time to remember that you are not obligated to do anything. Be mindful of what you say yes to.
Because it's only too easy, when it's cold out and you're a little down (and perhaps around your family of origin) to abandon yourself--to forget that you are an adult now. That now you get to make the choices that are the best for you.
Even--or perhaps especially--when that means saying, "No."