You’ll read a lot of advice around the importance of saying no. Saying no, in those instances, is meant to allow you to not overcommit, to have space to breathe amidst the craziness of life, to not feel frazzled and pulled in too many directions. To protect yourself a bit.
There’s a whole lot of wisdom and truth to that.
But I feel equally strongly about the other side of that coin, too: saying YES.
This is a concept that has gotten far easier for me as I’ve gotten older (which, unsurprisingly, is true for myriad things). I’ve learned that saying yes doesn’t have to mean you’re a pushover or an over committer. Saying yes can mean you’re a dreamer and a DOER — that you’re someone who wants to pack as many experiences into your life as you can, minimizing the regrets and “what ifs” in the process.
I don’t have life figured out (and continuing to grow and learn is part of the fun, after all), but, for me, saying yes is a really important piece of living a life that squeezes as much as possible out of the days I have.
Here’s what’s been rolling around in my brain regarding this topic lately:
- Saying yes can be a completely internal conversation. You know that voice in the back of your head? The one that started out whispering about a certain idea or spark of inspiration and is gradually getting louder? Listen to it, consider it, and maybe even say yes to it.
- It doesn’t mean anything big has to happen right this second. Just because you say yes to something doesn’t mean you have to act on it immediately. Maybe now isn’t the right time to go all in, for a variety of reasons. Sit with it for a while, but also start to think about a few small steps you can start to take in the direction of your yes. Begin to pave the way for bigger leaps later on, when and if the right time comes. Don’t say no just because the timing isn’t perfect.
- It doesn’t have to be a huge thing to be a huge deal to you. Your yes right now may not be starting a new career or committing to run a marathon or deciding to write a book. It may be something that seems small, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less meaningful or that you aren’t going to learn big things from it.
- It means you’re brave. Does saying yes to that thing feel uncomfortable? That’s okay! It might still be the right thing to do — and just think about how much you’ll grow in the process as you move toward your yes…
- You’ll be surprised at how often people will say yes to you, too. Ask other people to help you pursue your yes, and you’ll hear yes FAR more often than you’ll hear no. Humans are wired to want to help each other. Most of us want to use our experience or training or connections to propel others forward, so the next time you hesitate before asking the question, push through that doubt and just ask. The worst they can say is no, and it’s much more likely you’ll get an affirmative reply.
- Help others say yes, too. You can do this by modeling what it means to pursue a goal, or by truly listening to them when they talk. Help them identify dreams they may have, too (perhaps before they’re even fully formed), and be available to help them move toward those dreams. You don’t have to be pushy about it, but you can be a support system.
- Allow yourself to fail. Thinking we have to be perfect often holds us back from saying yes. Take a few minutes to consider what something not-so-perfect might look like. What if this doesn’t work out at all? What if you’re not as good at it as you’d hoped? What if you don’t get the support along the way you’re looking for? Well, chances are, even if all of these things happen you’ll be okay AND you will have learned something. But if you survey all of your experiences to date, I bet you’ll find that it’s far more likely that you WON’T fail. (No, you won’t be perfect, but that’s a whole separate conversation!)
- Don’t think of it as time wasted if you change direction or opt out along the way. You will have learned something (about yourself, or a new industry, or other people, or a new topic, etc.). You will have DONE something — taken measurable steps toward exploring a new experience. That’s most definitely not time wasted, even though it may feel like it at the time.
What can you say yes to today? This week? Go ahead — allow yourself to consider that “yes” thing in your life, and then take one tiiiiiny step toward it. I can’t wait to see where you end up…