There’s no doubt that saying ‘Yes’ invites some of the fondest memories, relationships and opportunities into our lives.
It’s easy to attribute the word ‘Yes’ to something positive.
If saying Yes leads to something good, it’s a win.
If it leads to something bad, it’s a lesson learnt.
But what about saying ‘no’?
We can’t attribute the same benefit to saying ‘no’ to something, because that ‘something’ didn’t happen for us to associate a benefit.
We might even feel the regret of saying ‘no’ to what could have been… if we had said yes.
“If you’re not saying “hell yeah” about something, say no. This way, you get to make time to spend the time on the “hell yeah”. We’re all busy, saying yes to less is the way out.” — Derek Sivers
There’s a time and a place where saying ‘yes’ is the best thing you can do.
If you’re looking to make a name for yourself in a new space, you have to start by saying ‘yes’ to things.
In medical school, I wanted to get started in academic research.
As a complete beginner, I couldn’t be choosy.
I had to say ‘yes’ to a lot of boring projects in order to gain the exposure and experience I needed to get started.
And, after mastering the boring fundamentals, the games began.
My transition from saying ‘yes’ to ‘no’ meant that I was able to save my time and energy for projects that made me say ‘hell yeah’.
These ‘hell yeah’ projects were those that interested me, pushed me to level up and yielded more rewarding outcomes.
The sooner you’re able to transition from saying yes to everything, the sooner you get to see the brilliant power of saying no.
“I paint with my back to the world.” — Agnes Martin
Saying yes is often a visceral reaction to the idea of potential reward.
This leaves ‘no’ as a distant afterthought.
It’s easy for me to say yes to meeting up with friends instead of finishing that lingering assignment, but I nearly always feel the consequent regret of passing on work that needed to be done.
Building the courage to say ‘no’ allows me to get that work done.
At times, I hibernate and work with my back to the world.
I say no to leaving the house.
I say no to posting on social media.
I say no to outside distractions so that I can say yes to the work that needs to be done.
“Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess, which is why everyone wants to steal it from you. First you must protect it, and then you must point it in the right direction. “ — Austin Kleon
If you thought saying no to others was difficult, try saying it to yourself.
How does one make a U-turn on a decision that they made themselves?
I’ve had to say no to many of my own projects and ideas, despite my initial intention to nurture them for years to come.
I’ve even said no to the career path I planned for several years, just to lay the groundwork for a new one.
Life is full of motion. Our wants and needs aren’t static, so we shouldn’t expect our decisions to be either.
Sometimes, you have to say no to your old self, in order to yes to the new you.