Sunday, July 10, 2011

You’ve Learned To Say No – How About Yes?

There is an old adage that says that you become what you focus on.

As I contemplate that insight, I think about the many messages that we are bombarded with that insist we say “no” to.

Say “no” to drugs.

Say “no” to bullies.

Say “no” to the oppression of others.

Say “no” to ………..

I wonder sometimes if we have focused on saying “no” to so many things that we have forgotten how to say “yes” to much any more - that we have become conditioned to lean towards “no” when faced with a decision.

“No” seems so safe, doesn’t it?  In a world of uncertainty, many people believe that while a “yes” may put them at high risk, the worst that a “no” can do is leave them where they were before with nothing gained BUT nothing lost either.

It is true that the ability to say “no” can be an important skill to have; for example if you are contemplating whether or not you should walk down that dark alley alone, invest in a company that claims to have perfected eternal life or jump out of a plane with a sleeping bag on your back instead of a parachute.

Perhaps the ability may be of some use when deciding if you really need that new car, the house that is twice is large as you really need or that second piece of cheese cake.

Yes, “no” can come in handy. :-)

However, sometimes, the Universe / God / karma / whatever will put things in front of us because we need to say “yes”.

Perhaps we need to say “yes” to better enable us for the next big step in our life.

Maybe we need to say “yes” to better enable us to serve others.

It is possible that we need to say “yes” to allow us to find a solution to a challenge.

Perhaps we need to say “yes” to create or experience collaboration, healing or love.

If we constantly use the word “no” every time an opportunity manifests, for whatever reason, then perhaps we are denying ourselves and others a chance to reach our fullest potential.

Learning to say “yes” more is not easy.  The inability to say “yes” is rooted in many things, but I think the most common reasons are excess ego and fear.

Excess ego tells me that there is not enough in it for me, I can do it better myself or that the only one who can be trusted to get it done is myself.

Fear tells me that perhaps I am incapable of rising to the occasion of “yes”, that I may screw it up once I get engaged in the opportunity or that I am unworthy of the opportunity.

So “no’ slips out of our mouth or manifests in our actions much easier – there is a lot less to contemplate.  After all, “no” doesn’t set us back (so we think) while “yes” often has to run the gauntlet of internal struggle, before eventually acquiescing to a “no” or the equally dangerous “maybe” that is presented as a potential “yes” but is actually meant to be a disguised “no”.

We can look at every experience that is placed in front of us, say “no” to everything (thinking we are playing it safe) and live our lives, oblivious to the potential we are denying in ourselves and others.

Playing it safe …….. yeah …… right.

I shared on a previous blog (“The Importance of Conversation”) how I happened to be in a situation a few years ago where a woman in my presence was contemplating suicide (I didn’t know it at the time).  Something told me that something was wrong and I initially fought off the urge to say or do anything. 

I wanted to say “no” to the feeling for a variety of reasons, but eventually I gave in to the feeling.  I said “yes” to the Universe and engaged in conversation with a complete stranger.

In turn, she could have said “no”, discouraged my help and then completed the deed she had intended for herself.

However, she also said “yes”.

We both said “yes” and that made all the difference.

Perhaps if we explored “yes” a little more often we might find that Life is a lot more rewarding for ourselves and others.

I’m not suggesting that we be reckless about how we say “yes”.

However, to say “yes” more often is no more reckless than to say “no” more than we should.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “You’ve Learned To say No – How About Yes?” is the same as this one and can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Another great post, Harry. Inaction is a decision many of us (myself included) make almost every day, often to our own peril.

    Your insights can also be applied to making goals. In cognitive behavioral therapy, people are often told to make positive goals (i.e. "I will...") instead of negative goals (i.e. "I won't..."). The reason for this is visualization. The mind can't aim for a target that it can't see. We can't visualize NOT doing something. When we try, we actually visualize doing it. This actually makes things worse.

    Also, when we make positive goals, it's a good idea to make them detailed enough that our mind can visualize them well.

    So, as an example, saying "I'm going to NOT do drugs" is not has helpful as "I'm going to work on improving my grades by talking to my guidance counselor, working with my teachers, and finding a tutor."