I’ve challenged myself to say “yes” more often.
I am defaulting to “yes” and rarely saying “no”. Whether to personal or professional opportunities, I’ve come to realize that reasons I give myself for saying “no” are just excuses to stick with the status quo.
Here’s what seem like some reasonable reasons to say “no”.
* Focus. “I need to stay focussed on one thing. That other thing you want me to do will make me lose focus.”
* Time management. “I don’t have time to spare.”
* Commitment. “I won’t be able to give it (that new thing) the time it deserves.”
Saying “yes” has less impact to focus, time management, and commitment than is first imagined. Here’s why.
* Focus. There is such a thing as too much focus. A myopic effort on one task is likely to improve your chances of doing well on that task – but at the expense of a wider experience. Deep knowledge may help you climb the career ladder, yet when given the chance to expand my knowledge or experiences deeper or wider, I’d choose widening every time. (Not to be confused with ‘deep’ vs. ‘surface’ learning. I still want meaningful experience and knowledge.)
* Time management. Saying “yes” to something new does not have to mean dropping everything else. It does not have to mean multi-tasking, dividing attention, or any other of those dreaded productivity killers. New activities and events are usually in the future – they can be scheduled along with other plans and commitments.
* Commitment. This has been my biggest hang up. If you are like me, when you take something on you want to do it perfectly. 99.9% of the time though, people are not expecting, requesting, or investing in the level of perfection that you first expect of yourself. And they are right not to do so. Many of us go well beyond the point of diminishing returns. For example, I completed my masters degree with a perfect 4.0 – when a 3.0 would have been a lot less work, taken a lot less time, and made no difference in the long run. The commitment of your time and resources need not be as large as you initially estimate.
Saying “yes” has less impact to focus, time management, and commitment than is first imagined. If fact, saying “yes” provides opportunities to practice your focus, time management and commitment skills. Saying “yes” broadens your experience, builds on your contributions, and broadens and strengthens relationships. And, says one major longitudinal study on happiness: “the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
All that rationalizing aside: “Yes” is simply a better word than “no”. Yes is full of promise and excitement and something new. Yes is an affirmative willingness to be, to help, to play along. “No” is so final and abrupt. For kids especially, too many “no”s turn into a dream-killer. “Yes, yes, yes” is what they – what we – all long to hear. Let’s hear it more often.
Can you say “yes” more often? Would it benefit you and those around you to do so? To my kids, wife, customers, clients, potential clients, friends, or strangers – I can, and will, more often say “yes”.