The Value of Saying YES More Often to Life’s Opportunities

Danny Wallace

Probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life, happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.


Will it be a YES or a NO?

In a previous post I discussed the value of saying NO. The argument there was that we often say YES to too many things, including a great many requests that people make. This subsequently limits the time we can spend working on our own goals and/or solving our own personal problems. As a result our productivity suffers and we struggle to make the best use of our time. And of course a failure to look after our own needs “first” means that we are less capable of helping others at a later time.

This is very much akin to a stewardess instructing parents that in case of an emergency they must put their oxygen mask on first before helping their kids. What this effectively means is that unless you look after your needs first, you won’t have the energy or resources to help people in your life look after theirs. Saying NO isn’t therefore a selfish act, but rather very much a selfless act that prioritizes your short-term needs so that you can help others in the long-run.

There are of course many ways to look at this. For instance, saying NO to a colleague who needs your assistance on a big project at work, and saying NO to a friend who wants to catch up for lunch, are two possible extremes. In this instance, one event is far more significant than the other and will therefore be valued under a different set of criteria. However, what if you’re the kind of person who ALWAYS says NO to almost everything? What then? Well that’s what this article is about. It’s about the possibilities, the probabilities and the opportunities that saying NO is keeping from you.

Life is about making the best choices that can help you and the people you care about live a better life. However, these choices are not always easy to make. A decision made might for instance have great short-term value, but hurts you or others in the long-run. At the same time other decisions might have the opposite effect. The important life decisions you make are therefore rarely easy. However, my hope is that by understanding the value of saying both YES and NO will help you to make more effective decisions moving forward.


What it Truly Means to Say YES!

Saying YES means making the most of every opportunity and encounter. It means taking chances to stretch your comfort zone, to overcome your insecurities, to beat fear, to get through failure, criticism, rejection and embarrassment with a positive spirit. It essentially means knowing what you need “more” of in your life to help you live a more optimal life. And often the things we need most we resist because they make us feel uncomfortable.

Saying YES of course isn’t easy. In fact, saying NO is often the easiest thing to do, however maybe we should start saying YES more often when saying NO feels more convenient. Just maybe we should start living life more adventurously.

Have you ever seen the 2008 movie Yes Man, starring Jim Carrey? Within the movie Jim Carrey’s character is stuck in a rut. He however attends a self-help seminar and learns to unleash the power of saying YES to absolutely everything and everyone for an entire year, which of course leads him down a path of incredible transformation.

This movie shows us how saying YES can be of tremendous value, especially for those who are stuck in the habit of constantly saying NO. Many times we assume things to be a certain way, when in fact the actual experience can be dramatically different and can potentially lead to incredible and unexpected opportunities.

This is all of course fantastic, but what exactly does it all mean? And exactly what kind of things should we be saying YES to? Well let’s quickly take a look what it feels like to become a Yes Man (or Woman). Here is a list of things that we should be saying YES to that will help us live a more optimal life:

  • Say YES to opportunities to attempt something new that you hadn’t tried before.
  • Say YES to possibilities for new adventures, challenges and experiences.
  • Say YES to things that somewhat scare you or that you don’t quite understand.
  • Say YES to things that break your monotonous rituals, habits and routines.
  • Say YES to things that help you learn something new about yourself, about others and about life.
  • Say YES to building friendships and connections with strangers.
  • Say YES to experiencing changes that feel uncomfortable and yet somewhat exciting at the same time.
  • Say YES to unexpected invites that create interest and pull you out of your comfort zone.
  • Say YES to random encounters and coincidences that you don’t quite understand but would like to make the most of.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that we should be saying YES to more often, however it does cover quite an array of scenarios that can help you experience more of what life has to offer.

What it Means to Say Yes


Why Saying YES Can Help You Live a More Optimal Life

So what’s the big deal, right? Saying YES in all the above scenarios possibly won’t make much of a difference as to how you live your life. And yes, that can certainly be true. It might not make much of a difference at all, but on the other hand, it just might. 🙂

Saying YES today might not make a significant difference tomorrow, however it might very well send your life in a brand new direction that will bring about tremendous benefits in the future.

Have a think back, and consider the various things that you have said YES to where it would have been easier to just say NO. Typically you will find that there are several moments in your life where saying YES didn’t seem like much of a big deal, but this soon led to a chain of events that guided you in a valuable new direction. And it all of course started with that initial YES. So yes, there is certainly value in saying YES, even if we don’t quite understand that value in the short-term.

It’s also important to reflect upon the fact that life’s opportunities are sometimes given to us, while at other times they are created. The opportunities you get today to say YES to something might not come along any time soon. In fact, you might not get these opportunities ever again. And unless you say YES to something, you will never really know what possibilities might arise.

Have a think about all the moments in your life where you have said NO. Now consider that people typically nearing the end of life say that they regret more things they chose not to do, rather than the ones they did? In other words, they regret not saying YES more often to the opportunities that life presented them with.

People who have spent the vast majority of their lives saying NO often catch themselves mulling over “what if…” scenarios. What if I did that? What if I took that chance? What if I had said YES in that instance? What if…? As a result these people spend their remaining days regretting all the missed opportunities that might very well have helped them live a more optimal and fulfilling life.

When we typically say NO to something we often might not quite understand the gravity of what we’re saying NO to. For instance, we might not even be aware of possible opportunities that could stem from saying YES because these are things that we simply cannot predict and/or anticipate in advance.

There is of course no certainty either way. Saying YES to something can either lead to something better, or it might not. You will just never know unless you give it a try. But at least in this scenario you gave it a go, and are left with no “What if…?” questions. At least in this scenario you will not be living a life of excuses and regrets. Yes, you of course might regret saying YES to something that you should have said NO to, but in retrospect — possibly years into the future — you will reflect back on this choice you made and come to understand the valuable lessons learned; shaping the person you are today.

Whenever you say YES to something you gain an experience. And with that experience — whether it’s good or bad — come valuable life lessons that help shape and build your character.

To put it another way, saying YES will always be of value in someway, while saying NO just maintains the status-quo. In fact, saying NO limits you in a great many ways. Not only do you not grow, but you also don’t experience more of what the world has to offer. Your perspective will therefore remain limited, which keeps you locked ever so tightly within the confines of your comfort zone.

Now of course, even though saying YES is of tremendous value, it doesn’t mean that you have to say YES to absolutely everything. Saying YES to everything might end up being quite counterproductive especially when you have other life priorities and responsibilities. As such, you must strive to maintain a balance between saying YES and NO. Say NO when it really matters, but say YES to help you break cycles that are keeping you stuck in the present. Unless you say YES, you will never really know what might unfold. 🙂

The Value of Saying Yes


What to do When You’re Struggling to Say YES…

Are you one of those people who continuously struggles to say YES? When someone for instance asks you to do something, do you immediately and instinctively say NO, without taking the true value of this activity or request into consideration? Maybe you even catch yourself making all these irrational excuses that certainly wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. 😉

Typically we make poor excuses for saying YES due to two factors: Fear and Laziness.

We either fear what saying YES will lead to and how this will subsequently make us feel, or we’re just simply too lazy to break out of habitual cycles that keep us stuck in the present. Either way you end up losing because you don’t gain valuable experience that helps shape your character.

These excuses of course make you feel good about yourself in the short-term, but in the long-run saying NO can often lead to boredom and regret. You feel bored because there is not enough excitement in your life. What this really means is that everything in your life is too predictable. There isn’t enough change and forward movement. You therefore end up stagnating; or to put it another way, you end up in a rut where you get stuck within the confines and safety of your comfort zone.

The next time you catch yourself making an irrational excuse that leads to a NO, ask yourself:

Is this excuse rational?

Is this a good enough reason to say NO?

It is only when you consciously take the time to challenge the choices you make that you will begin to effectively work through these habitual responses and start to turn your life around.

Stop Making Irrational Excuses


Choosing to Say YES or NO!

Saying YES to something doesn’t always have to lead to a rational decision. It can be a spur of the moment sort of thing where you just say YES like Jim Carrey’s character in the 2008 movie Yes Man. However, if you have a very cautious approach to life, then thinking things through beforehand might actually help you to evaluate and make the best decision moving forward. There are however words of caution here.

When we take the time to stringently evaluate and rationalize a decision, our fears and limiting beliefs often get in the way. Therefore the choice you make in the end is significantly influenced by your habitual responses that have been ingrained into your psyche over a lifetime. As such, the longer it takes you to make a decision, the more likely that decision will be based on your fears and irrational beliefs rather than upon what’s best for you in the long-run. Please therefore keep this in mind and don’t allow your habitual responses to turn you away from something that might be of value.

Keeping all this in mind, let’s explore how to evaluate what a good decision looks like. First of all, let’s analyze all the times you have said NO and the impact this has had on your life. Ask yourself:

Why do I typically say NO?

What excuses do I tend to make?

How could all this be hurting me?

All the times you have said NO, you have undoubtedly missed out on something. That something could very well have been an opportunity to gain a valuable experience, to learn something new, to build a friendship, and/or simply to learn a life lesson that could potentially help shape your character in an empowering way.

In order to break free of the “saying NO” cycle, it’s important that you acknowledge the things that you have potentially missed out on as a result of the choices you have made.

For our second set of self-analysis questions, let’s take a look at concrete examples from your past. Ask yourself:

What have I said NO to in the past?

What opportunities did I potentially miss out on?

What regrets do I have?

What have I said YES to in the past?

How did that work out?

What were the benefits of saying YES at the time?

These questions are important with helping you shift your understanding of the consequences of what it means to say YES and NO in various instances. Reflecting back on your past will help you to gain clarity about the choices and decisions you have made and how they have influenced your life in the present moment.

All the choices we make affect us in some way. Some choices will help you to move your life forward in optimal ways, while other choices will keep you stuck in the present. Saying NO will no doubt provide you with more free time on your hands to do the things you want. This may of course be of tremendous value, however unless you are consistently expanding your horizons, then possibly you’re not growing at an optimal level and may need to begin saying YES more often.

Saying YES or NO of course really depends on what you need in the moment. Here are a couple more questions that will help you to gain some further clarity. Ask yourself:

What do I need more of in my life right now?

Given this, what could I say YES to more often?

When you are honest with yourself and know exactly what it is you need, you will better understand the gravity of the daily choices and decisions you make. Possibly then, it will become easier to say YES to some things that help fulfil those needs.


How to Make a Rational Decision

Now that you are clear about what it is you need in your life right now, let’s quickly explore how to make a rational decision when the choice you have comes down to a YES or NO answer.

First of all, when someone asks you for something (or to do something) it’s important to get a sense of what saying YES and NO could potentially mean. In other words, you want to quickly explore what consequences might result from making each decision. Specifically though, let’s take a look at what saying YES might potentially lead to — as saying NO typically just maintains the status-quo. Ask yourself:

What could saying YES potentially lead to?

What opportunities could stem from this?

What are the long-term and short-term advantages?

What are the long-term and short-term disadvantages?

What could I potentially learn from this experience?

How could this experience potentially change me for the better?

How could I potentially make the most of this experience if I was to say YES?

Along with understanding what’s at stake when you say YES, it’s important that you also examine what the opportunity cost might be.

An opportunity cost means that when you say YES or NO to something you are at that moment making a choice to miss out on something else. That is your opportunity cost. By saying YES you gain one opportunity, but at the same time you also lose another opportunity that comes with saying NO. The key for you moving forward is to determine what is the more worthwhile opportunity to take given your current needs and the long and short-term consequences of the decision you are about to make. Ask yourself:

What’s the opportunity cost here?

What will I miss out on if I say YES?

What will I miss out on if I say NO?

Before you settle on a decision, there is one further question you must ask yourself. That question pertains to your current life and circumstances. That question is:

Will saying YES be detrimental to my current situation?

Your current situation translates into the tasks, projects, goals, commitments and responsibilities that make up a big chunk of your life. If saying YES impedes on these areas, then it’s probably best that you say NO. But if it doesn’t impede on these areas then it will probably be more worthwhile for you to say YES instead, especially if saying YES helps fulfil the needs you identified earlier.

If the choice you make is a resounding YES, then that’s awesome. 🙂 However, do keep in mind that at times saying YES can be quite dangerous. Let’s take a look at these dangers in the final section of this article.

How to Make Rational Decisions


When Saying YES Should Have Been a NO!

Have you ever said YES to something that should have been a NO? I think we’ve all been there. 🙁 However, lessons are lessons and they can help us learn and grow from every experience. But at times our irrational decisions can lead us astray and potentially cause more harm than good, especially in the long-run.

For instance, let’s say that you said YES to helping someone with a problem but the reality is that you can’t realistically keep your promise because you simply have too many other responsibilities on your plate. Letting this person down could end up leading to significantly worse consequences (for the both of you) than if you simply said NO in the first place. For this person it could mean failure, and for you it could undermine trust and/or ruin your reputation.

In other instances, taking on more than you can handle can derail your own efforts and goals. Moreover, it could potentially cause you more problems than you can handle. There is afterall only one of you, and your availability and capabilities are limited. Therefore if you’re not able to help yourself before saying YES to other people, then there just might not be enough of YOU left to give to others in the future. Two simple questions to ask in such instances are:

How could saying YES to this become problematic in the future?

How could it become problematic for me? How about for others?

We often get ourselves into these problematic scenarios because we try to maintain a “superhuman” like image. We want to say YES because we seek to impress other people in order to win their favor. However, in the end you end up impressing no one if you’re not able to fulfill your obligations to this other person.

This is of course a lot to take in. However, if you follow a simple formula where you say NO to anything that dissipates your energy and focus, then you will typically almost always make the right decision. But then on the other hand, it’s important to take into consideration what you “need” in your life right now. What you need may very well be not what you want. However, by getting what you need eventually may help you get what you want. This is where a rational approach to decision-making is of most value.

Say Yes Cautiously

Finally, don’t say YES to anything that is reckless and/or irresponsible. Anything that might end up harming you or harming others will probably not pan out favorably for anyone. In such instances it’s important to maintain a close guard on your personal boundaries and on the standards you uphold. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the moment making decisions that could endanger you in someway. Saying NO and staying safe is a far better scenario than the alternative consequences that may result.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Saying Yes More Often

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