"Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterwards." - Tina Fey
Have you ever watched a brilliant improv show?
It's pretty awe-inspiring to watch the actors thinking on their feet, completely present in the moment, creating a story out of what seems like thin air.
The magic that transpires on stage all stems from a central rule: “Yes, and...”
I’ve also seen (and been a part of) improv scenes that die and fall flat on their face because an actor gets in their head, overthinks things, and ultimately says no.
The opposite of saying yes in improv is blocking by saying no.
It’s a buzz kill. A scene stopper.
I know, I know. I’ve been blogging about setting boundaries and saying no as of late. But, I feel like I’ve given yes a bad rap and treated it like the misunderstood stepchild. I wanted to shine a little light on the world of yes.
Yes is for inviting new opportunities, experiences, and possibilities, while no sets boundaries, creating space and focus.
As Eric Barker says in The Two Words That Will Lead You to Success and Happiness, “The word “yes” leads to happiness. The word “no” leads to success.” Barker also goes on to share that research shows creating opportunities by saying yes can make us luckier. I'll take a little more luck.
I’d like to live in the Land of Yes, and have the clarity and confidence to say yes to no.
How do we know the difference between the opportunities life throws our way and the requests that eat away at our boundaries, time, and focus?
When the reason we want to say no comes from a place of fear or a want to stay in our comfort zone, there is a good chance that saying yes will lead to more happiness and opportunity.
The impressive Shonda Rhimes, who wrote The Year of Yes, talked about her experience with saying yes: “A crazy thing happened: the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear, made it not scary. My fear of public speaking, my social anxiety, poof, gone. It's amazing, the power of one word.'Yes' changed my life. 'Yes' changed me.” (Watch more with Shonda Rhimes in this Ted Talk.)
Yes breaks down the wall of fear and allows us to try new things. Yes opens the door to new possibilities. Saying yes allows us to see how far we can go.
Bernardo Carducci, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast says, "We all want to preserve our sense of self and our sense of competence. There’s a natural tendency for people to be hesitant when asked to do something outside of their comfort zones. The problem is when you do this too often. If your primary response becomes no, you will never discover and test your true limits." (Read more here.)
So, you don't want to be a naysayer, but still aren't sure if you should say yes?
Yes, No, Yes, No. It can get a little confusing.
A lot of this boils down to pausing, stepping away from the mind chatter, and asking, "What do I really want?"
Will saying yes create a new opportunity or bring me closer to the life I want?
Is saying no a way to avoid confrontation? Is saying no a way to stay in my comfort zone? Is saying no coming from a place of fear? Is saying no keeping me safe and playing small? If so, you might want to consider saying yes.
A few other reasons to say yes: You never know who you’ll meet. You never know when your yes will lead to your next job, client, relationship, place to live, life changing experience, or adventure.
Saying yes when I've felt fearful has lead to meeting the man of my dreams, amazing job opportunities, meeting some of my dearest friends, seeing new countries, working with amazing and interesting people, new clients, new collaborations...and the list goes on.
Don't take my word for it. Consider the words of Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, during his commencement address at the University of California at Berkeley: "Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country. Say yes to meeting new friends. Say yes to learning a new language, picking up a new sport. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job. Yes is how you find your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it's a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means you will do something new, meet someone new and make a difference in your life, and likely in others' lives as well... Yes is a tiny word that can do big things. Say it often."
How can you embrace the improv of life and say "yes, and..."?
P.S. Still wavering between Yes and No? I made this Decision Making Guide for you.