Has anyone else noticed the subtle ebb and flow of the 'Yes/No' trend over the past few years? If you're not familiar, let me fill you in. A couple of years ago, articles were popping up everywhere about how saying 'yes!' at every turn would allow your deeper self to accept the moment and seize every opportunity that was already destined to be yours.
This article from the Huffington Post in 2015 lists nine reasons to say yes to opportunity. Some that stick out being: "Stretch yourself" to do more than you ever thought you could and "Life is short. Ask not why, but why not?" The problem with practicing this mentality is that we quickly begin to realize we can't feasibly say 'yes' to everything.
In saying 'yes' to everybody else, we are saying 'no' to ourselves.
What did we say yes to?
We said 'yes' to the friends who wanted to go out, when we really just wanted to stay in and be alone. We said 'yes' to our employers and ended up buried under piles of paperwork from which we could never emerge. We said 'yes' to bad dates and ended up enduring another boring night with someone we knew we didn't want to spend our time with. In saying 'yes' to everybody else, we were saying 'no' to ourselves.
The creation of FOMO
What transpired during this time was a term that hit too close to home for most of us: FOMO or the fear of missing out. FOMO became the justification for taking on too much and doing more than we could handle. Although we didn't want to admit it, the fear of missing out on a better opportunity or a more exciting evening, motivated us to say 'yes' to everything. I know one guy who would say 'yes' to every invitation and wait until the day-of to decide which event would be the most fun (and he wasn't even subtle about it!). Through social media and always being tuned into what others are doing, we began to feel inferior. This fear pushed us to try to keep up and "look busy," but left many of us burnt out and resentful.
Sifting through the deeper messages
With motivational speakers and self-help books telling us to simply say 'yes' to life and do so enthusiastically, we often forget to question the true messages being told. Perhaps it's not about saying 'yes' to every opportunity and everyone, but instead about facing the difficult parts of life. The strength in saying 'yes' lies in knowing when to say 'no.'
The strength in saying 'yes' lies in knowing when to say 'no.'
Say 'No' now to say 'Yes' to your future
The problem with saying 'yes' all the time is that in saying 'yes' to the moment, we continue to say 'no' to the future. If we live our lives solely based on seeking pleasure in the present moment, how can we set up our future selves for success? Warren Buffett was quoted saying, "the difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything." This view on success reminds us that saying 'yes' to every opportunity can and will leave us with lots of time wasted and not a lot to show for it.
How to say 'no' and take action
Instead of focusing on saying 'yes' to everything, we can begin to focus on honing our ability to veto the yes with a no. By saying 'no' to going out with friends and focusing on a creative pursuit instead, or by saying 'no' to the mindless scrolling through Instagram and picking up a book, we are able to actually take action and better ourselves. Saying 'no' gives us more time and freedom to direct energy towards the things that truly matter to us. Rather than dispersing our energy among many endeavors, we learn to truly focus on what's important to us and not what social media tells us is important.
Start small for big changeWe all know our time is limited, yet we try to fit more and more into our busy schedules. We are all capable of change, but lasting change starts with baby steps and consistency. Starting small will give us the confidence needed to know when to say 'yes' or 'no.' With time and practice, we can go from FOMO to JOMO! (Notice if not knowing what that term means is giving you FOMO right now...If so, click here.)