The path of our life is dictated by what we say yes to and what we say no to. Our lives are shaped by what we accept into our life and what we turn down. Opportunities, activities, people and experiences come our way and the decisions we take have a critical influence on how the rest of our life unfolds.
However, we sometimes find that we get into a habit of saying yes, or of saying no.
Some people say yes to pretty much every request that comes their way. Their difficulty in saying no can be so extreme that they exhaust themselves to the point of burnout before realising that something is going wrong. Life is finite. Time is finite. Every time we say yes to something we are saying no to something else. People who say ‘yes’ too much are saying ‘no’ to themselves, to their needs and wants.
There are other people whose primary orientation is to say ‘no’. They say no to new opportunities, to new people, to change, to risk. It’s as if saying no keeps them safe, keeps them safe from challenge, from demands, from failure, from rejection. Change comes to everyone, it is an intrinsic part of life. The more we try to control this, the less prepared we are when it comes. By saying no we keep ourselves in our comfort zone, and we find that our comfort zone shrinks, until we fear our own shadow.
Either way, when things are out of balance like this, there are disastrous consequences for our quality of life. Given the vital importance of choosing what we say yes to and what we say no to, it is important to gain control over our decisions and choose wisely.
So what should we say yes to and what should we say no to? How are we to know what is right? The truth is that we can’t know how our decisions will turn out. But this doesn’t let us off. I believe that putting our lives in the hands of fate is an excuse. We have to take the responsibility of taking our life seriously.
We cannot know the consequences but we can still consider what we think will lead to the best outcome. What will give us pleasure and/or help us grow? What will take us out of our comfort zone so that we might grow and learn? What will give others pleasure and/or help them grow? What are the risks involved? Which of these considerations is most important right now?
We can also tune into our intuition. Taking a moment to check in with ourself, with how we feel if we are to say yes, and how we feel if we are to say no may give us the clear answer we need.
With practice, we can bring more of our decisions under conscious control, and so our lives become more deliberate, more self-governing, more our own.