Learning To Say Yes

Unfortunately, “No” can be more than just a word, it can also be a lifestyle. When our default posture toward anything unknown is to shrink back, hover around the perimeter, or generally opt-out, we are refusing the best of what life offers.

This is not only a quality of life issue. “No” affects our creative performance as well. When our inherent position is skepticism or posturing, we stop looking for possibilities and train our mind to look for why not? instead of asking why?

There are many reasons this may happen:

Fear of harm. We make seemingly wise, but subversive pacts with our self to stay safe and sound, but in so doing we miss the whole point of life. The saddest part of all of it is that the safety we seek is most often an illusion anyway. Total safety is rarely a viable option. Are you gravitating toward the safest option?

Identity protection. We would rather live with the illusion of invulnerability than suffer a possible failure. We don’t stretch so that we never have to know our true limits. (With self-awareness comes the ability to intelligently take risks and stretch to the limit of our true abilities. Self-aware people don’t need to tell themselves bedtime stories.) Are you protecting the stranger?

Love of Comfort. This grows stronger in proportion to success, which makes it difficult to tackle. The more we have to protect, the less we may be willing to try new things. When we default to the comfortable choice, we often abdicate our great contribution. Are you gravitating toward comfort at the expense of great work?

Ego. When we say “yes” we hand over some measure of control. We are submitting to a new agenda, and even if it’s one of our own choosing, we are in some way allowing the potential for things out of our immediate influence to invade our world. “No” is sometimes a form of ego, or wanting to impose our will on the world. “Yes” is a move from control to influence. Is your ego standing in the way?

Love. Yes, we may love someone or something so much that, in our attempt to protect it/them we say “no” on their behalf. The odd thing is that the most loving thing is sometimes to say “yes” even when it means surrendering our own desire/wishes. Is your love of someone/something keeping you from yes?

Creativity always begins with a yes. To create is to first say yes, then sort things out on the other side. It is to first say “yes” to the risk, then to embrace it, then to overcome it. All creations are not successful, but every act of creating begins with an act of bravery. I’ve come to treat the very act of saying “yes” as a successful outcome. If I do this enough times in a row, I know that I will eventually make something worthwhile.

Are you living your life with a posture of yes?

Share your thoughts:

Please keep your comments civil and on topic.


  1. Bob Wightman

    Simple but elegant. The most interesting people I know are, in part, that way because they say yes to so many new experiences. The “no” word forecloses a lot of wonderful opportunities without ever giving them a chance. Thanks for making this point so well.


  1. Class #15 | Learn - [...] Listen. Re-frame the problem from the other person’s perspective. Look for ways to say, “yes.” (This is more than…

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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More

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I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas.

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