Say “Yes” to Everything…Opportunity Is Waiting!
After having the same job for 5 years, I realized I wanted out. The direction I thought I was moving in was coming to a grinding halt because of external circumstances and I noticed that I just didn’t like myself all that much anymore. The burden of the overly demanding work schedule with little to no balance in favor of my personal life was beginning to wear on me in such a way that I wasn’t happy anymore…and it was evident. I needed out.
I left to start a career in something completely new. Left that, started something else, got laid off three months later. Last year was a year of interviews, and I was constantly being asked what I wanted to do. The problem was that I didn’t know.
Being unemployed and subsequently desperate taught me something extremely important in the way of learning about yourself: saying no to new opportunities can close yourself off to finding your true and undiscovered passions in life.
I’d always been fascinated with people who decided to say “yes” to every opportunity that came their way. I’d read Maria Dahvana Headley’s book “The Year of Yes” and had fallen in love with the idea but never thought I would have the fortitude to do something similar. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized I’ve been inadvertently doing that very thing pretty consistently since I’d lost my job.
I’ve been saying “yes” to so many things since last year:
Danielle, do you want to come sell for my start-up? Do you want to help me found a start-up? Have you ever thought about trying social media management? What about copywriting? I think you should host trivia nights for my company. I would love it if you could volunteer with our organization. You should start your own business. So, what about starting a networking group? Can I take you on a date?
Each one of these experiences has taught me something I didn’t previously know about myself–all of them have come together in an amalgamation that has shown me what I want to do and who I want to be as I grow up. Patricia Volk has this to say about her own “year of yes”:
“There isn’t one thing I said yes to I’m sorry I said yes to. And look what I would have missed. “No” means safety and the numbing stasis that implies. I’m changed.”
“There are limits of reason to this idea of saying yes to everything, but when I meet someone whose first instinct is “No, how can we do that? That doesn’t seem possible,” I’m always kind of taken aback. Almost anyone would say, “It’s Friday at two in the morning. We don’t have an opening political sketch. We can’t do it.” Yeah, of course you can. There’s no choice. And even if you abandon one idea for another one, saying yes allows you to move forward.”
As you look back on your own year, what have you said “no” to because you were afraid? Didn’t think you’d like it? Felt it was too far out of your comfort zone? Didn’t seem relevant? Felt like it would take up too much time? As Fey points out, there are definitely times when saying “no” means not stretching yourself too thin…but I personally haven’t yet found my limits seriously challenged. If anything, this concept of saying yes to the things that come my way have given me new limits and new levels of “can.”
Even if you are scared, do things afraid. I teach acting classes and have been acting for over 20 years and make a point to tell all of my students that I still have the worst stage fright of anyone I know. My body will go into fight-or-flight mode and I will panic and look for a way out so I don’t have to go through with it…but I force myself off the ledge, do battle, and come out a stronger and much more capable woman than I was when I went in.
It’s time to start thinking seriously about a time or period of time where you have been less than receptive to saying “yes,” to yourself, to others, and ask yourself why. Set aside some time–a day, week, month, year maybe?–that you will begin to say yes and let the wave of opportunity rush over you. You may be surprised at what kind of mileage you get out of a simple three letter word.