Yes. That little three-letter word seems so innocuous yet is one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary. We bear witness to the power of this word from a very early age (though from my experience toddlers seem to have far more fun with the word NO!). We say yes to dessert, yes to fun experiences, yes to taking a vacation. But what about saying yes to life? Saying yes can be one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves. It is also one of the scariest. Through the act of saying yes we are essentially opening ourselves up to new opportunities. Committing ourselves, our time or our resources to something and then agreeing to follow through.
For most people, myself included, we typically have no issues saying yes to things that we feel comfortable with. Yet when it comes to opportunities that are even marginally outside of our comfort zone, this is when the walls can come up. This is when we can start to turn our back on yes and cozy up to its two-lettered nemesis, No.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the word no. Sorry, no I can’t make it. Nope, don’t want to do it. We tend to keep our yes's for familiar experiences. Where we know we wont be pushed into facing uncomfortable issues or feelings.
The word no and I go way back, we’re old pals really. I kept him handy in my pocket as my knee-jerk response to keep myself feeling safe. But over the years I noticed that having him as my go-to man was seriously holding me back in my life.
However I learned the hard way that I simply could not protect myself by using no as a shield. Despite my comfort zone being heavily protected, life got out its battering ram and broke it all apart. Within the space of a year, I found myself resigning from a job and long-term relationship that had been all I had known for over a decade.
Faced with the prospect of starting over again I decided that in order to get to know myself a little better I would begin an experiment. I would say yes to life, whether I wanted to or not.
That very thought started to give me anxiety. The perfect place to start.
Rather than signing myself up for Fear Factor and climbing into a barrel of scorpions I decided to start small. What if I just said yes to everything that came my way? For three months.
And so just like that, the ‘saying yes to life aka the doing sh*t that scares me’ tour began.
At first it was easy, a new friend called and invited me to a housewarming party where I knew no one. “Count me in!” I found myself saying. And so I showed up; sweaty palmed and apprehensive. Yet the party turned out to be nothing like the house of horrors I was playing out in my head. Instead, it was quite fun and I ended up meeting some new and interesting people.
Over the next three months I trained myself to blurt out “Yep, love to!” to any invitation before I even had time to think about it. And so my saying yes to life adventure began.
I found myself attending an ecstatic dance event in a New York basement surrounded by free-spirited nymphs joyously dancing to tribal beats. Completely sober. Slightly awkward at first but incredibly liberating and it reconnected me with my love of dance that I had neglected for years.
A friend of a friend invited me to their weekly group dinner to meet a cute guy she thought I might like. Turned out it wasn’t a romantic match but we had a great conversation and I held my own surrounded by ten perfect strangers.
I met a new friend at a party who was incredibly inspiring yet instead of sloping off at the end of the night I exchanged details with her, followed through and invited her for drinks. After the initial awkwardness wore off we discovered just how much we had in common and she is now one of my newest but dearest friends.
And the yessing didn’t stop there.
I was approached on the street numerous times by student filmmakers asking me if they could interview me. I said yes. I attended various meditation groups, went to a new moon shamanic healing. I joined a group of hikers exploring the wonders of upstate New York. I volunteered at my local animal shelter.
In essence, I grasped at every opportunity that came my way. Whilst I fully understand that this approach is simply impossible to maintain on a long-term basis, fortunately I had time off in-between jobs and so was able to open up my life to these new adventures.
Yet after the three month tour of yes was over, something strange happened. Instead of running back into the comforting arms of no I decided to keep on going.
Granted now that I was working again I wasn’t able to unleash my inner tribal dancer at mid-week events, but I was able to say yes to those things that would work with my schedule.
It’s been over a year since I started yessing and already life feels different. Opportunities arose during this time that I never would have imagined. I met new friends. Tried new things. Weirded myself out along the way and found myself in certain scenarios I wouldn’t want to repeat, but was glad that I tried.
Most importantly I learned that the only thing stopping me from achieving anything in life was myself, and my attachment to that little tiny word no.
Whilst we can’t always say yes to life all of the time, its important to remember to say yes at least some of the time. Life is short but in taking a risk and opening ourselves to yes we edge a little closer to the person that we want to become.
Victoria Cox currently resides in NYC. She's a contributor to The Conversation, Tiny Buddha, Elephant Journal & Dumb Little Man. You can connect with her on Instagram @vcox23.