I took a class on improv (improvisational comedy) last year, and from all the exercises & tools we used, one stands out to me. Say yes.
In improv, you never know what the other people on stage are going to say or do. Sometimes they go in a whole new direction, or they ask a crazy question. My takeaway from this class was to go along. To say yes. Every time.
Yes has an energy to it. It has expansion, progress, creativity, possibility. That's what you want in improv! Saying "no" closes down ideas, possibility. It lowers the energy & stops creativity.
These same energies apply in your life. Try this simple experiment. Say "yes" to yourself out loud three or four times. Do you notice how you feel? Now try saying "no" to yourself out loud. Can you feel the difference in your energy?
This simple exercise can have profound impact if you apply it to your life.
For years, I longed for meaning, connection, and freedom in my life. I knew those things were missing - that I wasn't living my best life - but I didn't change anything. I kept with the same course - doubling down on a strategy that wasn't working.
In retrospect, one way I know that I wasn't living my best life was that I felt sad at milestones during the year. Birthdays. The start of school. These milestones all meant that time had passed. Another summer. Another year. I didn't know why I felt sad, but I did. As if I had lost something I couldn't get back.
Napoleon Hill said "the value of decisions depends on the courage required to render them." I didn't have the courage to make a change. To say yes to myself.
Finding this courage wasn't easy for me. Things had to get worse before I changed. Divorce. A three-year legal process. Loneliness. There were some difficult months and years, and I didn't like it.
But I wouldn't trade the result for anything. I have found strength and courage to say yes to myself, to move forward in my life.
As a coach, I tell people that they can be pushed by their pain, or they can be pulled by a vision. It took a big painful push for me to get started, but now I step forward towards my vision. I say "yes" to myself. For myself. For my best self.
Saying yes to yourself can be scary. It can set you off in a whole new direction. You don't know where you'll end up. You don't know how others will react. When it's your life - not just an improv skit - it can feel like the stakes are high.
The stakes are high. We have only one life to live. We get the opportunity to live each day only once. Time does slip by, and if you blink, a year or five can slip by.
I found courage by imagining myself at age 70, looking back on my 45-year old self, and asking which is the better decision? To say "yes" to a new career as a life coach, leaving the only work environment I had ever known (corporate jobs) to become a solopreneur? Or to say "no" - to take the "low-risk" path, staying at Apple.
From that perspective, it was easy! Yes! Yes! Yes! I don't know how it will work out. I don't know what challenges I'll face. I don't know how it will end. But I do know that I feel energized, alive, enthusiastic.
I can tell because I no longer feel sad with the passing of time. As school starts again, I feel energized - for my son starting 7th grade, for myself continuing to build and grow a new business, for deepening relationships. I'm looking forward, knowing that the past has been well spent.
I don't know what the coming years of my life hold for me. I don't even know how many years I have ahead of me. But I do know that my life will be full, rich, and rewarding. Because I am saying "yes" to myself - in big and small ways. Is it scary? Yes. Do I move forward with courage anyway? Yes. And does it pay off? Yes.