Say YES.....and Actually Mean it.

Let me first start with the teachings of someone far wiser than me…….

The Great Buddha taught his followers that meaning what we say is not only important for ourselves, but for the greater good of community and society.  

Choosing my words and the reasons behind them is something I’m paying close attention to these days.  I’ve been so guilty of the fake “yes” and the old “Why the hell did I just say yes to that?” feeling.  I’m exhausted of it and decided to investigate this behavior and the thoughts behind it.  Guys and gals, I’m compelled to share what I’ve learned because I think it’s kind of a mental game changer.

We are constantly asked to say yes to things.  Social commitments, donations, volunteer time, family obligations, activities, events, etc.  Many of us, young and old gals and guys, say “yes” to far too many things.  Or we say “yes” to something out of peer and social pressure.  We say “yes” because we think we should.  We say “yes”, but mean “maybe”.  We say “yes” because saying “no” isn’t always easy.  

Unfortunately, the second we say “yes” against our gut reaction or inner voice, we are  responsible for it.  First, we are immediately in conflict with ourselves.  Next, we think of reasons we should have said no, why it’s not a good idea, and we beat ourselves up; sometimes a little, sometimes alot!  We say things like, “I don’t have time!” “What did I get myself in to?” “I don’t want to do this.” “I can’t do this.” “I shouldn’t do this.” “I’m afraid of this”, or “I’m not ready for this.”  Then, we begin to resent the thing and/or person we said yes to.  Alas, we are now in conflict with the person, event, commitment, organization, or activity we said “yes” to. 

This conflict is what leads to negative thoughts, complaints, anxiety, and flakiness.  And we still haven’t even done the thing that we said yes to!  

The good news is….we can actually take the power of our “YES” back!  We can do this by taking a quick but mindful step back from whatever is being asked of us.  Just that momentary pause might be all we need to give the right answer.  Other times, we need to walk ourselves through one or more of these important questions.  

  1. Can I find a way to be at peace with myself if I say “yes”?
  2. Will I learn something from this “yes”?
  3. What will I lose by saying “yes”?
  4. What are the real consequences of saying “no”?

Asking ourselves these questions makes us accountable for the “yes” and also helps validate a “no”.  These questions also create opportunities for growth; even when we aren’t looking.  You may enter in to a “yes” with a better perspective simply by identifying what you might learn from the event or experience.   

Regardless of the answers to the questions, the ultimate responsibility for the yay or nay is on each of us.  Taking a moment to reset, consider priorities, and make a mindful choice is how we take back the power of our “yes”.   This though process changes how we experience events and activities.  Saying yes and meaning it is how a “yes” might even become a “hell yeah!”

For me, Step One is knowing whether or not I can bring my silliness along (of course, only when appropriate). If yes, I can show up to the “yes”, be present, and finish with no regrets.  Step Two is a big one for me; I know I feel better about myself after a challenge or when I learn something. Step 3 is interesting; it might reveal what I’m afraid of.  And Step four is how I’m able to quickly evaluate priorities.  

Going back to Buddha….So, how does saying what we mean effect our community and larger society?  My guess is that it’s the energy we put out as we connect with others.  When we feel negatively, we send out negativity.  When we say, “hell yeah”, it sends out the good stuff.

Disclaimer:  I'm not perfect with the process, and for that I allow myself some grace.  Just like everybody, I’m working on it!


Image by Barbara Brooks for  The featured photo was taken while prepping for a local magazine photo shoot. The event was a personal and recent example of turning a "why did I say yes?, into a "hell yeah". The process was worth every second of my energy; I showed up, learned a little something about myself, and left with no regrets.  

Image from Barbara Brooks for