Have you seen the movie “Yes Man”? In the movie, Jim Carrey plays a sad lonely bank worker, who sticks within his comfort zones and rejects any novelty. He basically says “no” to everything, and even misses his best friend’s engagement party.
Then a friend from his past suddenly turns up, and drags him to a motivational seminar. The seminar’s speaker grabs Jim Carrey, shakes him up, forces him to take a good long look at his life, and convinces him to say “Yes!” to every request and opportunity. It leads to… well I won’t spoil it for you, in case you haven’t seen the movie
Has someone asked you to play squash, or golf with them? Perhaps someone emailed you today with an opportunity that you’re unsure about taking, because it requires a lot of work? Or maybe you got asked to do a talk in front of a large audience?
What was your answer to them? – “No?”
Not just to things that merit refusal, but to fresh ideas, new possibilities and the chance to make unexpected discoveries? Whenever you say “No” to life, you miss an opportunity: to discover something new, to try something you haven’t tried before, to learn and grow, to find some aspect of yourself or others that you missed before. To start afresh with an interest, a project or maybe your life’s true calling.
So, it’s impossible to say “Yes” to everything, but you could almost certainly say “Yes” to more than you do. Listen to yourself. When someone invites you to join them in something they love—and that you haven’t ever tried—what do you say? Do you take the chance to try it? Or do you politely turn them down because your time is too precious to waste on anything that you are not sure you’ll like in advance?
Learning and living are the same. When you stop learning, you start to die a little every day. There’s scientific evidence links between brain cells can re-grow at any age if you give them some exercise. Your brain is a case of “use it or lose it.” Saying yes to every possibility, provides more choices you have before you, the more potential you have. That’s why everyone has potential—and so little of it gets used.
Potential is possibility. Few possibilities in your life? You have little potential. To increase it, add new choices. Learning is the only way. It’s a basic law of nature. The species most tightly tied to a single niche environment are the ones most likely to become extinct. The most adaptable species—not the fastest, biggest or cleverest—survive and prosper whatever happens. Want proof? Look around you at all the pigeons and sparrows. Not much danger they’ll die out any time soon, is there? But they aren’t powerful birds like eagles, or even clever ones like parrots. What they are is supremely adaptable.
So try it. Say “Yes” to something you would normally turn down. Try different food, different music, going to a movie you’d normally avoid. Try behaving differently. If you’re usually shy, try making the first move to speak to someone interesting. If you’re noisy and extroverted, try standing back quietly and watching while others take the limelight. Whatever happens, you’ll learn something. You may even discover something unexpectedly good. It doesn’t need to be anything dramatic. What matters is that you open yourself to more of what life has to offer, instead of hanging back and staying with what you already know.
So many people go through life and work convinced that there is only one path open to them. What makes it true, is because they never try anything else. But the world is a huge, glorious experiment, not a set of rules to be followed and boxes to the checked. How much you are willing to join in that experiment is up to you. The closer that you stick to the same script, the less you will discover about what might be even better. What holds most people back is fear of losing what they already have, however imperfect it might be. Just remember that you are in control of the experiment. You can say ‘Yes’ a lot or try a little change.
If it doesn’t work, you can always go back and try again. Saying “No” is the real risk, because it closes the door forever on anything different.