Saying Yes

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”

I read that a few days ago, and I loved it for a few reasons: one, the word hearty is underused; two, it got me thinking about the adventures I’ve turned down and why; and three, I wondered how exactly I was supposed to know when I was being encountered with “my adventure.”

In general, I am a “say yes” type of person. There are very few things and people I’ve said no to, mostly because I just like to see what happens (doesn’t sound like I’m living very intentionally, does it…). I give people way too many chances, I overextend myself by committing to things I don’t really want to do, and I spend a lot of time saying yes to people who don’t say yes to me. This all sounds bad enough, but all the white noise created from saying yes to everything has, I think, probably made me miss out on some pretty important adventures.

Part of living with intention is knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why you said yes to this and no to that. Why you chose X instead of Y. It’s actually being able to expound reasons for your actions. Moreover, living with intention is being able to have GOOD reasons. Saying yes for the sake of saying yes is not a good reason. And I have definitely spent years of my life saying yes simply because I didn’t want to say no. What, god forbid, if I missed out on something? Guess what–fear of missing out is not a reason to do something. It’s an idea precipitated by we millennials that is probably rooted in social media. I’ve gone on a lot of dates with guys simply because I thought I might be missing out on something, when really I should have told myself, “wait, I am an adult woman, and if I don’t think there’s anything there–then there isn’t.” I’ve also said yes to clients and projects that I knew I wouldn’t be invested in…for what reason, I have no idea. Just said yes for the hell of it.

When I think about the adventures I’ve openly said no to–and truthfully, there are very few–I said no because I was concerned about what someone in my life would think or feel about it. Another way of putting that is FEAR. Fear is dumb. I don’t have many regrets, but wow, I’ve turned down some adventures I’ll never get back.

enhanced-13593-1395329522-8I’ve always really liked this Natalie Goldberg quote (if she sounds familiar, it’s because she wrote the monumental Writing Down the Bones) because in order to write anything meaningful, you have to get over that fear of splitting yourself open. You have to get over the fear of what someone else might think, you have to get over the fear of sucking, you have to get over the fear of being wrong, and you have to get over the fear of not meeting your own expectations. For some reason, I’ve always taken that advice when it comes to writing, but never about life.

So this is a problem, right? I say yes too much, and thus fail at living intentionally. I have said no to things out of pure fear–worse, not even my own fear at doing those things, it’s been the fear of what someone else might think. All of this has led me to miss out on some things that I know would have been monumental in my life. How can I be sure that when that big adventure comes, I will be ready to get it that hearty yes?

I think the biggest thing I need to do is quiet the noise. Cut out the people who don’t contribute anything meaningful. Cut out projects that aren’t fulfilling. Doing those two things will give me fewer opportunities to say yes to stupid stuff, and those important queries will come through a little louder. The second thing, and the harder thing, is to push past the fear. Send the letter, take the job, break up with someone, tell someone you love them. What do you have to lose?  If you’ve been vulnerable and open in your life and your decisions, then you have nothing to lose by pushing past your residual fear.

The third and final thing I need to do–and maybe it’s what you need to do, too–is to be really honest about what kind of adventure I want. What do I want my big adventure to look like? Is it about love? A career? A journey? Is it an amalgamation of those things? If I had to choose, which would be the most important? When you determine what kind of adventure you’re hoping comes knocking, it’s going to be  a lot easier to say that hearty yes.

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