Shift in Perspective

The Power of Yes


I have cultivated a new mindset in the past months, and it has carried me through a year of difficult personal decisions. Which new path to choose in my retired life? What was my future going to look like? How would I fill my time? I had some tiny panic attacks. Some of the decisions were expected, others were not. As the saying goes, “The only constant is change.”

Sometime in the middle of 2023, I decided an answer to my dilemma would be to say “Yes” to everything. I would say yes to any opportunity for a new experience, a new friendship, a new area of service. I said yes to being an artist’s model, yes to a trip to Hawaii, yes to volunteering at the Angel Guild, yes to camping with a gal friend, yes to a new dog, yes to writing more for the Key Peninsula News, yes to house sitting. You get the picture.

I wish I could say that this philosophy was my own creation, but it is not. There are many books, authors and podcasts discussing the advantages of saying yes.

The entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is a proponent of saying yes. “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity to do something and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.”

In an article in Psychology Today, Alice Boyes, Ph.D. wrote, “Five Reasons to be a Yes Parent.” Encouraging creativity, encouraging confidence in asking for what children want, saying yes, can help them cope with a “No” answer, gives children the confidence not to be sneaky if they are not always expecting a no answer, and helps parents to be spontaneous and direct.

Saying yes to self-care is another win. Self-care has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and feelings of depression. Giving ourselves permission to rest our bodies and revive our spirits improves overall health and keeps us out of the doctor’s office. Say yes to moving your body more, eating a healthy diet, allowing yourself enough sleep. Self-care can help you “adapt to changes, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks,” according to the website Mental Health First Aid.

Avoid FOSY, the Fear of Saying Yes. In a survey of 2000 British from OnePoll, psychologist Emma Kenny found that “FOSY is a common phenomenon, linked to the emotions we experience when faced with opportunities that push us outside our comfort zone. When there is a chance we might be judged or we have preconceived ideas that we are not good at something, our instinctive reaction is to say no, even if it’s something we want to do. When we take on new experiences, we grow in courage and develop personal resilience, which increases our confidence and self-esteem, making life feel altogether more rewarding.”

Saying yes boosts creativity, according to Clay Drink, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. “If you are trying to come up with lots of options, if you’re brainstorming or working on a creative project, saying ‘yes’ can help keep things moving and allow you to generate more ideas.”

Saying yes can help build rapport with others. John Gottman’s research shows that couples who say yes to a partner’s suggestions or proposals are more successful and have more longevity than couples who say no to efforts at connecting.

Rebutting this philosophy, some believe the “just say yes” plan is not a good one. Overcommitment and burnout are real dangers.

Spreading yourself too thin, inattention, a relapse in health issues, overextension, no time to rest or spend time with loved ones are real possibilities. Setting appropriate boundaries is a serious issue for some people, and saying yes to everything may be self-destructive for some. The ability to say no is a valuable skill providing protection for the vulnerable.

How has the decision to say yes as often as possible worked for me? I say it’s been a resounding success. I have made new friends and connections. I have helped more people. I have allowed myself some new adventures, like taking my dog to a “nose work” class, where a whole new world opened up for both me and Miss Claire. My life is richer for saying yes, and I plan to continue.

Vicki Biggs is a retired social worker. She lives in Home.