How to say yes in a world of no

photo-1458662236860-b721a6735660Recently, I caught myself in a bad habit. The tricky part is that this habit isn’t obviously bad, like snapping at my loved ones or watching too much sports television, of which I am guilty. In fact, this habit is often portrayed as a virtue. In other words, I thought this bad habit was good.

Aiden was in from college last week and asked me to help him to get off to a good start on his summer fitness program. This included, among other things, running. When the conversation turns to running, I light up like the sun and can sometimes be blinding with my enthusiasm.

Immediately, I told my son about my latest and greatest pre-run fuel, a combination of energizer, nuts, and dried fruit whirled in a blender. No thanks, momma. While driving to the park where we would run, I expressed my immense joy at finding a running shoe that fits me perfectly and asked if he had a good running shoe. Not needed, momma. O…kay…then, while walking before our run I suggested breaking the isolation of running by joining RunKeeper? Nah.

No. No. No.

A quick google search of “how to say no” demonstrates our cultural preference for, the need for training in, and dare I say, virtue in saying no to the tune of 132,000,000 hits. Titles like, How To Say No To Anyone (Including A Good Friend), 10 Guilt-Free Strategies For Saying No, and How To Say No At Work, frolic through the pages of Forbes, Time, and the Mayo Clinic.

Honestly, I’ve said no to many people and opportunities quite easily over the years. Aiden, my apple, didn’t fall far from this tree.

Again, a quick google search of “how to say yes” is telling. With only 43,000,000 hits and lackluster titles such as, Don’t Be A Word Bore: Alternative Ways To Say Yes, and others which address being affirmative in different languages, it appears that saying yes is as easy as breathing while saying no is painfully daunting.

But wait a minute. Aiden and I are good at saying no. And I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of noes, especially of late, therefore many people I know are good at saying no too. As a thick-skinned gal, I tend to not personalize this phenomenon, but it doesn’t feel good. It just doesn’t.

After a few noes from Aiden, my energy began to drain and I felt confused. My mind began to race with thoughts, double checking myself. Am I being too enthusiastic? Is my information wrong? Am I being pushy? But my son did ask for my help, my information was good enough, and since when did enthusiasm become suspect?

Perhaps the problem isn’t with saying no. Perhaps the problem is with not saying yes.

I stopped in my tracks and asked my son a question, “Do you think you can find a yes?” A big grin crossed his face and he answered, “Yes.” We both laughed

A few months ago I watched the TED Talk, My year of saying yes to everything, by Shonda Rhimes, the “the titan behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.” Shonda got me thinking about my own noes. I realized that I was saying no out of habit, fear, or worse, to things big and small. No, I can’t run a half marathon. No, I can’t stop to watch a movie. No, I can’t sell our house during spring baseball season. And, dang it, I was feeling good about those noes. You know, I was setting healthy boundaries and conserving my energy and prioritizing and…and…was I?

How is one to say yes in a world of increasing speed, demands, and expectations in order to grow love bigger? Here are a few ways to begin.

Say yes to physical wellness. Get rest. Eat an extra serving of vegetables. Do a 7 minute workout. Set your next fitness goal.

Say yes to your primary relationships. Negotiate differences with your spouse. Stop and listen to your children with the goal of understanding each other. Call your parents. Comment on your siblings’ social media. Support their dreams physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Say yes to your secondary relationships. Family first but friends not last. Accept their invitations. Invite them to your home and activities. Make and keep promises. Encourage their children.

Say yes to your neighbors. Buy their Girl Scout cookies. Purchase their products and services. Attend the school championship game. Go to church.

Say yes to the trustworthy. If someone you know lives as a good parent, entrepreneur, optimist, runner (ahem), or other positive role or trait that you desire, listen to them and take action.

Say yes to those most in need. Help the young. Encourage the discouraged. Reach out to the marginalized.

Say yes to the enthusiastic. Each person has a passion, gift, and talent to share. Enjoy their enjoyment. Feed off of their energy. Cheer them on to victory!

There will be times when a no is necessary. Last week I said no to a woman’s demand that I attend a meeting. Um, no. No explanation or excuse. No pontification that I needed to put my family first. No emotional energy expended at all. Just, no thank you. It was easy, really. However well-intentioned, she and her meeting didn’t fit any of my above criteria.

Aiden and I talked about our shared habit of having a negative first reaction and saying no. He then downloaded RunKeeper, was eventually fitted for running shoes which he appreciates, and now chooses to chew nuts and dried fruit before his runs. I found a half marathon in October to train for, watched Sandlot with my youngest son, and our home is for sale.

Cool things happen when we say yes. There are power and positive movement for both the giver and receiver in saying yes to the right things, in the right way, at the right time. How can I say yes to you? How will you find your next yes?