I am not my no’s, choices compound and other woefully truthful clichés on feeling good about your decisions.
February 1, 2017
Saying no is hard.
Groundbreaking stuff, I know. Stick with me here. Saying no has always been tough. At this point, I think most of us are self-aware enough to admit that we’ve been conditioned to strive for success and seek approval from others. Anyone with access to the Internet or a low-level psychology class can discern this.
Often when we’re asked to do something – a favor, a social engagement, a job – it feels like the decision has already been made. Between the impending guilt, fear of disappointment and desire to avoid conflict, yes can feel like the only option. It especially feels like the easiest option. We live in a world where we are constantly evaluated and judged buy our no’s. Regrets and would-have’s and could-have’s dominate our conversations so much that complaining has become a trope.
As if that conditioned internal struggle wasn’t enough, sometime in the last half-century a group of marketing folks found a way to capitalize on the word yes.
Yes has become a new mantra for life: accept new experiences, take chances, say yes! Yes is trendy. Yes is zen.
Accepting life and new experiences are, in theory, great suggestions – especially for someone who is inclined to shut themselves out of experiences they might want/enjoy out of fear. However, between Instagram influencers doing yoga in Bora Bora and HGTV's exponential increase in shows about tiny homes, we’re inundated with conflicting images of what saying yes to every experience looks like. We’re constantly presented with new trends, pressures and experiences while simultaneously encouraged to focus on our true passions:
“Balance means being well rounded and saying yes to things outside your comfort zone!” Mr. Influencer says. “Balance also means not spreading yourself too thin, so don’t say yes to too much!” Oh. Okay. So, uhm, yes or no? Both? Okay. Right...
Here’s the thing:
You can get better at saying no, but I don’t think it ever gets easier. And I don’t think the aforementioned catch-22 of saying yes is going to resolve itself anytime soon either. So what do we do?
Perhaps the best way to ease the internal stress of these decisions is to start changing how we assign them value
It is estimated that a person makes 35,000 conscious decisions every day.
That’s a lot of decisions and, overtime, those choices compound. Each yes and no comes together to bring you to new a moment in time and new versions of yourself.
These choices, the circumstances that brought them about, your reactions to them, and the results they bring are all playing a part in you.
We are not defined by our no’s.
We are not defined by our yeses.
Despite how it may feel, you are not defined by each, individual choice; we are defined by a lot of factors. In the grand scheme of 35,000 choices a day, you can trust that things will average out over time. Some choices are bigger than others and will hold more value, of course. But you get to decide which ones those are. You assign them value.
So while some rich white guy writing a self-help novel or an Instagram influencer on the shores of Bora Bora might argue that you should stop making half-hearted decisions and take control of your life, they aren’t wrong but they are a bit misleading.
If you ask me, I'd say this: Decisions matter. Choices matter. But we're going to make bad decisions, not-completely-thought-out-decisions, just-plain-dumb-decisions (like the street meat you’ll absolutely pay for later but is also maybe #worthit), and 34,997 other kinds of decisions each. day.
Maybe we can find a little comfort and ease if we start changing the way we value those decisions. Maybe, just maybe, we’re the only ones who chose which decisions define us.
Personally, I’m putting all my eggs in the street meat basket.