When my daughter was born, my husband and I made a conscious choice to try and never say No. We had friends with kids who said No constantly.
- No, you can’t have that
- No, you can’t do that
- No, don’t touch
- No, you’re not old enough
As our daughter grew, we tried to explain things to her rather than use No.
- It’s hot, it will hurt if you touch it
- It’s not good for you
One day, it all went out the window. No! It’s just too tempting of a word. The message is clear. And it’s effortless to say, especially when you’re tired, overwhelmed, busy …
We watched Yes Day on Netflix this past weekend, and it reminded me of that promise I made to myself all those years ago. Moms naturally turn into “No” women as soon as they have kids, don’t they? We have everyone’s best interest at heart. No keeps everyone safe. No is easier than yes. No keeps things the same.
Ultimately, No is about change.
If we say No, we don’t have to think about the consequences. No means we don’t have to take risks.
Say No enough, and it becomes a pattern that’s difficult to break free of.
Should I get a new job? No!
Should I move to another city? No!
Should I leave this relationship? No!
Because Yes is scary. Yes means we have to step out of our comfort zone, and for a short while, be totally vulnerable out there in the world.
The reasons we say No!
When we reach our 40s and 50s, No isn’t just a word; it’s a lifestyle. That’s because humans, in general, don’t like change. We like safety. We like comfort. We like sameness. And Yes can stretch you wayyyyyy beyond all of that.
But it does something else too. It limits your creativity. Ben Franklin said: “Some people die at 25, but aren’t buried until they’re 75.” That’s a great way to put it.
Because the more you say No, the more stifled you become. To find your passion, to live a full life, you have to experience all aspects of it. You can’t work the same job for forty years. You can’t live in the same house for decades. You can’t stay put, without experiencing the world, and not have it become a part of your lifestyle.
There are many reasons this happens.
We love comfort – by default, humans like comfort. We want the familiar. This grows stronger with age and becomes more difficult to tackle when you see all you have.
We fear risk – even if you aren’t where you want to be, you have “things.” And as much as you want more, the thought of losing often wins out. By staying safe and sound, you’re missing the whole point of life. If you say Yes, what’s the worst that could happen? Total safety isn’t an option anyway, so why put so much emphasis on perceived safety?
We fear a loss of identity – your persona exists to those around you. Your family, your friends, your co-workers, your peers, your audience – they see the YOU you put out to the world, even if it isn’t who you truly want to be. To get in touch with who you really are might upset all you’ve achieved. What if you had to move past people in your circle to get where you truly need to be? Are you sacrificing your core happiness just to stay a part of that circle?
We are held captive by ego – “look at me, and all I’ve achieved!” Even if we don’t scream it out loud every day, it’s still a part of us. It’s our true identity! We drive certain cars, live in certain neighborhoods, put our kids in certain schools. What will people think if you didn’t stay there? That’s your ego talking. You’ve put a pricetag on what you’ve achieved, and feel a step in a new direction might cause you to move to a new track, one that those around you might not value as much. Can your ego take that kind of hit?
We value love – how many times do you say No out of love? As women, we do it all the time.
- I can’t take that class because I have to be home for the kids.
- I can’t take that job because my spouse can’t move away from his.
- I can’t start that business because it would leave me vulnerable. Everyone tells me how much risk that is, and I just don’t think I can do that to “them.”
Have you said No out of love?
Midlife is the perfect time to give it all up and say YES!
Have you read “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*%k” by Sarah Knight? In it, she states that sometimes your biggest “I quit” is all you need to get a new lease on life. She freed up brainspace by quitting her job for the chance at writing. It gave her a chance to think for herself, become an idea person, and plan for what her future might entail.
That’s a very big scary, complicated move to make.
Yet how many times do you hear of people making big changes – HUGE changes – and it made all the difference?
That’s because you suddenly fall off that pedestal you’ve created for yourself, and made room for building up a new one. It was out of your control.
In midlife, you have some safety nets in place. Use them.
If you can retire early, you have a guaranteed income. It may not be perfect for permanent retirement, but it can give you a break to do what you truly want to do.
You can sell your house and move into something smaller now that you are living with an empty nest. We did it several years ago, and have never looked back. Not only did we cash out of our permanent home, but we’ve also made the conscious choice to rent for now, possibly forever. Renting means freedom to move when I want, and the headaches of homeownership are on someone else.
You can also try new things with calculated determination. When you were three, you jumped at things. But jumping in your 40s or 50s is a whole lot different. You have years worth of experiences to stand behind you, guiding you to make smart choices in your life.
Here’s your challenge this week. Say YES to three things.
Start small – you don’t have to rip your world apart completely.
Say YES to cleaning out a room and selling off all the contents.
Say YES to quitting a group and joining a new one.
Say YES to eating better, than cleaning out your pantry to do just that.
Sometimes the mere act of thinking about what you’ll say YES to is enough to push you in the right direction.
What did you say YES to this week?