Yes or No?
It’s hot and sticky outside. I have no desire to fight crowds (probably not wearing masks or paying any attention to social distancing) to go into the city on this holiday. So here I am again, alone with hours to spend, pondering the vicissitudes of life.
That seems to be the primary activity of quarantine for me lately.
After my morning coffee ritual, I decided to sit down and follow up on the lists I talked about yesterday. As I have began working on my “stop doing list” I found myself getting stuck a few times, thinking to myself, “I kind of like this, but it’s also a big time waster. Should I keep doing it?”
At other times, I found myself thinking, “Meh. Take it or leave it. I don’t hate this, but I don’t love it either.” That’s when I remembered my favorite quote by Derek Sivers from his book “Anything You Want”:
Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”. When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.” When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!” Every event you get invited to. Every request to start a new project. If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about it, say “no. We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.Derek Sivers from “Anything You Want”
I remember when I first posted this online. I had a few people say, “Amen” but one of my friends threw a big damper on it by saying something like, “That’s pretty limiting. Not everything can make you happy you know.”
At first, I was inclined to be angry at someone raining on my parade. After all, I was simply stating that I found value in the quote, not that I was suddenly going to make that the only barometer for my decision-making. Still, I have meditated off and on for thirty five years, so I managed to breathe my way into equanimity and let that friend have their opinion without needed to reply.
As a thought experiment, the Sivers quote is awesome. It really does force me to stop and think about the cost of decisions – the cost of time, energy, resources, well-being, etc. But today I began to think that my somewhat-pessimistic friend might have a core of truth buried in their message, too. As a singular took, Sivers’ quote just doesn’t work. Like I found in some of my thoughts, some choices are not overwhelming bad or good – they are in the middle. That led me to go back to the web and look up his quote again to see if I had missed something.
As I as pondering this quote, I went to Sivers’ website and found a footnote on the quote’s page that linked to an article that talks about what he calls the “flip side” of the quote. That link led me to a page by Sid Savara, author of “The 7 Reasons People Fail.”
Savara offers a different option, what he calls the “Hell, Why Not?” response. He talks about the idea that a “Hell, Yeah” or “No” polarity will sometimes keep you from trying things that you really should say “Yes” to. He notes the following:
“You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way – but I would at least consider dipping your toes in if you don’t have a better option.”Sid Savara
This led me to start thinking about my new quest to clean up my life by eliminating things that are not feeding my soul and only saying “yes” to those that lead me to feel the way I want to feel. I definitely need to get rid of some thoughts, actions, projects, and even people in my life – things that are truly making me feel miserable, disempowered, overwhelmed, and just plain bad.
I still also believe that Derek Sivers is on to something important – at least for me. We need to follow our passions. Sure, there are some things that we have to keep on doing (at least until we find better options) in order to live a comfortable life. My job brings me very little joy, but I am continuing to do it because I need the paycheck and because I am still making a positive different in the world – even if I find myself feeling drained and disempowered sometimes. I will keep doing it for the time being because I need to pay my bills.
Still, anything draining that I can stop or quit or cease or get rid of or delegate or walk away from . . . I am sure as hell going to do it.
But in this process, I find that Sivers’ “all or nothing” approach is a little too limiting. If I add Savara’s option in, things begin to feel a little better. Still, I think I can come up with my own version here. I believe that nearly everything in life exists on a scale of some kind. On one extreme is “all” and on the other is “nothing” but in between are infinite variations.
So, for me I like to think this day of introspection and research into quotes has led me to create a workable scale for myself as I begin my new energy of making better, more fulfilling, more empowering decisions in my life.
The options are really five:
- Hell, No! – That reaction that makes me thing it would be more pleasurable to stick hot needles into my own eyes than to do whatever it is that elicited that reaction.
- No – A measured and clear response to something after thinking about options. A plain and simple “no” means that I just don’t see value in something for me at that moment.
- Hell, Why Not? – Here’s the gray zone between “no” and “yes.” This is when I feel like I have the time and energy, and even though the choice doesn’t make me jump up and down with glee, it seems somehow intriguing and piques my interest.
- Yes – Like the measured “no” above, this is me making a decision after thought. I will say “yes” when I feel like there is some value and it does align with my core desired feelings in some way.
- Hell, Yes! – Woo hoo! This is the holy grail of decisions. This is what I wish all of my choices could feel like, a moment when you think to yourself, “Wow! This sound like the best thing in the world and I want to do this so much it makes me want to dance in the street!”
So I guess my daily hours of quarantine-enforced isolation have allowed me to unpack some deeper truths for myself. It’s not all about “Hell, Yes” or “Hell, No.” Maybe it’s ok to say “Maybe” from time to time.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.