Saying YES vs saying NO


Taking a slightly different approach to this age-old dilemma of saying Yes vs No, I’m inviting you to look into our tendency to match one with the other.

As human beings we have a habit of making up connections between things that happen to us, to make more sense of them. Amongst other things, we instantly make up a ‘No’ statement for each ‘Yes’.

For my musician friends, for example, by accepting yet another ad hoc Saturday night gig offer or extra tour dates you might feel you are forever saying ‘No’ to quality time with your partner, family or friends, alienating yourself from your loved ones as a price you have to pay for making a decent living from the profession you have chosen.

Now consider this: The way you choose to divide your time of course has an impact on the time you have left to tend your relationships. But! It doesn’t have to define the quality of your relationships. The same is true for other seemingly ‘obvious’ cause & effect pairings.

So how do you know which connections are real?

Connecting the right Yes to the right No

It can seem like a jungle, sorting out the volumes of Yes & No and seeing the real connections. Here is a simple exercise that you can do on your own:


  • Take a blank piece of paper & divide it into 2 columns. Title the columns ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
  • On the ‘Yes’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying Yes to. What are you embracing, willingly or grudgingly?
  • On the ‘No’ column, list 5 most important things that you are currently saying No to. What are you avoiding, putting off, dreaming about?
  • One at a time, pick something from your ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ list and see if you can connect it with any of the items on the other column.
  • Test out any connection that you think you find by writing it into a full sentence: When I say YES to ________ it means I am saying NO to ________. (or vice versa) Then ask yourself: ‘Can I prove this is true?’



If you find any statements that are verifiably true, congratulations! You are being honest and transparent about the impact of your actions, instead of leading yourself on to think that by saying ‘Yes’ to extra work you are saying ‘No’ to your family. You understand it’s never that straight forward. You can continue by considering how the two sides of the statement each support your wellbeing. Write down what thoughts emerge.

If you cannot find connections that seem water-proof between the two lists, it may mean you are consciously or subconsciously holding back and not allowing yourself to see the real impact of each ‘Yes’ and each ‘No’ to your life. Continue by re-writing the two lists, see if anything new emerges that you didn’t think of before. If you get stuck, take a break and come back to the exercise later.

If you find it difficult to get through this exercise by yourself or are interested in getting greater clarity on how to get what you want for your life, consider finding yourself a coach. 

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