Yes and no aren’t just answers. “No” is a decision. “Yes” is a responsibility.
“No” keeps things off our plates. It’s a credit we keep in our pockets to use wherever and however we want because we haven’t given it away.
“Yes” puts something on our plates. It’s a credit spent, a debt we need to fulfill.
In this way, a “yes” is always a “no” and vice versa too.
When we say “yes” to one thing we’ve said “no” to anything else that might come along. We’ve filled out plate.
Likewise, when we say “no,” we’ve really said “yes” to the opportunity for something else to happen. We’ve left a little room on our plate for… who knows?
It sounds like a puzzle at first, but the idea is clear. We never just say “yes” or “no.” We have to learn to answer wisely and it’s not always easy.
The best rule I’ve heard to guide us is to stay focused on where we want to end up like it’s our North Star. If something belongs on our plate because it helps us reach our desired destination, we should say “yes.” If something doesn’t quite line up, no matter how attractive it might sound in the short term, we should say “no.”
It’s easy to say and hard to do. And that means it’s worth really thinking about. If we want to get to where we want to go or build upon our own momentum, it all starts here with “yes” and “no.”
Want more? I got this idea from James Clear’s February 2021 conversation with Ryan Holiday on the Daily Stoic podcast.