Yes First

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite word is “yes.”

I try to have a “yes first” philosophy in life. What does that mean, exactly? It means that I try very hard to cultivate “yes” as an instinctive, first answer. I want it to be my first impulse. You build those kinds of habits over time, but you can make the decision to start today.

It’s not just about the words you use. It’s about making those words true. Often I start with the “yes” and then work backwards. If I’m having a bad day, and my daughter asks if I want to play, some part of me can want to say no. To say I’m too busy or too stressed. Instead, I say “yes,” and then find a way to make it true.

It might be “yes, if you’re okay with it being just for a little bit before I have to get back to work.” Or it can be “yes, but the game has to be ‘help daddy clean the living room,’ and then we can do something else,” or even sometimes, “yes, I do, but I’m in the middle of a project, can we play in 20 minutes?”

“Yes, if” is still a perfectly valid version of “yes.” I started with the default that I would say yes, and then I looked for ways to fit that yes into my day or my life.

Try it with any type of goal. Ask yourself if you can accomplish some particular thing you’ve always wanted to do, and instead of listing reasons why you can’t, start your answer with “Yes, if…”

Assume the answer is yes, and then work out the details. The details are incidental; they’re minor compared to the core belief that you can do it.

“Yes, if” is a great way to stay positive while also respecting your time and other commitments. It also gets rid of sounding like you’re making excuses. If someone asks you for a favor, and you really would like to do it for them except you’re super busy right now, that can be true but still sound like you’re not willing to help or that you’re making an excuse. Instead, consider a rephrase: “Yes I can, as long as it isn’t time sensitive; but if I can help you with this after next Thursday I’ve got you.” (This is assuming, of course, that you legitimately did want to do the favor! But in general I think we could all stand to do a few more favors for others, and probably want to.)

“Yes, if” is also a great way to overcome your nervousness or anxiety about whether or not you have the ability to do something. Don’t worry about the voice in your brain that tells you that you can’t. Just say yes, and then figure out why you were right. Start with the yes. If you’re offered a promotion or a new task at your job, say “Yes! If I can take this task off my plate, I can completely commit to this new role.” Make the world fit to your yes.

All great things in life start with a “yes!”

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