Why is every yes actually a no?

Said Yes? Nope, you actually said no

It’s fun to say yes.

Yes makes people happy.

Yes clears the way to the next thing.

The word “no” feels bad.

No is frequently accompanied by excuses or disappointment.

Yes is far preferrable to no. Or is it?

Is every yes in fact, a no?

Is “yes” actually a “no” in camouflage? And if so, how?

The Problem of Opportunity Cost

Time, money, support, emotional energy, and other resources are finite. When they are spent on one thing, they cannot be spent on another.

Take time for instance. Once a minute is over, it cannot be reclaimed. Any time you say yes to any time commitment, you’ve said no to any other way to use that time.

It’s rare to think of commitments this way but considering agreements in this light can lead to a more fulfilling use of your limited resources.

The Question You Should Be Asking

When someone asks for your time, money, or other resources, don’t consider whether it is possible for you to say yes. Instead, ask yourself whether this use of your resource is the best possible way to use the resource.

For instance, let’s say your co-worker invites you to lunch. You check your calendar and it’s free. Your immediate instinct is to say yes. But is this the best use of your time? If you’re excited to catch up with the co-worker, then it may well be.

But what if you have a big project that is due tomorrow and if you work through lunch, you’ll be able to leave early to catch the beginning of your son’s football game?

What if going for a walk at lunch would help clear your mind so you’re ready for your presentation later in the day?

What if you call your parents during lunch would give you and them more joy than lunch with the co-worker?

Saying yes to lunch is saying no to every other possibility.

Other Considerations

Before saying yes, consider your long and short-term goals.

Choosing to spend $20 on a book may bring you further from your goal of moving into a nicer neighborhood, or it might teach you how to invest more intelligently, which will bring you closer to the new house sooner.

When you think of your use of resources in the context of the outcome of your choices, you’re more likely to be deliberate about them. Deliberate choices, made consistently, create the outcome you’re intending.

Goals aren’t the only consideration. Think about whether the thing you are spending your resources on will bring you joy, peace, happiness, growth, opportunity, or other positive benefits.

Spending time and money on new experiences or time with those you love is a good use of those resources. Spending time and money on lunch with a co-worker when you don’t really want to is a poor use of those resources.

What’s Important to You

Commentators have said that if you want to know what a person values, spend five minutes looking at their calendar and checkbook.

Think about what you value, then compare how your resources are actually being allocated. Is your money being spent on things you think are valuable and in alignment with your values? What about your time?

If you find that you’re out of alignment, pay more attention when you say yes.

Remember that every yes is actually a no to everything else. With that frame of reference, you’ll be spending your time, money, emotional energy, and every other resource in a way that aligns with your ultimate happiness.

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Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.

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