You might remember the 2008 movie „Yes Man“starring Jim Carrey as an unhappy bank loan officer who attends a motivational seminar and agrees to saying yes to every opportunity that comes his way. Now while that might not have been the best movie I’ve ever seen and the protagonist was definitely overdoing it the basic idea of it has long been a mantra of mine: saying yes as often as I can.
It’s about improving your quality of life by seizing an opportunity when it presents itself instead of letting it go by and regretting it later. What kind of opportunities am I talking about here? Generelly it’s everything that holds a certain potential for personal growth. Something that you didn’t think you were able to do. Something that you might have called at least a little bit crazy before. Something that challenges you to just take a step or two out of your comfort zone.
My grades in math most of the time weren’t incredibly bad but they also weren’t fantastic. While studying psychology and computer science though I acquired quite a bit of knowledge about statistics. When I was offered a paid position as a statistics tutor at my university I was hesitant at first – what if I didn’t know enough? What if I couldn’t explain it properly? The memory of getting only average grades in math for such a long time had left so many doubts about wether I could actually TEACH it. Then I decided to go for it regardless. I decided to just take the leap and view it as an amazing chance to overcome my own doubts and learn things I didn’t get to learn before. Now that the semester is over I can say I’d do it again any time. Obviously I’m not saying you should be doing something you absolutely despise or are extremely scared of just for the sake of saying yes. But challenging yourself a bit every now and then by saying yes can have a strong positive impact on your life.
There’s actually science behind it:
In an impressive experiment researchers found that those who considered themselves to be “lucky” were not actually favored by fate but were simply more open to opportunities that presented themselves than their “unlucky” fellows. Most “lucky” participants noticed a bundle of cash that had been placed on the sidewalk while the “unlucky” ones just walked by. While it’s not always that obvious in everyday life training your eye for chances and opportunities might still be well worth it.
There’s another benefit: Scientists also found that the more first-time-experiences we have in a certain period of our life the longer this time period appears. That’s why time seems to go by so slowly as a child and teenager but seems to fly as we get older. So by including more first-time-experiences into our life and trying something new as often as possible we can actually prolong our life – or at least our perception of it. But that’s what counts. Say yes especially to small experiences that wouldn’t have a negative impact on your life even if they weren’t exactly a success (I have tried asparagus crème brulée and roquefort ice-cream. Have you?).
At the end of their lives people very rarely regret what they have done but very often what they HAVEN’T done – live the life they dreamed of, go on a trip around the world, do that sky dive, allow themselves to be happy. The opinions may vary broadly on what the purpose of our life is but looking back in regret is something nobody wants.
Be it the party you are actually not really in the mood for or the presentation about a topic you didn’t know could be interesting. Saying yes will result in a new experience at the least or it might open up completely new possibilities and insights. Leaving the well-known path every once in a while, deciding against the path of least resistance will sometimes appear scary but it holds the most potential for personal development.
The comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.