By Amy Rebecca Gay, Ph.D.
What are all the people, values, and experiences in your life to which you say ‘yes’? Spending time with those you love? Self-care? Adventure? Being on time to your mother’s funeral?
I actually didn’t pull that last one out of the blue. During last weeks’ vacation in Vermont I started talking with someone who told me he was late to his mother’s funeral because he was responding to a last-minute request from his boss. A request, no less, he felt his boss could handle without his input. This interesting detail emerged from a larger conversation about how hard it is to unplug – and how the inn’s spotty wi-fi connection was the perfect solution. (The kids had a different reaction!)
But this conversation got me thinking. If I were making a list right now of all my ‘yeses,’ being on time to remember and pay tribute to a loved one would be high on that list. I suspect it was for this gentleman, too. Otherwise, why would he have mentioned it? And yet, we often make choices day-in and day-out that quietly, even gently, erode our commitment to what we hold dear. To what we tell ourselves and others is what matters.
Just to be clear: there is no judgement here. No judgement for this gentleman and how he happened to arrive late to his mother’s funeral. No judgement for myself over some choices I’ve recently made that might not be the truest reflection of my espoused values. No judgement for you.
What I want to do is surface an all-too familiar dynamic and ask you, “What do you say ‘yes’ to?” And in order to protect that ‘yes,’ we need to say ‘no.’ How often do we fail to set healthy boundaries with a ‘no’ in order to protect our most important ‘yeses’? And do we support others to do the same so that we contribute to a community where we all live in alignment with our deeply held values? How would our lives change if we were clear about our ‘yeses’ and committed to holding boundaries to protect them with constructive ‘no’s’? How would the world be different if we committed to a culture that supported us all in learning and applying these skills without guilt or shame?
So here is my ‘yes’ to you and me: I commit to identifying the most important ‘yeses’ in my life, protecting them with constructive ‘no’s’ and supporting you in doing the same. What do you say ‘yes’ to?