Here’s something I never imagined myself admitting out loud: I need to keep practicing when to say YES, when to say NO, and HOW to do so. I would have thought that at the age of 35, using these two primary and basic words will be effortless; but reality has different plans for us all.
Too many coincidences which happened lately taught me (at least) two valuable lessons: first, there are no coincidences. Second, when I do remember to direct my attention on staying open to new opportunities – surprising things tend to happen. Apparently, rejecting options that seems to be off the planned track can easily become a reflexed habit. So what is the cost of that habit? How many wonderful gifts are we missing while not staying open to new ways to fulfill our targets?
I have been struggling with that issue quite a lot, since I’m usually a strong advocate of chasing one’s dream, no matter what. There’s a beautiful metaphor described in the book “The monk who sold his Ferrari” by Robin Sharma, describing a skilled archer standing in front of a marked target, pointing his arch carefully while his eyes are covered. Obviously he missed the target big time, no matter how trained he was. You can almost never hit a goal if you can’t see it clearly. Inspired by that lesson, I was asking myself: how can I see my target clearly and follow it constantly, yet staying tuned to new opportunities occurring along my path? When should I stick to the original plan, and when to deviate from it? When is the right time to say YES, and when to say NO?
In “The Passion Test” book by Janet Bray Attwood, I found a good advice given on how to settle this so-called contradiction. “When you are clear about what your passions are, you can’t predict how they will get fulfilled” writes Attwood. “Beware the tendency to think there is only one way your dreams can be fulfilled”. That way, as long as you are putting the attention on your passions, vision, and goals – you can expect them to show up in your life, or even go beyond what you’ve envisioned.
OK, so I’m one step ahead when allowing myself to explore new opportunities which I haven’t considered before as valuable for promoting my plans. But how about learning to say NO when these are taking a U turn from opportunities into time and energy wasters? I remember when my daughter learned to ride the bicycles by herself and I watched her cycling alone for the first time, I felt proudly: that’s it, mission is done! Then, she needed to stop and while she was falling on the grass I realized that she hasn’t learned that one yet… when we move forward quickly to complete our missions we sometimes forget to stop on time, or perhaps we haven’t learned how to do so or practiced enough.
How can we navigate between the YES’s and the NO’s in a world abounded with possibilities? How can a decision be made strategically – meaning striving towards a clear vision – yet considering a great amount of factors in such a complex reality? Leaders aiming to serve society are constantly bumping into this complexity. You want to serve a good cause, engage different people with different mind sets in the process, give what you can while still make a living, take under consideration ecological and societal impacts, think global and act local, lean on past experience yet staying open to new ideas and innovations… ah, so confusing!
But I know deep inside that there must be a compass somewhere for dealing with that complexity, and I just need to find it. I know that creativity is almost endless, when you manage to discover what drives you over and over again. I believe that the answer lies somewhere between intuition and a constant self-exploring of abilities, capabilities, strengths, motivations, weaknesses, limitations, and passions. No one said it’s going to be easy, but a determined practice will turn the YES and NO to become more clear and available for use; and that’s a good start.
Some tips in a nut-shell for developing the YES and NO intuition:
LISTEN: to yourself, to your inner voice, to advice given by people you trust wanting the best for you, to past lessons and conclusions, to what the world is calling you to do, to the silent moments in between the instant buzz – the silent which allows you to stop for a moment.
TRY: check, prototype, start in small steps, test your ideas on friends and love ones, ask for feedback.
EXPERIENCE: allow yourself to be a part of something new, take a role in an evolving process, try a new position, test a new skill, try to answer the question: what is the worst thing could happen?….
TASTE: let your senses guide you, see if the new experience brings along a good taste with it or you are rejected by it, check of you can spice it a bit and adjust your project according to both your needs and skills, don’t eat what smells badly or causes you a stomach ache – listen to what your body is telling you about this new situation.
FEEL: explore within yourself – which feeling is this situation causing you? Are you lifted, energized and enthusiastic, or are you stressed and can’t wait for it to be over? Do you like the people, ideas, values and actions which are connected to this project or maybe you feel like you wish it would take another direction? Feel into the situation and don’t underestimate what comes up to the surface.
STAY OPEN: keep your vision in mind and stay open to the way it will fulfill in reality; you never know which of the roads will take you there.