Are You Addicted to the “Yes Habit”?

How often do you find yourself saying yes when you really want to say no? Can you take on this extra project? Would you join our volunteer committee? We know its last minute but can you organize next week’s meeting? Would you like to get together with so and so (someone perhaps you’d rather not)?

Obviously there are many times when these kinds of invitations delight and deserve a resounding ‘yes.’ And of course there are also those times when we simply have to suck it up and step up to our responsibilities. The distinction I’m making here is to consider how often you say yes when you really do have a choice, a desire — and a right – to say no. Instead, you say yes because….

Because why?

All too often we respond reflexively – and almost unconsciously from habit.

Our inner voices say ‘you should do it’; or “if you don’t there will be repercussions” (e.g. disapproval, disappointment, etc.); “why rock the boat?” Those inner voices, when unchecked, can be powerful, and drive our choices and actions that may not always be in our best interest.

So why do it? Because for every choice we make (consciously or not), there’s a perceived pay-off.

The first step in breaking a habit is to notice it first – and the belief you hold about that choice.  

What pay-offs do you believe you get from your ‘yes habits’?

A need to please? Keep the peace? Look good? We’re all guilty of some of this. And often, it seems so much easier simply to say ‘yes’ than to muster up the courage and authenticity to say ‘no’.

But is it worth it?

The Flip Side: What’s the Cost?

Equally important is to check out the flip side: the cost. What are you giving up by saying ‘yes’ simply out of habit? How often do you give up something that matters to you because you didn’t have the courage to say no?

From my own personal experience, I’ve been reflecting on this ‘yes habit’ quite a bit. Like most people, I am often time-crunched and have a lot going on professionally – and personally. How I choose to spend my time matters – because my time is a precious commodity. I bet most of you would agree that yours’ is as well.

I recall a time when I had to decide whether or not to take on another year of responsibility in a volunteer board position.  For various reasons, it wasn’t an easy choice. Certainly there was much I enjoyed about the role but it meant I had to forgo other pursuits that I’d been wanting to focus on.  I struggled with this decision for a while until I took some time to listen more closely to 1) my ‘should’ voice and my 2) genuine ‘want’ voice.

I noticed a lot of rationalizations: “I should say stay on because it’s an honour to be in this role; I should stay on because it’s prestigious; I should say yes because….yada, yada, yada.

When a conversation (with yourself) has a lot of ‘shoulds’ in it, you may want to check in on that because ‘shoulds’ are not always rooted in meaningful wants. In fact, when it comes to the ‘yes habit’ they can even disguise as true pay-offs.

When I listened for my genuine ‘want’ voice (with respect to this particular choice) – it wasn’t quite as inspired. I realized that given the choice (and limited time) I had more energy for other pursuits at this time.

Weighing the ‘should’ factor against what really matters to me helped clarify what I really wanted to do and made my choice easier.  

I said yes to me and no to ‘the should voice.’ And chose from a place of awareness and authenticity.

Isn’t that the crux of it all? When you choose from a place of a place of awareness and authenticity – you make more meaningful decisions; you feel complete (no guilt); and you align your actions with what matters to you!

So it’s not simply about saying no more often. It’s about choosing from a place where you can be real and more accountable for your own success and fulfillment.

Success and fulfillment? Now who wouldn’t say YES to that?


(Consider the following questions outside of the reasonable parameters of genuine responsibility and obligation).
1. In the next week, simply notice the times you say yes to requests/invitations and those times you say no.

2. How many of the ‘yes’s were automatic and out of habit (to please, look good, etc.)?

3. How many would you preferred to have said no to (outside of reasonable responsibilities and obligations)?

4. What beliefs do you hold about the pay-offs when you said yes?

5. Which of those perceived pay-offs are you addicted to? What are the costs? Are the pay-offs worth it?

6. Generally, how much do you tend to listen to your ‘should’ voice and how much to your ‘what really matters’ authentic voice? Are you listening to all of yourself – or just parts?

7. What would it take for you to trust that it would be okay to say ‘no’ a little more often?

8. Try saying no at least once this week when you might have instinctively said yes. What did it feel like? What was the pay-off?

And a final question: What will you do this week to say YES to a TGIM worklife?



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