Back in December, I wrote a blog post about saying no in the context of setting boundaries. Recently, a good friend of mine (who is a remarkable singer/songwriter as well as a remarkable person) told me over dinner that while she loved the post on the importance of saying no, she wanted to hear what I had to say about something equally significant: the difficulty many of us have in saying YES to opportunities that appear in life.
It was a very astute request, and as I began to think about it, I realized that saying yes is often just as much a struggle for my clients as saying no. Carefully evaluating what you want to say no to in life is tough. Deciding what to welcome into your life in its place requires both confidence and discernment. However, the hardest moment of transition often comes when the opportunity to have what you have claimed to want actually arrives.
I’ve had many a client in the process of coaching who has suddenly found that that which he or she has claimed to want for years has finally come knocking at the door—whether that be the perfect job, the ideal partner or a sudden influx of money that makes a massive difference in their quality of life. More often than not, however, this moment causes a more significant crisis than the absence of the desired thing/person ever did—something I’ve come to refer to as “the other shoe syndrome.” It goes something like this: “I can’t possibly be this lucky. Life has never worked out for me like this before. This is too good to be true, and I’d better be prepared for it all to disappear in a heartbeat. If I’m not on guard, I’m going to get hurt/lose it all, and that’ll be worse than never having had it in the first place.” Sound familiar?
As a result, I’ve seen clients attempt to push away that ideal partner, cower about how they’re going to handle all that new money and/or start spending it as if it was on fire, or worst of all, simply assume that the job/person/circumstance that has arrived must have something completely wrong with it, yet to be identified, that the client then sets off to ferret out. Rather than enjoying the gift and saying YES, THANK YOU, the client is then tempted to dismantle this beautiful gift piece by piece in search of the perceived flaw.
Of course, the sad thing is that it is possible to ruin any fortuitous experience if you try hard enough. Then, magically, you’ll find yourself right back where you started, having confirmed your lack of luck, your pessimistic worldview, your belief that you are unworthy—and once again, you can start wondering why you never really get what you want.
So why do we find it so hard to say Yes, Thank You when opportunity finally arrives? Well, here’s the thing: in order to say yes to what we really want in life and to accept those gifts when they come to us, we have to be willing to release long held beliefs that have impeded our progress in the first place. For example– and although I’ve seen some folks try– it is generally impossible to continue to believe that you are not worthy of financial success when you get a job where someone is willing to pay you twice as much as you’ve ever made before. It is generally impossible to continue to believe that you are “unlucky in love” when a magnificent person who accepts you, adores you and wants to be your partner walks into your life. It is generally impossible to continue to believe that you don’t deserve to be well-treated at work when you get a job offer from a company with a true respect for your gifts and talents, a healthy work environment and a generous vacation package.
And yet sometimes, these bad theories of ours—“this is too good to be true;” “I’ll never find a job that makes me happy;” “no one will ever pay me what I’m worth”—become like old, co-dependent friends: we know they aren’t really any good for us, but we get used to the company. Letting go of them to embrace new and bigger things, a healthier outlook on life or even just some straightforward optimism, can be very tough.
So how do you move on to the place of being able to offer a whole-hearted YES to that which you say you want? As I advise my coaching clients, it’s actually not all that hard, provided you utilize the right tools and get the right support.
First, you have to recognize that the theory that is holding you back is just a theory, and not necessarily fact, no matter how long you have been hunting for evidence to support it. For example, is it in fact true that “no one can be trusted”? Or can you find examples in your life when people you know have proven themselves to be trustworthy, despite this theory? What evidence do you have for a new, better theory that supports you instead of undermines you? Trust me, it’s there.
Second, you have to bring consciousness to the theory that is holding you back, and be willing to change it. When you have a great job interview for a wonderful new position and you hear that voice in your head saying “this is too good to be true—there’s no job out there for me where I’ll ever be well-treated,” your response must be to recognize that voice as just your bad theory talking, and decide to put another thought in its place—e.g., “I deserve to work at a place that I love where I am respected, well-treated and well-paid, and that job is out there for me.” This kind of self-rewiring can take some time, but if you are committed to putting a new theory in place of an old destructive one, being conscious of your old thought patterns and also consciously choosing to restructure them will work to bring you to the place of yes. Often, good support is required to get you all the way there, however—from a loving spouse, a supportive friend or a good coach.
Getting to yes comes down to a fundamental choice: are you willing to grow and change, shift your worldview and believe in all the wonderful things that are possible for you? Or is it easier and safer to cling to the worldview that has kept you from experiencing your fullest, most rewarding life? If you’re interested in the former rather than the latter, I’m here to help. Take the brave and courageous step of believing you deserve to have the life you most desire, choose to believe you are worthy, and getting to yes will become easier than you might have ever imagined.
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