The Most Powerful Question

I heard a simple statement many years ago that resonated strongly with me. I don’t even remember who said it, but it has been with me all these years.

I’m reminded of it, now and then, especially when I’m about to make a relatively important decision. It also comes into play in every day smaller matters. Admittedly, not as often as it should.

What was that statement, you ask?

When we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to something else.

Simple, right? No earth-shattering wisdom here.

But think about it. We all have just 24 hours in each day to use in any way we like. In every one of those 1,440 minutes, we are choosing how to spend that limited time, consciously or unconsciously. And like with time, there are spending limits on our money (for most of us anyway) and on our energy as well.

When we make a choice for something, it only makes sense that we’re opting out of something else at the same time. We are choosing to forgo another way we could be spending those finite resources.

When we say yes to spending time on the computer, we could be saying no to time with loved ones, time in nature, or time exploring a passion.

When we say yes to purchasing that new outfit or latest electronic gadget, we might be saying no to funds that could be going towards traveling to new places or buying that first home.

When we spend our energy on worrying or getting angry at something out of our control, we just might be saying no to learning something new, helping a friend, or simply enjoying the moment.    

Fortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about what decisions we must make.

If we’re not hurting anyone or breaking a law, the choice is completely up to us (even when it doesn’t appear so). Often, unfortunately, when we make choices, we aren’t being intentional about them.

We humans tend to default to what’s comfortable, easy, or familiar, which may or may not be the best use of our precious resources.

Taking that statement, turning it upside down, and using it as a question is a powerful way to keep us on track towards being happy, healthy, and successful. 

The “Yes/No Question” is a quick and easy tool to remind us about what’s most important.

While it’s true the question might only make a tiny difference in the moment, it might also be making a gigantic difference in the trajectory of the future!

How so?  Try answering these questions as honestly as you can and see what happens:

  • If I say YES to this, what am I saying NO to?
  • Is this choice important enough to spend my limited time, money, and/or energy on? 
  • Is it more important than other things I could be spending them on?
  • Does it align with my values and enable my goals?
  • Will it lead me off course or move me closer to who, how and where I want to be in my life?

This is not to say that down time, owning things that bring us joy, and taking siestas are not valuable and should be avoided. And it doesn’t mean we have to be working towards something every moment of every day.

What the Yes/No Question allows us to do is choose to live and work and play with intention. Not by default and not on autopilot. It allows us to live our lives in a way we won’t regret. And it allows us to check in, catch ourselves and redirect as needed.

Building awareness in this way takes practice, patience, and grace for yourself.

What are YOU saying yes and no to?