Say Yes

Counseling couches are loaded with good people who just can't seem to keep commitments, follow through on promises, and seize important opportunities.
Counseling couches are loaded with good people who just can't seem to keep commitments, follow through on promises, and seize important opportunities.

Do you have the following symptoms of an inability to say yes?

1. You have a difficult time making a decision when you have multiple choices.
2. You are unwilling to make a commitment.
3. You have turned down opportunities in the past, which you regret. ...

Becoming Your Own Best Ally

Recognize the Timing

Lost opportunities are a matter of when as well as what. I remember finding an incredible deal on a piece of furniture that we'd wanted for some time. I wanted to make sure it was the best deal so I went to another store to price compare. When I came back to the original store, the furniture had been sold. Like the opening/closing door at the foot of the miniature golf windmill, opportunities are not usually available forever. If we do not say yes at the right time, we may not be able to say yes at all. Consider time constraints on the matter at hand. Don't assume too much or too little.

Say Yes to the Right Things

You can see the importance of prioritization and value systems when it comes to saying yes. First, you must measure against your values the opportunities that come to you. This involves the investigation we talked about earlier. If your values are poorly defined, you are wearing blinders and will be unable to make an accurate measurement. If you are not able to see the potential value among multiple opportunities, you will fail to pursue the best choice. After you have measured the opportunities against your value system, you should be able to decide which choices are the right ones, the ones that should receive top priority. As in an emergency room, you must perform triage on the array of opportunities that come your way daily. The goal is not to say yes more but to say yes to the right things for the right reasons.

Move Forward

After a military water landing, a leader ordered the delivery ships to be burned. When the soldiers turned around and saw their only means of retreat destroyed, they were motivated to fight their hardest against enormous odds. A part of making yes commitments involves removing or reducing access to the path of retreat, which is usually the course of least resistance.

It's a bad sign when people talk about changing locations for a new position and justify their yes by saying, "If things don't work out, we can always come back." God has designed us to go forward, not backward. Rarely will you give a job, relationship or commitment a fair go of it when you keep your eyes on the exit sign. Contingency strategies are not the same as retreat plans, however. Sometimes the difference is a matter of motivation and emotion.

Plan on Persevering

This leads us to the reality check of nearly every significant yes we make. Worthwhile endeavors will at times be difficult and strain our innermost resources. Quitting, starting over, and running are tempting forms of retreat. Our friends Ray and Anne Ortlund explain it this way. There are three zones in nearly every life endeavor: A, B, and C. The A Zone is where the dream is hatched. The salesman motivates us to buy. We see the possibilities. Our excitement carries us forward toward the commitment. The B Zone is the tumultuous place where reality hits, we feel like giving in, and we talk ourselves into calling it quits. The B Zone often leads to the Q (Quit) Zone. The more often we enter the Q Zone, the easier it is the next time. You can see people who repeat this cycle over and over. For those who persevere, there is a C Zone, the place where you enjoy your hard work, investment, and benefits. If you do not persevere through the B Zone, you'll never get to the C Zone where the reward of satisfaction comes.

Excerpted from My Own Worst Enemy: Overcoming 19 Ways We Defeat Ourselves by Alan Nelson. Used by permission of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.,, 1-800-877-2665, copyright 2001. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other Web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company.

Alan Nelson, who has a graduate degree in psychology/communication and a doctorate in leadership from the University of San Diego, is founding and senior pastor of Scottsdale Family Church in Arizona.

Do you find it hard to say yes in some situations? If so, why? When you've been able to say yes to something before, how have you gained satisfaction from that decision? Visit the Books Forum to discuss this topic. Just click on the link below.

Originally published February 04, 2002.