^^ My friend Elizabeth and I at KCon 2018. ^^
It all started during a recent quest to discover the secret to peak productivity mode. While I figured a month into this journey I’d transform into that person who wakes up at 6am to go running, in reality, I instead spent an embarrassing amount of time watching YouTube videos. One of the conundrums these videos continued to present was the idea of saying yes more versus saying no more.
This summer, the New York Times published a piece about the importance of saying no to things you’re not full-bodied, head of heels excited about. As someone who is ridiculously bad at saying no, this article struck a cord in me because it highlighted the fact that by trying to do everything all the time, I never have enough energy to hunker down and focus on the things I’m most passionate about. On the flip side, Shonda Rhimes champions in her best selling book “The Year of Yes” the power of saying yes to all things outside of your comfort zone. This also speaks strongly to me. If I had stayed in my comfort zone I would have never moved to New York, never become a journalist, never climbed Half Dome or built relationships with some of my closets friends. I’d be lost without the power of yes and yet, saying yes all the time exhausts me. So which is it — more yes or more no?
In an attempt to answer this question for myself over the last month, here’s what I’ve learned.
Comfort Zones, Like Me, Are Always Changing
New things can be hard. Events where I don’t know a lot of people, walking into parties where I don’t know if my friends are already there, planning my own birthday party, going on blind dates, joining new groups where I don’t know anyone, giving presentations at work — what these things all have in common is they are completely out of my comfort zone and can often leave me feeling incredibly anxious beforehand. Then again, not all new things or people leave me feeling this way.
On the flip side, like all great Gemini’s, I also love taking new adventures! I love traveling with friends, or by myself, to somewhere I’ve never been before. I love sharing my work with coworkers or trying a new hobby or restaurant or workout. I love planning events for friends or hosting dinner parties. I love talking to people and making them feel comfortable and learning their stories. Before becoming a journalist I would never have imagined myself cold calling people for interviews and now I don’t even think twice.
In remembering the ways I’ve evolved over the years, I’ve realized that comfort zones aren’t permanent. True, things might be outside of your comfort zone right now that doesn’t mean you can’t do them anyways. Many of the most worthwhile things are the scariest, that’s how we know they mean something to us. But it’s also okay to know when something just isn’t for you and your comfort zone. That leaves more room for you to say yes to something that does.
This summer I’m flexing my yes muscles in different directions (hello public pool visits!), but also really enjoying the sensation of saying no to things that just don’t fit me.
Yes Cannot Exist Without No
I used to believe that to step outside of my comfort zone was to say yes to everything. “Perhaps I’m just being too much of a homebody,” I’d think when friends would invite me to concerts at midnight. “Everyone in New York seems to be using dating apps so that must be the only way to meet people,” I’d tell myself. For a long time, the idea of saying no translated in my mind to missed opportunities and missed connections. I’d say yes until, like a pendulum, I’d find myself swinging into the no camp and striking out everything on my calendar. Overtime it tallied up to me feeling like I was doing too much and too little at the same time.
The fact of the matter is, yes cannot exist without no. I cannot say yes to everything and I don’t want to say no to everything either. It’s a partner dance. This year, my 2018 resolution was to simplify in order to find balance within opposites. Instead of swinging so far into the yes camp and then catapulting back into no territory over and over again, how do I make these opposites into compliments? How do I stop feeling guilty when I have to — or even just want to — say no to something? And how do I encourage myself to say more yes to things that are nerve racking but exciting?
For me, it’s been learning to give my gut some credit and trust the fact that it’s probably not lying. The gut always knows the right answer but often, I choose to ignore it and over plan. I can’t do everything at once and thus, no is necessary in order to make space for more yes’s that are right for me.
Case in point, the weekend where I went to KCON with my friend Elizabeth.
Cue the KCON Storytime
What is KCON you might be asking yourself? Well, it’s a conference that celebrates all the ways Korean music, television, and media has influenced American culture. A huge focus of it is on Kpop — which my friend and coworker Elizabeth specializes in. With Kpop fans being some of the most dedicated fanbases in the world, I wanted to observe how the fandom interacts in real life and more about this genre that has taken over YouTube.
^^ This was my excitement level after two days of KCon. I was LIVING! ^^
I didn’t know much going into KCon but that almost turned out to be a blessing. I spent the entire weekend learning something new and from people so passionate about Kpop. There is something very humbling and exciting about learning something from scratch and this feeling I had at KCon was the same excitement when I first started pottery. I watched people jump in and out of dance circles singing every Korean lyric in time. I saw fans comforting one another as they discussed mental health in the community and listened to some bomb Kpop performances at night.
The same weekend of KCon, the YouTube conference VidCon was taking place in California and this was the first time in four years I wouldn’t be attending. Even though I knew I needed a break, it was still hard to say no to VidCon. I knew I would miss seeing people I’d previously worked with and I didn’t want my coworkers to think I was a slacker, but I just couldn’t do another consecutive year of VidCon. I’m now even more grateful that I said no because this no allowed me to say yes to KCon and have an amazing new experience that taught me about a new online community.
At the end of the day, all we can do is fill our lives with the things that serve us best; an outcome achieved with an unknown cocktail recipe of “yes” and “no” decisions. If you’re like me, it’s often hard to break from routine, including habits like saying yes to everything or putting in extra time planning something new. But the more I’ve learned to say no, the more present I’ve become within the activities I’ve excitedly said yes to! Now, when I look back at KCon, I feel most grateful to have had a friend willing to shepherd me along and also, to myself for diving into something new.
So should I be saying yes more? No more? I vote we just call the whole thing off.