The Power of No (And Why You Should Never Unleash It)- Saying No to Your Dreams Ensures You Don't Live Your Dreams

So let's be clear up front. I am in no way talking about the “no” associated with the #metoo movement or the “no” that exerts your own personal power over your body. That “no” is your right to your own body and always means NO, “not yes” also means NO, and “yes” that changes to “no” at any time also means NO, and come on, how hard is that to understand? So that's not the “no” topic here. The “no” I mean is different, over-used, and crushing.

In improv comedy there is one major rule that must be obeyed in order to make improv work. It's called “Yes, and...” The concept is simple. In order to continue the improvisation, whatever Player 1 says, Player 2 agrees and continues, Player 1 then agrees and carries on, and the improv ball is passed back and forth until a satisfying conclusion is finally reached. So it would go something like this: P1: “My mother is a lemur.” P2: “Yes, and my father is a banana.” P1: “Yes, and we should get them together sometime, my mother loves bananas.” P2: “Yes, and my father has lemurs for breakfast.” And so on and so on. The “yes” accepts the previous statement as valid, the “and...” continues to validate that statement by forwarding the dialogue. If, at any point, a “no” is injected, the conversation is killed, the exercise is over. And scene...

And that is exactly what happens to our dreams, our grand plans, our ideas for a fulfilling future, for after all, we're all just improvising life, figuring it out as we go. The minute we inject a “no” into our internal dialog, we kill the dream, we cut the plan short, we leave fulfillment on the table for someone else. You see- and I'm just going to be frank here- “no" is for the uncreative. It requires absolutely no imagination, no cleverness, no great intellect to unleash “no.” "No" is for mental agoraphobes, "no" shuts out the light, closes and double locks the door, immediately. “No” is, in short, for the dull. “Yes, and...” however, requires some imagination. It asks us to dig deeper into our creativity, to pursue fulfillment of a thought, to mentally take that next step, to come up with a new idea to make things happen. “No” stops us in our tracks, right where we are. “Yes, and...” urges us onward toward a satisfying conclusion. And, scene...

We went through this very drill when we decided to travel full time. “No” was the easy answer, and rightly so; it's a biggie and doesn't feel possible or else everyone would be doing it. Enter “yes, and...” We started by identifying the dream- travel full time for as long as we want- and employed the “yes, and...” concept. So, yes we will travel full time, AND we will need money. Yes, AND we will need to have jobs that can be done on the road. Yes, AND we can think of about 9 ways to do that. Yes, AND we will need to educate ourselves in these areas to develop the skills to perform those jobs. Yes, AND as we do that, we can research how to save money on the road. Yes, AND we don't need all these material things or this house so we can sell them and have a starter fund. Yes, AND.... Well, here we are on the road, living a dream life that at any point, the power of “no” would have crushed. And, scene...

What do you want to do with your life? What dream do you have that you aren't pursuing? What's stopping you? What made you say “no” to that or was that just the easy, uncreative answer? Start over with “yes, and...” and see how far you can take it. Our conclusion came when we got to Chelsea; we decided to stick to areas in which dogs can travel alongside humans to avoid putting undue stress on her or continually separating her from us during travel. But still, I'm writing this from a beautiful balcony in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, so it's not exactly like we stifled our dreams. We just fulfill them with everyone in mind, and we'll take on Asia as our situations (and airline rules) change.  So not yet to Asia. And there's the point, right there: “not yet” is not a “no;” it's a “Yes, and...” with conditions. It took us about 2 years to fulfill our “Yes, and's...” but “no” was never part of the conversation and from the moment we said, “Yes, and...” we were meeting the conditions and removing the hurdles to get to the punchline. I have developed an equation that may help you get started toward that dream you've been denying yourself:

? + Y[es] x ∞ + (≠ - 1) = a good start

Essentially, take that thought, say yes all the way to infinity until you reach an answer that is impossible or no longer computes, take one step back from that, and there's your achievable goal. Remove “no” and its synonyms from your dream and life vocabulary, take away its power to stop you from achieving your dreams by never wielding it, ignore others who wish to use it to stop you, establish your own “Yes, and...” dialogue, and keep moving the conversation (and your life) forward to a fulfilling conclusion. And, scene...