I once met an artist in Slovenia who told me about an image he created of the Virgin Mary -- it was a 'yes' written in neon on a door. I found this to be an astonishing idea; who would think such a thing? And brilliant, because he captured the story of Mary in one word. She said yes to an invitation that changed the world. You don't have to be religious to appreciate that there is no creation without a yes.
Yes, opens the door to new life, new possibilities, and adventures. No closes the door.
Whenever I feel weighed down by negativity, or I need an energy boost, I say the word yes repeatedly as a mantra. I use this mantra first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day, before an important meeting, and when I travel.
Saying yes is an affirmation that all is right with the world.
It broadcasts a positive energy that raises your vibration to a higher frequency, which in turn has a positive effect on others. I shared this practice with a coaching client who was nervous about going to a job interview and I invited her to try the yes mantra. She was happy to report back the yes mantra helped give her the confidence she needed to ace the interview and she got the job.
Skeptical? According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman authors of Words Can Change Your Brain, words can literally change your brain:
A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress. By holding a positive and optimistic word [such as peace, love, gratitude] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.
Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.
Say yes to what life is asking of you, to what you really want deep down inside but might be afraid to actually do. Say yes to the creativity that dwells within you. Say yes to what speaks to your heart of hearts. After all, coach Deb Sofield asks, "Why are we all here if not to live the highest, fullest version of our lives?" Richard Branson says, "If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later!"
One of my scariest moments was being asked to paint a symphony as it was being performed live in front of 200 hundred people, but I said yes anyway, and it turned out to be an amazing experience.
Say yes to the mess. Frank J. Barrett, a jazz pianist and professor of management and global public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, is the author of Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz. "You say yes to the mess by surrendering control-by opening yourself up to the capriciousness of the crowd, with no guarantee of success for your efforts. Ultimately, that takes one quality above all others: courage." Leaders and managers, like jazz musicians, need to interpret vague cues, face unstructured tasks, process incomplete knowledge and take action anyway. Learning and growing come from doing.
Saying yes also means saying no; no to whatever is harmful to yourself or others, and no to whatever no longer serves your higher purpose. As Walt Whitman advised, "Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul."
Say the word yes to yourself over and over for several minutes and notice how it affects your energy. Try it now.