At the beginning of every year, I choose a new trait to develop in myself. Past traits have included:

In 2017, I’m going to focus on saying, “Yes” to the opportunities, projects, and invitations that I’m genuinely excited for and saying, “No” – without feeling guilty about it – to everything else.  

I’m calling it the year of “Hell yeah or guilt free no.”

“Hell yeah or no” is not my idea. I first read about it in Mark Manson’s article “Fuck Yeah or No,” but Mark was inspired by Derek Sivers’ article, “No ‘yeah.’ Either ‘HELL YEAH’ or ‘no.’”  

Why “Hell yeah or guilt free no?” Because people pleasing sucks…

I have a pesky habit of being a people pleaser. While there are some upsides to this, it primarily leads me to friction, wasted time, and subtle self-loathing.

On the surface, people pleasing results in:

But there’s a far bigger problem than that. People pleasing contains a very real psychological and existential liability.

People pleasing prioritizes others’ needs, desires, and happiness above my own, which is almost always a bad idea. It reinforces the non-conscious belief that I’m not worth much, and sabotages chunks of my life.

Pausing to ask myself, “Am I feeling ‘hell yeah’ about this?” before I commit should solve many of these problems.

I expect that adopting this stance in life will have predictable benefits for myself and anyone else who tries it, including:

  • Strengthening my sense of self and reinforcing the idea that my needs come first.
  • Reducing friction in my life. Imagine how vivid one’s experience will become if she only engages with the activities and people she loves.
  • Reducing the number of commitments in my life. I’ve noticed that having blank space on my calendar increases creativity, intuition, serendipity, and rest.
  • Making it easier to show up fully and authentically in all areas of life.

In truth, I’ve already been doing this for a few weeks and love it. I’ve said no to professional introductions that didn’t interest me, chosen to ignore a few texts and emails I didn’t want to deal with, and took an entire day off from work simply because I wanted to.

Guidelines

The aim is simple: when making a decision, ask yourself, “Am I so excited about this that it makes me say, ‘Hell yeah!’?” If so, move forward. If not, don’t do it. Try to release yourself from any guilt that comes with saying, “No.”

There are predictable problems that come with “Hell yeah or guilt free no,” so I’ve created a few guidelines:

You have to keep your life running well. I pretty much never say “Hell yeah” to paying my credit card bill or choosing salad over pizza but those things keep my life running well. They matter. “Hell yeah or guilt free no” cannot be used as an excuse to shirk responsibility or be unnecessarily difficult.

This project is not an excuse to do stupid shit. You cannot use it to cheat on your partner, do endless lines of coke, or gamble away your retirement savings. Calculated risks – even calculated hedonism – are cool. Being needlessly destructive isn’t.

You are not obligated to explain yourself. It feels pretty badass to just say, “No, that doesn’t interest me,” without explaining why. You don’t need to justify your decisions to anyone besides yourself. Of course when an honest explanation of your decision may help the other person, it’s nice to offer one.

Gracefully accept other people’s decisions when they say, “No.” No fighting, no arguing, no whining, just acceptance and respect.

Saying “No” can no longer be a source of guilt. I often feel guilty when I say no. Since the guilt does nothing for me, I’m going to do my best to let go of it. This is easier said than done but it should be well worth the effort.

This project does not make sense for everyone. If you are just getting started in life, moving into a new field, or working to get yourself out of a rut, you should get in the habit of saying “Yes” to nearly everything. This will create a more engaged, vibrant and dynamic life. Once there are more demands on your time and energy than you can field, then you should shift to saying “No” more often.

Wanna join me?

If the idea of approaching life from the perspective of “Hell yeah or guilt free no” excites you, I’d love for you to join me. You can tell me about your vision for yourself and any related, cool stories in the comment section below. You can also reach me directly by subscribing to this blog.

If “Hell yeah or guilt free no” doesn’t resonate with you, I encourage you to come up with your own theme for the year. Aim for something that will help you live a life you love. When you come up with your theme, let me know – I’m always looking for great ideas.

Here’s to making 2017 the best year yet!

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8 Comments 2017: the year of hell yeah or guilt free no

  1. Daine Pehrson

    Suggested article: I have had many a conversations with friends that have a brother or sister that they don’t talk to or see anymore because of some things they said or did after a parent(s) died that hurt them immensely. Including myself. How does one go on in life?

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Diane – I really appreciate the article suggestion, thank you. Falling out with people you love sucks. It’s one of the most difficult things. I think the short answer is first: make sure you feel all the pain that the fallout is causing. Second, if you, or anyone else wants to rekindle a relationship, try to do it! Make sure that when you speak to the person, that you only talk about yourself and not him/her. Finally, if possible, let go of expectations. You can only ever control your actions; letting go of expectations creates space for the other person to show up as fully as possible. Again, thank you! I really appreciate suggestions!

      Reply
      1. Pablo Roufogalis

        I was just about to suggest an article, but thought it was inappropriate, but you seem to welcome ideas: I’d like your point of view on when is either talking to someone, letting them be or letting them go an act of love. I find myself sometimes wondering if the best thing is to tell them what I feel they’re doing that draws people away from them, or if it is to let them be and life will figure itself out, or just letting them go if I feel they are not contributing something good to my life.

        Reply
        1. Jason

          Pablo – first of all, thank you for the comment. And your intuition is spot on. I LOVE suggestions and questions from readers. Your specific question is a really interesting one: when does it make sense to talk to someone? I wish I had a hard and fast rule for you (and for myself, for that matter). I think there are a few important factors to consider: how well do you know the person? How urgent is the issue? What happens if you do nothing? Personally, if it’s someone I love I tend to (gently) err on the side of talking to them, but I also spend a lot of time making sure it comes from a place of love (not insecurity), and how to frame it as lovingly as possible. If you want to shoot me a quick message explaining the situation (you can reach me through the contact box) you’re welcome to do that.

          Reply
  2. Eva

    Hi Jason,

    just found your blog a couple of days ago and how refreshing and different, I can feel your sincerity in your writing. Sometime I wonder if I can relate to the male perspective since women are so different and very different in social conduct as well, so it will be interesting for me to see what I can relate to and what not. Also I thought about your salad/pizza and wondered why not pizza? Don’t you think denying yourself what you crave is going against your intuition? Surely pizza can be homemade? Just a thought from an over restrictive eater who is finding way back to not fearing food. And I am not suggesting eating junk food, but homemade food including wheat, sugar, butter, etc. when one feels like it.
    Anyhow, my theme for this year should be how to be a guilt free mother. I always feel that I’m not doing enough, not spending enough time with my children, not playing enough with my children. And all this creates a conflict within me and then I feel like i’m constantly monitoring my performance around my children and forget to be natural and at ease. So the end result is that I don’t actually enjoy their company, which saddens me as I worry they will grow up and we’ll have no real connection.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hey Eva! So glad to have you as a reader. 🙂

      You’re totally right – if I deny myself pizza every day, I’d go nuts. More realistically, I aim to eat healthy most of the time, and then really indulge every now and then. I think if I didn’t give myself guidelines, I’d just eat PIZZA 24/7!!!!!!

      More to the point: I’m so appreciative of you sharing what you’re working on in 2017. Your children are fortunate to have a mother as thoughtful and reflective as you are. One thing I’ve noticed (for what it’s worth) is that every now and then intentional selfishness enables people to be more selfless. In other words, if you dedicate every Wed evening to being “Eva’s evening” and just doing exactly what you want (pizza maybe?!?) and treating yourself super well, it will make showing up for, and serving others, more fluid and pleasant. Anyways, good luck with your vision for yourself – I really admire that.

      Reply
  3. Stephanie

    Love your challenge for the next year! I am embarking on a similar challenge but like the title of yours better. I intend to live a more improv lifestyle this year by saying ‘Yes, and…’ but reserve the right to say no. Let’s face it as an introvert you need to tell people no…I need my alone-time just sitting in silence. Good luck with your challenge and look forward to reading about your insights.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hey Stephanie!I so appreciate your note, and I love your improv-esque “Yes, and…” challenge. I also love that you’re allowing yourself to say no as needed. I’m a fellow introvert… that alone time is key! Good luck, and let me know how your challenge shakes out. 🙂

      Reply

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