No More Lists: I’m Saying Yes to Everything

So, I’ve been 28 for… what? 5 days now? I was right not to be scared about getting older. Turns out, I’m the same person I was 6 days ago. Phew!

Originally, when my birthday was still approaching, I was considering writing a 29 Before 29 list or a 30 Before 30 list. Based on the number of these lists I see on other blogs, it’s easy to assume I’m not the only person who sometimes feels like OMG I’m X years old and I haven’t done this, that or the other yet! And I want to do this, that and the other. I really do. But there’s two problems with these lists: 1) it gives you a deadline that you may not be able to meet (and not meeting deadlines makes me feel like a terrible person), and 2) it holds you back from living your life.

How does writing a list of things you want to do hold you back from living your life?

Let’s use the last year as an example. Not even a year ago, I was living in Victoria, working for the government, and craving a big change only I didn’t know in what form. I used to daydream my days and nights away. When I was supposed to be doing homework, I’d be searching the web for inspiration, coming up with new business ideas and writing down lists of actionable steps to take. And, to be honest, I wrote a couple 30 Before 30 lists too. Then one day I accepted a dream job offer in Toronto and 19 days later I was living there. See? Life moves fast (if you let it).

None of that was on my 30 Before 30 list. Ok, living in Toronto was. But my list didn’t include: quit job with a pension, move across the country twice in one year, live in Vancouver, etc. You know what it included? Learn how to change car engine oil. I kid you not. Why would I have written that down? And why do some of you have it on your lists too? (I don’t think I came up with that one on my own!) Is this a skill we need to have before we turn 30? Maybe. But I don’t want that to be a goal of mine. If I want to learn how to change my oil, I can ask my dad to show me. Anytime. No appointment necessary.

That’s where the saying yes part comes in.

If you’ve ever worked with me or looked inside my purse, you’ll know that I’m a list maker. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing but, along with a busy schedule, my days and weeks were once so mapped out that there was literally no room for spontaneity. My to-do lists would grow but I couldn’t find the time to cross anything off and I got so stressed out that I started quitting things altogether. That made me sad, which made me feel depressed, which made me want to be alone, which resulted in me spending too many weekends holed up in my apartment watching marathons of crappy TV shows. My lists, and the expectations I set for myself with them, didn’t inspire me. They unmotivated me.

Since saying yes to a new job, saying yes to moving across the country, saying yes to moving a second time and so on, I have realized that saying yes isn’t always easy – making decisions in the moment never is. But it opens so many more doors than saying no, I wish or maybe next time. If I thought about it for 15 minutes, I’m sure I could easily come up with a 30 Before 30 list right now. There are some awesome lists on other blogs full of things I would definitely add to mine. Go to Europe? Yes, please. Get a new tattoo? Sorry Dad, it’ll probably happen. But if 27 taught me anything it’s that you can’t plan too far ahead. I want there to be room in my schedule to say yes. So, that’s my goal for 28.

 This year, I’m going to say yes to:

  • meeting new people
  • travelling to new places (and going solo)
  • finding ways to have fun without booze
  • wanting whipped cream on my latte (just because)
  • all the workout requests that come my way
  • doing things that matter
  • living the life I want
  • my body, whenever it needs a rest
  • my heart, whenever I feel good about something
  • my decisions, before I second-guess myself

Obviously, there’s one limitation to this (other than the fact that I do not have an endless cash flow to do everything all at once). Last year, I learned how important it is to trust your gut. So, 28 will be the year I say yes to everything that comes my way, as long as my gut feels ok about it. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let fear hold me back; your gut instincts are different than fear. And I’m also not going to jump off a cliff because someone tells me to, or do/buy whatever I want and put it all on my credit card again. But when something is presented to me and I want to do it, or I even think I can do it, I’m going to say yes.

When was the last time you said yes to something you’d normally say no to?

PS – If it feels like I haven’t been talking about money much here lately, you’re right – I haven’t been. In August, my budget will finally have room for me to save a little more than I am right now. You can expect a good breakdown of the savings goals I have and how I’m going to make them happen, soon!

  • LOVE this post! I need to work on saying yes more and doing things that I know will make me love life. I’m always thinking about everything and the positives and negatives until it eats me alive.

  • “When was the last time you said yes to something you’d normally say no to?”
    That easy, the last time that my wife asked me to do something around the house! :-)

    Well Cait, as to making lists, my take on that is, like picking your battles, to pick your lists. I tend to make lists that are important and span over long periods – like the sequence of house improvements to do and house furnishings to buy when we bought our first house many moons ago. Otherwise, I feel that lists do have their place but spontaneity in living one’s life does have it’s place as well.

    And, as to you not talking about money much lately, that’s cool too as it’s nice for you to chat with us blog readers from time to time on other things in your life that interest you.

    Have a great weekend. I’m now off to tackle today’s “honey do” list! :-)

    • Ha!

      And I’m with you. I’ll still make a few of my regular lists, like grocery lists, work to-do lists, etc. I just don’t want to live a personal life that is so scheduled and so planned out that I don’t have time/energy to do anything on a moment’s notice.

      Have a good (and productive) weekend, Rob!

  • Great post Cait! I’ve been kinda in the same place for a couple years now … it’s always been hard for me to step outside of my comfort zone but it’s something I’m consciously working on. Also, being debt free makes it easier to say yes to spending money on things that make me happy. As for an example to answer your question, a couple months ago I said YES to a trip to Cuba in the new year with a friend… Doesn’t sound like a big deal but definitely something I would normally have said “not a chance” to…. have a nice weekend hun! :)

    • Woo hoo! So early 2014 then? How exciting :D I really want to travel to at least one new destination this year – preferably outside of North America.

  • I think that’s a great way to live life. Be open to everything that comes your way. Something I need to work more on!

    The last thing I said yes to that I normally wouldn’t…. hmmm camping this weekend haha. The mosquitoes love me so I usually avoid, but I’m ready to do battle this time!

  • This is a really great way to explain exactly how I feel about “goal lists”. It’s so important to ask yourself WHYYYYYYY. Why is this important to you? If you answer that question with a SHOULD (as in, I “should” know how to do this), then stop right there because clearly it’s not something you actually WANT to do.

    • YES! This exactly.

      Your response excites me because there are some goals I would add to a list that the old me never would’ve wanted to do. Like save $10K? I WANT TO DO THIS! And I should… but I genuinely really want to.

      Great comment, thanks Leslie!

  • I really like this post. I have a habit of making lists as well, whether it’s in my head or on paper, and I am always feeling pressured. A few years ago I decided to let go and be more open to being spontaneous, but I think that faded a bit. I had a lot of fun during that period, too. We shouldn’t let things hold us back or dictate how we should live our lives down to the T. So I am totally with you on saying yes to more things, and I like your point that saying yes usually opens more doors for more opportunities in life.

    • It makes me happy to hear that you had a lot of fun when you were saying yes to things. Let’s both get to it. :)

  • What a great post to read on a Friday morning as I ride on my long commute downtown for work! The last big YES I said to when I normally say no is probably when J suggested I start a personal finance blog :P

  • I am definitely a list maker and most times it does motivate me, or at the very least, force myself to think of all the things that need to be done. My oldest graduated this year and I am finding myself at a change of life milestone that scares the bejeesus out of me. I regret not saying ‘yes’ to whole lot of things over the years. Time for me to start saying yes before it’s too late.

    • Short, daily to-do lists are still helpful for me sometimes, and I’ll never stop shopping without a grocery list! But I don’t want any “life” lists. You know? :)

  • I just posted a 30 before 30 list, but all I can say to this is bravo! Like you, I’m a list maker. Big time. I’ve gone through boxes from high school and found lists and financial spreadsheets I made way back then! I don’t think that will ever change. One really big thing I learned when I was younger though, is that I can’t plan my life in detail. The things I planned in my life and followed through to the nitty gritty detail? Kinda underwhelming. The things that popped up and I said yes to, changing the course of my life? I have no regrets. Great post Cait!

    • Haha, I would love to find old stuff like that! And I really liked your list! Especially #30. (Go to Calgary! Maybe I’ll meet you there.)

  • I loved your post! That’s the spirit, and I am sure you will succeed!

    As for me, I have recently said yes to travelling solo. I have started with a couple of solo trips around Europe “to warm up” (I live in London, UK) and I am taking my first international solo trip to South America in just 7 months! I could not be more excited! Here’s to saying yes! ;)

  • Enjoyed the post. I’m a very big list maker too, and you have a very good point about planning, but not planning that far into the future because honestly you never know what will come your way.

  • This is something that I’ve challenged myself to do, as well. I found I was making a lot of excuses when I was invited places if I didn’t really think it would be a lot of fun, or if I didn’t know anyone. I also wasn’t travelling much because I didn’t think I had anyone to go with. I realized that was stupid and I didn’t know if I’d have fun if I didn’t try it, so I’ve been saying yes to everything I’m invited to, and every little fragment of a sense of adventure that I get.

    So far I’ve gone on a couple of last minute road trips, to a concert that I normally would never have gone to, to some events that I normally would have made an excuse to skip, and a whole bunch of other things. It’s been so much fun!

    I’m so glad somebody else is doing this besides me! I can’t wait to hear how it’s going and what your favorite part about it is :)

  • I love your new goals for year 28 – I think you’ll find they won’t steer you wrong! I need to work on this as well, I find that I’ve turned into a troll over the last few years and rarely say “yes” to anything. Thanks for your thoughts on this Cait!

  • This reminds me of the movie with Jim Carey where he said yes to everything! haha I think there is something to be said for spontaneity and to saying “Yes” to more things. By doing that I think it opens up many more opportunities…ones that you may not even see now. Good luck!

  • This post is so well timed! I definitely have a hard time saying yes to scary but exciting opportunities. I need to remember that if I don’t take chances, I’m never going to get where I want to go.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Also loved your post! Do you know what I need to start saying yes to?? MYSELF!! I always put others first and put myself on a backburner. Time to change that!

  • I’m reading your blog from the beginning trying to get caught up to the current. This post really spoke to me as I am a list maker as well. I have a post planned on my own blog soon about this topic. Would it be ok if I referenced you as inspiration? I would link back to your blog and this post. Thanks!

Comments are closed.