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Why we should all say yes more

Could simply saying ‘I do’ more often turn an average life into an extraordinary one? Dave Cornthwaite, adventurer and founder of potential-fulfilling brand 'Say Yes More', explains why we should all say ‘yes’ more, and how it can change our lives for the better

by Ali Roff

Why should we all say yes more?

I think it comes down to what we are capable of if we give ourselves the chance. Every time you do something new, you grow and develop as a person. We have this ability to constantly say yes, agree to new opportunities, walk through new doors, and each time we do something, even if it’s a perceived failure or mistake, we’re always going to learn something. In fact, we’ll probably learn more if we fail. So it’s key to break down this fear of failure and start saying ‘yes’ to things that we know will enrich us, whichever way it goes. Ultimately, the more we say ‘yes’, the better placed we are to make more decisions about how to best spend our time. So let’s just try to reach our potential – that’s the basic reason for saying ‘yes’ more.

What was the trigger for you to decide to start saying ‘yes’?

It happened about 10 years ago. On paper, I was successful; I had a house, a long-term partner, a cat and a well-paid job. But I was miserable, and it hit me that the only one of those things that I loved was the cat! It was pretty clear my life had to change. It would have been so easy to carry on living that life; the money was coming in, I was living with my best friend, even if the relationship had gone stale, and I had shelter. But I realised that I wasn’t going to do myself justice if I carried on the way I was.

So I made a lot of big changes and started to look for new things to do. Eventually, I ended up trying a long skateboard and absolutely loved it. Two weeks later, I’d quit my job and decided I was going to skate further than anyone else had ever done before. That was definitely the first big ‘yes’ for me. I warmed up by going from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Then I crossed Australia, skating from Perth to Brisbane and broke that record. I think the most important thing to come out of it was this love for adventure, living simply and travelling slowly, meeting people along the way and earning everything, even the awful petrol-station coffee 200km down the road. Every little step was hard work, but life started to feel like it was worth something.

What’s the best thing you ever said ‘yes’ to – the most life-enhancing thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve had so many incredible experiences, but if you’re ready for an adventure and you want to really push yourself and have a great feeling of accomplishment without putting yourself in harm’s way, I’d say go paddle the Mississippi from source to sea! It’s a huge, beautiful river, over two thousand miles long, but there are no crazy rapids, so you don’t need much paddling experience, if any. By the time you get to the end, you’re completely at home. It’s definitely one of the most enjoyable journeys I’ve ever taken.

What skills do we need to nurture in ourselves in order to start saying ‘yes’ more?

First of all, I think we need to understand how we spend our time. Our time and what we do with it really is the only thing we can control. I think a really good way to begin isto make a bucket list – or, as I prefer to call it, a ‘yes list’. But don’t think of the list as things to do before you die; just do them now because they’re cool, worthwhile and you want to do them. Things that might inspire you include a variety of travel, things you want to change in your day-to-day life, spending more time with friends, do more yoga, having mini adventures at the weekend sleeping under the stars.

What do you think is the biggest cost for those of us who say ‘no’ – or don’t say ‘yes’ enough?

There are so many of us on this planet, and from the moment we’re born we’re using resources. I’m not a huge ‘green’ hippy, but if you look around, we all have the capability to give back and, regardless of that, we’re constantly taking resources and using energy. It would be nice to balance that out a bit over our lives and give back just as much as we take. I think the ultimate question is: do we just want to be a waste of space on this planet? Do we want to be useless or a useful human being? I’ve realised that life is always so much better, and time feels like it travels a little slower, when you pack it full of memories, when you do new things.

Do we have to have faced some sort of huge adversity or grave illness in order to say ‘yes’ more, or make the most of our lives?

Absolutely not! We hear about people who have lost someone or faced an illness and it has jolted them into life. But why wait for something horrible, some adversity to come into your life in order to start living? You don’t have to. I certainly didn’t and I’m now surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of people who have just made a decision. And that’s what it comes down to – saying ‘yes’ I’m going to go and do that, rather than sitting at home. There’s nothing wrong with chilling out at home, but really earning that rest and doing some good stuff is just unbeatable.

If you were to give one piece of advice to our readers on embracing life and saying ‘yes’, what would it be?

Put your hands together, and tick off on one hand five things that you are not overly happy with at the moment that you need to change or get rid of. Then, on the other hand, on each finger add something you want to do: a skill you want to develop, a place you want to visit – have you wanted to go and live in Barcelona for six months and you’ve been putting it off? Put them together and you’ve got yourself a really strong blueprint for your next step.

Just don’t be afraid to commit to it. If it’s slightly out of the box, you’ll be surrounded by friends and family who might ask, ‘are you sure you want to do that?’ They are just advising themselves. It’s your life and you can do this. And ultimately, if you’re in need of some encouragement, which is always the best nudge forward, just drop me a line – visit my website, send me an email and I’ll tell you why you need to go and do it!

Find out more about Dave Cornthwaite’s Say Yes More campaign at davecornthwaite.com/say-yes-more

Photograph: iStock

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