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If it's Not a Yes Yes, it's a No

Deb Lyman, LCSW

· Private Practice,Productivity,Truth

A friend once told me that her guiding principle when making decisions is "If it's not a Yes Yes, it's a No." I've also heard this as "it's either fuck yes, or it's no." (I'll keep it PG moving forward.) I love this, and I try to apply it whenever I'm struggling to make a decision. It's been especially helpful when planning out my next year in private practice.

There's only so much time and energy in each day, week, and month, and I'm sure you want to use your time wisely. The plain truth is that we can't do it all, and when we try, we tend to wind up overwhelmed or doing things poorly.

Trying to do it all = a recipe for burnout.

Avoid Burnout!   Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

When you are reviewing your 2017 business year, ask yourself if you agreed to things that were not a Yes Yes. Did you take on clients who were not good fits out of a fear of scarcity? Did you take on volunteer commitments out of a sense of guilt or responsibility rather than from a place of clarity and true generosity? Were your actions in line with your goals or did you get caught up in shiny object syndrome? What was the outcome of those decisions? Did your Yes Yeses get eclipsed by your shoulds?

If so, don't fret about it too much. The beauty of a new year is that there's a chance to have a fresh start.

As you plan for 2018, you have a new opportunity to really do a gut check and commit your time and energy to your Yes Yes endeavors. (If you haven't done a review of 2017 or started planning for 2018, you can get my Planning Workbook here.)

So how do you really know if something is a Yes Yes? Here are a few criteria to consider:

  • You're interested in it, and not in a passing way  (i.e., it's something that's likely to hold your interest)
  • It is aligned with your vision of your ideal practice
  • The potential return on your investment of time, energy and/or money is clear
  • You're not doing it out of fear or from a place of "I should" 
  • It is in integrity with your values
  • Your gut, heart, and head are in agreement
  • Again, your gut, heart, and head are in agreement!

Of course, there are going to be things you need to do that won't necessarily light you up on the inside. Paperwork, for example. But here's what makes that a Yes Yes for me- I'm definitely interested in following the laws and ethics of my profession and keeping my license, my vision for my ideal practice includes remaining licensed, the cost of not doing it makes the investment of time worth it, and my gut, heart, and head agree on that! Ok, so it's technically a should in that way that daily tooth brushing and staying on the right side of the road in traffic are shoulds. An even bigger Yes Yes is a system where paperwork is streamlined and helps me not fall behind!

Is it a Yes Yes or a No?

As therapists, we can veer towards being over-accommodating. We are natural helpers, who sometimes fall into the trap of ignoring our own needs. Asking "Is this a Yes Yes?" can help you avoid that trap.

Let's say you're ideal clients are couples considering opening their relationship. You're wanting to up your marketing game and you get a call from a colleague from an eating disorder program where you used to work. She wants to know if you'd be willing to be a guest speaker on a panel of therapists who work with anorexia. You want to help her out and you want to do more speaking engagements, but you've been ambivalent at best about working with active anorexia in your private practice.

Is this a YesYes? Uhhh, no.

It's pretty far from the niche you're trying to establish. The people who attend the panel will be more likely to see you as an eating disorder clinician than a couples therapist. You might work with couples where one partner has a concurrent eating disorder, but this opportunity is pretty far of in terms of you reaching your ideal clients. Thank the colleague for the opportunity and move on. All the time you are not spending on prepping for and being on this panel can be spent seeking out or creating the speaking opportunities that will attract your ideal clients.

Identifying those hidden shoulds is a big part of Yes Yes or No. Do you think you need to see both individuals and couples in your practice because that's your idea of what a private practice should look like? Is working with couples a Yes Yes for you? If not, let it go. You actually don't need to work with couples (or children, or individuals, or after 7pm, or on every third Thursday) if it's not a Yes Yes for you.

Especially if you tend to be a people-pleaser or if you fall into analysis paralysis around decisions, I really encourage you to ask yourself, "Is this a Yes Yes?". And if it's not, try to hang tight through any waves of guilt or FOMO or whatever comes up and see if you don't arrive on the other side-- the sweet relief of letting go of things that just don't work for you.

The sweet relief of Letting it Go!

These examples show how the YesYes or No question can help you figure out what you to drop. The same question can also help you decide what projects to put off till later and what to hand off to someone else. Be sure to check back next week for a post on the 4 D's- drop, delay, delegate, and do.