How to Say ‘Yes’ to Life

We can stop retreating from life by accepting more and rejecting less
August 31, 2020 Updated: August 31, 2020

We often reject the experience in front of us. It’s usually out of habit. We may dislike the discomfort or uncertainty or be upset by the fact that we aren’t getting what we want.

Consider some common scenarios.

You might not like the way other people are acting and find yourself thinking bad things about them. Or you may do this to yourself after making a mistake you’ve made before. You might retreat to distraction and fill yourself with TV shows or video games or simply proclaim you’re done with the whole thing and retreat from difficult relationships or situations.

This rejection of our experience is why we so often get frustrated with other people, down on ourselves, or avoid the hard things.

It’s why we have such a hard time with good habits like meditation, exercise, eating well, writing, reading, flossing, and so on. Good habits are often not easy, so we say “no” to them, even when we really wish we could say “yes.”

It’s why we turn to alcohol, smoking, drugs, junk food, TV, social media, or other distractions to numb ourselves. This is how we say “no” to life. But what if we said “yes”?

How to Say ‘Yes’ to Life

Think about everything you complain about. Everything that makes you want to go, “Ugh.” Everything you want to avoid.

Now imagine that you could be open to all of it.

You could be in a room of people you normally dislike, and be compassionate with them. You could see their beauty and goodness and appreciate them just as they were.

What if you could be a “yes” to everything? What would that change for you?

That doesn’t mean that you don’t fight against injustice, or don’t try to help those who are suffering. It means you don’t retreat from those things you care about. You don’t have to love injustice—but you can love the people who are suffering, even those whose suffering leads them to commit injustice. You can be compassionate toward everyone, even if you don’t agree with their actions or beliefs.

This openness is a path to a particular kind of freedom. Our almost instinctual rejection of others and ourselves leaves us handcuffed. We’re restrained by an inability to accept the world as it is and meet it with creativity and compassion.

But what if you could be “yes” to all of the difficult things in life: your scariest project, the hardest tasks, the most boring moments?

The practice is to face everything and open up to it. To see the beauty in the moment, even in the parts you normally reject or dislike.

To love the parts of yourself that you usually want to change. To love everything.

In my experience, if you can say “yes” to life as it is, life will say “yes” to you in return.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net