How to decide to say Yes or No

For the past two years, I have been traveling the world, a dream I worked and saved towards for many years. At the same time, I’ve been working hard to build a writing career. I’ve vowed not to return to a cubicle, an environment that felt repressive and unfulfilling to me.

Just a week ago, I was swimming in the Gulf of Thailand in Vietnam. Stretched out before my husband and I were a few months of travel throughout SE Asia. Afterward, we weren’t quite sure what we’d do. Maybe we’d settle in Thailand for a while? Maybe we’d fly back to the U.S. to walk the Appalachian Trail?

A month earlier…

A month earlier, we’d applied for a job at BACKPACKER Magazine. The job sounded perfect for us and so we thought, why not give it a shot? Our chances of landing it felt small and, even if it was offered, we knew we didn’t have to take it. Options, we agreed, were a good thing to have.

Six weeks later we were offered the job.

But should we take it?

Let me explain that the last few years of my life have been a massive journey. Originally, I was unhappy with the trajectory of my life. Then I decided to make big changes to do what filled me up. And then, eventually, I began to wonder what that might look like long term. Through it all, I have been striving to do what I love and what feels meaningful.

We all know what it feels like to do something true and natural

We all know what it feels like to do something true and natural. I want that. Traveling and writing feel that way to me. Back at my desk job I always had this nagging feeling that my real life was out there waiting for me. I felt like I wasn’t fully engaged in my own life. That changed once I took a big leap and set out into the world to write and travel. And now I don’t want to do anything to compromise all that I’ve built and worked for in the past two years.

A few months ago I sat down and wrote out a business plan. I did this because I needed to name where I wanted to go. Aside from my various writing goals, one major focus of my business plan was: to develop presentations and begin doing public speaking events. I had no idea how to do that or what it would look like. I only knew that what I love most about writing is inspiring people to live the life that fills them up. If I could take that show on the road somehow and meet people face to face it would be wonderful.

And so when, just eight weeks after writing that business plan, we were offered a job to do just that, it was almost like the universe had opened its palm and presented me with the exact opportunity I’d asked for.

A little bit about the job:

  1. Brian and I will work together as a team
  2. We will work for a great magazine I’ve read for many years
  3. It is only a 7-month commitment per year (plenty of traveling time!)
  4. Brian and I will drive around the U.S. giving presentations about backpacking, backcountry gear, and traveling. The goal is to inspire our audience to get out more.
  5. We’ll give an average of two presentations per week and the rest of the time we’ll spend exploring the U.S.A.

That’s a pretty sweet gig, as far as jobs go.

Still, it was hard to decide if we should take the job once it’d been offered. Were we willing to leave SE Asia early, abandon our travels, and work for someone else again?

The answer, ultimately, was yes.

And here’s why. It all boils down to a piece of advice I heard a few months ago about how to decide to say yes or no:

Think of your biggest dream or goal as a mountain in the distance. When you must decide if you should say yes or no to an opportunity, ask yourself if the opportunity will take you closer or farther away from that mountain. If it takes you closer, go for it.

For example, you want to be a writer. You’re offered the chance to write an article for a publication that will expose your writing to thousands of people who aren’t normally in your audience. The catch? You’ll have to write it for free. It sucks to write for free. Still, it will take you closer to your mountain. Say yes.

When we are in the muddled middle of things it is hard to decide what to do. Sometimes we become paralyzed by fear and terrified to make the wrong decision.

But remember that the peak of that mountain is always visible, sticking out above the cloud line. Squint your eyes until you see its hazy outline. That mountain is where you need to go. Walk towards it.

And as long as the decisions you make take you even just a tiny step towards that mountain, you can keep moving forward knowing that you have made the right decision.

Do what is true. Do what takes you closer to the mountain.

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