Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

The Power of “Yes, But…” to Catapult You to Clarity

Recently, Farnoosh Brock, the beautiful mind behind Prolific Living asked me about my blog, Always Well Within.  She inquired:

“Are you planning on turning it into a business or perhaps, you have already done so? I’d love to know what you have been exploring as of late.”

I silently observed a long list of “Yes, buts…” spring forth in my mind.  I have a proclivity for producing this entrancing term.  How about you?

On the downside, this tiny but recalcitrant phrase will keep you sitting on the fence, confused or even paralyzed for interminable periods of time.

But give it a twist – your full engagement – and “Yes, but…” has the power to catapult you to clarity, thus setting you free.

How to Use “Yes, but…” Prudently

Are there “Yes, buts…” dancing about in your mind?

Choose an aspiration, dream, goal, wish or intention.  Then lay all the “Yes, buts…” out on the table.  You can do this by free-writing, without stopping, allowing them to pour forth unimpeded.  Empty every recess of your mind.  Now that you’ve primed the pump, more “Yes, buts…” will pop up at unexpected times throughout the day and even the night.  Capture them as well.

Lest you think you can undo me…. here’s my silent response to Farnoosh:

  • Yes, but…the word “business” makes me gulp.
  • Yes, but…I’m not sure I have the energy or time required.
  • Yes, but…It requires a zillion hours of consistent work to create a successful business or blog.
  • Yes, but…my dislike of many conventional marketing techniques throws me into a state of suspended animation.
  • Yes, but…I live in a fantasy world where people survive and thrive on air.
  • Yes, but…I’m afraid of losing sight of my spiritual practice.
  • Yes, but…I’m afraid of being swallowed alive.
  • Yes, but…It’s hard to say no to all the requests constantly flowing my way.
  • Yes, but…I’m not sure I have what it takes.
  • Yes, but…I’m not unique, positive, awesome, wild, or epic enough.
  • Yes, but…Some of my writing is too esoteric for the average person.
  • Yes, but…Does the world really need another personal development blogger when there are so many brilliant ones already?”

Getting all your hesitations, worries, or concerns out on the table, empowers you to examine each one for its veracity and deeper messages.  The process also frees you from an unconscious burden that’s been dimming your light.  About each one ask, “Is this true or is it fear or a false message in disguise?”

“Yes, but…” – Protector or Liberator?

‘Yes, but…” may be your wise protector.  The heart whisper reminding, “You are biting off more than you can chew.”   This can be a tendency when our true self is weak and your false self predominates, pushing you to prove yourself with over ambition.  But when you swallow more than you can digest, it leads to distress and/or disease.  Listen deeply:  is your true self or false self speaking in this?

On the other hand, “Yes, but…” can be a cover-up for fear, hesitation, and self-doubt.  In this case, unveiling the ‘Yes, buts…’ gives you a chance to undue these inner blockages and explore Aikido-like moves for bypassing each one with elegance and ease.

So please don’t just gloss over your ‘Yes, buts…”  They are precious gems!  Investigate each facet deeply until you can say “true” or “false” to each one.

A good “Yes, but…” can keep you from making the mistake of your life.  A quirky one can be an obstacle when transformed that brings your dream alive.  The main point is to get off the divide and choose the right side.

Thanks to Farnoosh,  I clearly see how some of my “Yes, buts…” are but sandcastles ready to be swept away. Others have veracity and need to be well-considered lest I find myself heeding the irresistibly sweet song of the false persona who leads one to the imbalanced life.

Do you listen to the “Yes, buts…” dancing in your head?  What do they say?  How do you respond?

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

Image:  Wikimedia Commons


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  1. Great post, Sandra. I realize I’ve been doing this with the idea of opening an Etsy shop for my pottery. I’d like to, but…I need better photos, I’m terrified that I’ll get the hard numbers confirming that pottery is not a profitable thing for me to pursue, I’ve only been doing pottery for two years and maybe I’m not good enough to sell my work, I don’t know if I’m ready to part with all my favorite pieces…and so on. I definitely need to spend some more time deconstructing each of these. And trying to get real photos taken with my mediocre camera!

    • This is a really good, real life example! The “yes, buts…” seem to happen to all of us. It’s frightening to put your energy into a project only to face the possible discovery that it might not work. But then it might! Or, if not, it might lead to another path. Good luck with your deconstruction phase. And if you do open your Etsy shop, I would love to know. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. My “Yes, buts. . .” not only dance in my head, but often form a full-blown concert. Your article has made me feel less like I’m just procrastinating and more like observing and exploring what they mean.

    While it’s true that they may indicate fear or lack of confidence, getting my “yes, buts. . .” , out on the table as you indicated, has tremendous benefits. I’ve found that when I’m deeply passionate about sharing an idea with the world, it’s easier to topple the hesitance.

    I can think back to some “yes, buts. . .” that were tasks or projects I clearly didn’t want to do. When I faced that and said NO, I was able to move on to those things I wanted to do.

    Thanks for pointing out the power of “yes, buts. . .”

    • It’s so nice to “see” you, Flora! Your example of a “full-blown concert” is so applicable for many of us. Like you, working with the “yes, buts…” head on has shown me that sometimes they contain wisdom, not only hesitation. So I’m very happy to be walking this path of discernment with you as life is all about what to adopt and what to abandon. I really appreciate your point in how passion makes all the difference in the world and how clearing out the possible “wrong” turns bring you closer to the passionate ones.

  3. Sometimes it is scary to take stock of what we’re really capable of, but have no idea how to implement it, offer it, do it. “Yes, but…” is a very close friend. I loved how you dissected this topic so beautifully, Sandra. I go through the dilemma of “do i want to do this” periodically, and after some analysis, am able to decide that I am happy with what I am doing now. Then, each time I make a list of “What I want”. That really helps, because I figure that if I am doing at least 60% from that list – am on track. It is wonderful to be successful, at the top, profitable. But ultimately it is about what makes us truly happy, without regrets.

    This post is something I’d bookmark and read again. Thank you, Sandra, for always providing value 🙂 Love, Vidya

  4. Jean Sampson

    Hi Sandra—–I am so glad you wrote this post! My life has been littered with yes-buts! Sometimes they stop me cold because they are so scary or seem so impossible! But, the interesting thing is, even having the thought that I might do something or get involved in something gets my mind (even though I am not aware of it) considering the possibility, the “what if” factor, if you will. And years later (because I am OLD 🙂 I will realize that I am doing exactly that thing that I discounted years before because of a “yes-but”. Over the years. life has presented ways to ease into whatever I was unable to even consider earlier! One of those things has been public speaking! I can now get up in public and talk about my art and my classes and enjoy myself (and I LOVE being on TV!!) which used to be the one thing I said I would NEVER EVER DO! Step-by step, life required me to do a few sort of (well, extremely) scary things that I HAD to do to accomplish what needed to be done, and, amazingly, now I enjoy the thing that terrified me.
    I am going to sit down this afternoon and make out a new list of current yes-buts because I need to speed things up a bit, since I don’t have as much poking around time as I used to have, being old and all. 🙂 Thanks for this great post!

    • That’s so fascinating, Jean! It just shows me that life has a way of unfolding and we don’t need to push as much as we might think. It’s exciting to hear that the right things have come to fruition for you at the right time and you have been able to breakthrough such mega fears like public speaking. I feel very encouraged by your experience. Have fun with your new list!

  5. Hi Sandra,

    *grin* I don’t think I’m “wild”…just most open to experience fully…but I do enjoy nature very much and tend to explore where others might not dare to tread *grin*

    I used to say “yes, but”…and then I had children and transformed all of our “but’s” (collectively) to *and*. *And* seems so affirmative, leaves the door open to infinite possibility and wonder. Yes, says: I am opening to it…*and* says show me the “how”, as I continue to create in this land of unknown. “Yes” says I trust you (Source), *and* says here is my step, may you please meet me.

    I love how you answered silently and shared publicly. It inspires me when friends and peers open up genuine conversation…thank you for being you and for sharing as you do 🙂

    • Joy, I love your formula of “Yes, and…” That sounds like a perfect article for you to write. 🙂 I don’t think you are wild in the sense of being reckless, but definitely in the sense of being inquisitive, curious, willing, and experience-loving!

  6. hi Sandra – Yes, buts show us the resistance we have in our lives.

    Yes, but quitting my job and traveling the world might starve the kids is appropriate in certain circumstances as a cautionary note.

    Yes, but I’m not good enough may require further exploration.

    I’m glad you were inspired to sweep away the sandcastles of yes buts:)

  7. You’re right, Vishnu…starving the kids is not necessarily a positive idea! Precisely why “yes, but…” may be wise or foolish! Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. I loved this post. What a great way of filtering out resistance. While sometimes it makes sense to uncover and break through into an area of new growth, I find that there’s so many things that I want to do, I can only commit to those where the “green lights and parking spaces” are obvious. I want to keep improving at being selective and focusing on the few where I can make a real impact.

    Derek Sivers has an awesome post: “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.” In it he says “When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!””

    I guess for me, if the “yes” is immediately followed by a “but” that might be an indicator to move on because something stronger is likely to be found.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. It’s a good tool for helping with those in-between states.

    • Christopher,

      There are so many good points and phrases in your reply. I love the idea of having a “way of filtering out resistance.” And, the idea of “green lights and parking spaces.” You’ve really hit the essence in my mind: time is precious and limited. Let’s see how we can use it well. I resonate with the idea of being selective and focusing on the few, rather than the many. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. It’s really help me fine-tune further.

  9. Yes, in my experience just trying to steamroll or push through my doubts, as opposed to hearing out the doubting part, is just going to add to the sense of tension and resistance I feel. In my experience the doubting part doesn’t need to be obeyed, but nurtured and given attention.

  10. That’s a great nugget of wisdom, Chris. Thank you for sharing it so lucidly!

  11. Hi Sandra
    We all want clarity where none exists. Sometimes we just have to step into the unknown.

  12. Ah, you have a gift for sure. Thank you for reflecting back to me my own judgment, in this case about the phrase “yes, but” which I saw only in it’s limiting and negative way. Once you explored it with an open mind, I saw all the richness and possibilities of it. I’m going to try your exercise!

    • Wonderful! I would have probably thought the same until I explored it personally and found a whole new world in “yes, but…”! Thanks for your open-mindedness. Have fun with the experiment and thanks for your thoughts.

  13. The “yes, buts” in my mind are ways to rationalize. Sort of like when I express my hopes that something will work out in a certain way (dangerous in and of itself) and then say, “but who knows what will happen.” It is a safe way to be negative because I’m not being overtly so, just kind of. Does that make sense?

  14. Charlotte,

    Absolutely, that makes sense! I think “yes, buts…” are often like that. I like how you explained how they afford us the option of being pessimistic without being overtly so! For me though, I’m also finding some wisdom there. It’s been a great exercise. Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. Lovely job with this post Sandra. I’m really proud of the great contribution you’re making. I especially love the way you do not judge these “yes, buts” but see them with a clear, wise gaze that simply sees what message and possibly what gift they bring. This same charitable approach serves us well in all our living doesn’t it?

    • I love “seeing” you, Christopher! Thank you for your kind words. I agree with your fully: observing with pure awareness is the key. Leaving behind all the acceptance and rejection! You are wise indeed!

  16. Hi Sandra, I appreciate your thoughtful review of “Yes, buts”! I am more excited by the idea of saying Yes and jumping in full force (following an intuitive hit and spark of inspiration)! So that is what I’ve been doing. Of course, I do try to be thoughtful. You are right too that there is a possibility of moving towards an imbalanced life. Still, I would love to debunk some of your “yes, buts” 😛

  17. Lynn,

    How lovely if you could / would debunk some of my “yes, buts…”! What a wonderful magical touch. 🙂 Intuition is an important part of the whole mix too as well as timing. In fact, intuition can help us hesitate properly! I find the recipes has several ingredients! “Yes, buts…” being just one them! Thanks so much for your insights.

  18. Oh these were some of the best “Yes but” quotes I have read…..and another great explanation by you, Sandra, on an angle that perhaps most of us overlook. THANK YOU for humbling me by answering this question – I see that it was a real self-discovery for you to go through the process. I *ALSO* see that you mention your budding writing career as a free lancer, and I am rather delighted for you. That’s certainly one way to expand your horizons – your writing IS unique, and so is your voice and I bet you there is a market just for you. It’s wonderful to see how you have grown with this blog – the love of your readers is obvious, and I am among them. Here’s to a business that won’t throw that beautiful life of yours out of balance …. and perhaps will even bring it more fun and foundation than you can imagine.

    • Farnooh,

      It was a fun self-discovery process and the irony or wonder is that so many of those “yes, buts…” are dissolving left and right. Thank you for triggering this wonderful process for me!

      I suppose I should say “re-budding” freelance writing career, as I have been a successful freelance writer and have just had a break to explore other avenues of my life. Thanks for your encouragement!

      Going out of balance is a concern for me, especially in these crazy times. So I am grateful to the “yes, buts…” for helping me keep this in mind.

  19. Hello Sandra; We are both followers of Farnoosh and Prolithic living. After reading some of the comments on your post, its clear that there are people like me who believe you do have something unique to offer the world. It may not be a totally new thought, but your way of looking at it and explaining it are refreshing. my favorite of your yes buts was you live in a world where you live on air. smile My biggest yes buts have to do with trust especially with people i haven’t known very long. this may sound like a natural and reasonable way to be, but sometimes it keeps me from taking advantage of opportunities. Recently, i almost passed on getting help with making my website better out of fear and mistrust, but thankfully the other person managed to break through this defense by offering to submit sample work and give me the option of using their suggestions or keeping the site the way it is. I still have doubts and probably won’t be completely at ease again until my friends and family review the changes and give me their approval. Oh by the way I should mention that I’m blind, so that’s why the work will need someone else’s opinion about how successful it is. thanks again for a great post and take care, max

    • Hello Maxwell,

      I can understand your hesitations about trusting others. It’s true that we need to bring our intelligence and intuition to bear when it comes to working with new people. It seems like balance is the key. I’m glad you were able to get the help you needed to make your website better! Thanks for sharing your story.

      • Hi Sandra; thanks for making me feel so welcome. I spoke with the lady for about an hour this morning. I felt better about the decision. I feel like she understands my needs, and hopefully in about two weeks i will have a much improved website. I will still have to promote the site, but having a better product should help a lot. I’m proud of what I’ve managed on my own, but no matter what; the site has failed to go above a google ranking of 3 and its alexa is usually somewhere between 3 and 4 million. Most of my competitors sites are ranked in the top 750,000 on alexa and have google rankings of 4 or 5. it will be an exciting process. thanks for letting me share, max

  20. Hi Sandra,

    The “yes buts…” certainly have popped up for me many times in my life. Until I read your post, I wouldn’t have thought of them as being “powerful”. When the “yes, buts…” pop up – and they certainly will – I can now look at them as an opportunity to stretch and grow. Thanks for helping me to see how useful the “yes, buts…” can be as a tool for self-discovery.

  21. Thanks for writing about this. “But” is a three letter word just like “can’t” is a four letter word and “never” is a five letter word. Imagine if we were born without these in our vocabularies??? We’d all have to create limiting beliefs from scratch!

    • Miriam,

      That would be lovely to be born without any limiting beliefs, wouldn’t it? Being that’s not the case for most of us, I love having the option to use them as fuel for transformation. Thanks for adding this angle to the conversation!

  22. I find business is inspiring when we create a business that flows value and leaves the world a better place, or makes the ride we’re on a better one.

    The best businesses combine passion + profit, + purpose.

    The power of business is sustainability for the long haul. Many things die due to lack of investment, so knowing how to fund your hobby or your passion or your business is a key success pattern for life.

    I underestimated the importance of funding my blog, until my expenses continued to grow and my hobby started to get more expensive.

    • J.D.

      This is like a mini-guide to creating a business that flows value. That’s exactly what I need! And these are very practical suggestion in terms of funding. This practical grounding is essential. Thank you for sharing the lessons you’ve learned.

  23. I hadn’t realized it until I started reading this post, but I feel like I’ve been telling myself “Yes, but…” for months! Years even. A large part of mine center around me feeling like I’m not worthy or don’t have anything “new” or “fresh” to add, but I’m learning to move forward in spite of these. It’s a challenge, though. After reading this post, though, I just might take a step back and list to those “Yes, buts…” to see what I can learn about myself. Thanks for sharing!

    • Grady,

      I’m so glad you are having such a deep insight. I hope making a list helps you move forward or hold back, depending on what’s truly appropriate for you! I really appreciate hearing your feedback and process. Thank you!

  24. I’m not sure how I missed this post, Sandra, but I’m so glad I read it today. Today is a day that I’ve finally got off my but(t) and decided to start a book. I’m really pushing the boundaries with it by writing fiction. I went through all the ‘buts’ and decided I still had to do it. The power of the ‘but’ is important to help us make choices! Thanks again.

    • That’s fabulous, Corinne! Congratulations! After reading the last story on your site, I have every confidence you will be successful! Yes, I’m all for the unleashing the power of the “but”…. I’m very happy for you.

  25. Hi Sandra,

    I really like this post, and I have had most of the “yes, but’s” on your list.

    I think the idea of writing them all down and getting them out of your head is a brilliant one. It gets our fears out there in front of us where we can’t hide from them. Then we have a decision to make for each one. But, once the decision is made, that particular fears power is significantly reduced.

    I think I need to use this technique on a regular basis.

    • Hi Keith,

      Clearly, I agree with you although others have an aversion to “yes, buts…” I found looking at them very empowering and feel like it’s made shifts for me. Glad this resonated for you too!

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