The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. ~ Lin Yutang
I'm still buzzing from a powerful exercise I (sort of) made up last week. I’m calling it “Your HELL YEAH Wake-Up Call” inspired by the bestseller Tools of Titans in which author Tim Ferriss interviews icons, mavericks, and other stellar people about what makes them shine. A week later I'm still feeling the residual thrill one feels when unmasking a deep truth.
Let me give you some background.
In Tools of Titans, Ferriss engages in Q&A with programmer-philosopher Derek Sivers in how to say “yes” or “no” to the overflow of opportunities in their lives.
Sivers writes: "If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no. Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell Yeah!” — then my answer is no. 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!”
Also, if we're not paying attention, we may also get trapped into saying yes to opportunities that sound just “kinda cool.” Too much “kinda cool” will drown us in commitments that will eventually, as Sivers says, "sink the ship.”
These thought provoking words captured my attention. I grabbed pen and journal and got to work. The questions flowed effortlessly.
What activities, projects, or opportunities made me want to scream HELL YEAH? What stuff made me feel just KINDA COOL? What felt flat out MEH?
Before going further, let’s define my “not so sophisticated” terminology:
• HELL YEAH! - You're jumping out of your skin with excitement thinking about this activity, project, or opportunity. Doing it makes you quiver — with joyful anticipation. Thinking about it makes you feel 50% ready to rock and 50% like you may throw up.
• KINDA COOL – You’re not all out HELL YEAH but you’re still sort of intrigued. This activity, project, or opportunity doesn’t feel like a “bad” way of spending your time and energy nor it is super exciting and awesome. When you think about it there’s not much of a physical response either way. It simply feels KINDA COOL.
• MEH – Defined as uninspiring or unexceptional. Thinking about this activity, project, or opportunity makes you feel flat or lackluster. There’s a sort of dread around it like an, “Ugh, really? Do I have to do this again?”
Your HELL YEAH Wake-Up Call
What do you feel like screaming HELL YEAH! about in your life? What's KINDA COOL and what is downright MEH?
The key to doing this exercise well (and to have it make an impact on you as it did for me) is to get honest — really honest. You’ll need to drop below the “thinking mind” and get into your body. You’ll need tap into the physical sensations that arise when you imagine yourself in these activities, projects, or opportunities. To decide on what’s HELL YEAH, KINDA COOL or just MEH, you’ll want to get underneath what you think you "should" feel and uncover what you actually feel.
Here’s the deal, no one needs to see your list — ever. It is for your eyes only so go for it.
1. List It: On a blank sheet of lined paper list all of your professional and personal activities, projects, or opportunities. Put each on a separate line.
2. Feel It: After listing everything possible that is happening or could happen, read each activity, project, or opportunity out loud. Imagine yourself doing it. Notice what you feel in your body. Is there excitement, dread or something in between? If you’re not sure what you’re feeling stay with it longer. Get into being deeply engaged in this experience.
3. Name It: Get crystal clear about how you feel and name it. Does this activity, project, or opportunity feel HELL YEAH!, KINDA COOL, or MEH? If it’s a HELL YEAH!, write HELL YEAH! (preferably with a red pen) and move on to the next line. Go through each line and identify all of your HELL YEAH’s first. After the first round, get up and do something else for a few minutes. For round two, go through the exercise again for the remaining activities, projects, or opportunities. Read them out loud, feel them and name what is KINDA COOL or just MEH.
4. Live Smarter: Getting clear on what lights you up and what shuts you down is the first step to a powerful process of organizing your life around your HELL YEAHs! It also makes you aware of the KINDA COOLs that are no longer worth your time and energy.
Let’s face it, sometimes we have to do the MEHs in order to put food on the table, manage the family, and keep the ball rolling. We can, however, learn to live smarter. In the week since I did this exercise I’ve been doing my best to batch all necessary MEHs into a few hours a day. I'm also saying no to more KINDA COOLs.
The result? I’m creating space for activities, projects, and opportunities that make me want to scream HELL YEAH!
And so can you.
As Derek Sivers said, “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!” Be honest with yourself about what makes you feel alive and HELL YEAH? Organize your life more around HELL YEAH and less around MEH and see what happens.
While you may find that you still need to engage in various MEH activities (yes, we sometimes need to take out the trash, attend meetings, and write reports), we can learn to get through them faster and have more time to live our HELL YEAH life.