Did you know that the average North American child in hears the word "NO" over 148,000 times before he or she becomes a teenager?
According to a study attributed to UCLA, that’s over 400 times a day! With such a strong pushback from the adult world, I’d bet that in the eyes of a child, things might seem grim.
This is why I applaud children and their tenacity for joy.
Adults telling children no on such a consistent basis must leave some mark in the mind of a child. The question then becomes: what kind of mental footprint will be left in their brain when they hear the word ‘no’?
If you’re reading this, you are most likely an adult. And if you’re an adult now, well, chances are you probably once were a child. Do you remember the kind of impact the word "no" had on you?
I don’t ask this as a call to remember a suppressed, painful memory or some childhood trauma. Nor am I trying to pry into your life to uncover some deep, dark secrets. Instead, I’m asking you to reevaluate your own inner monologue. What do you say to yourself when no one is looking?
Take inventory of negative self-talk; the words we say to ourselves when we make mistakes, do things well, set new goals, or let someone down are crucial to the manifestation of our power.
The word "yes" (and its brigade of all other affirming words of encouragement) is a powerful tool. During the first year of the Ahead of the Game Youth Mentoring program, I was working with a group of grade 10 boys who were doing poorly in school and getting into trouble with the law. Our time was split between classroom mentoring and working out together in the weight room. I was working out with one student in particular named Jamie. As he lifted weights, I would spot him, challenge him, and offer words of encouragement like, "One more rep", "Great job", or "Come on, you can do it!"
One day after a workout, Jamie stopped and asked me a question that made me think. He asked, "Why do you always say things like that?". I was puzzled, to say the least. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"You always tell me things like ‘keep going’ or ‘I can do it’” he replied.
I simply responded, “Because I know that you can. No matter what it takes, we are here to give you what you need to get the best out of you".
Jamie still looked a bit bewildered, so I asked, "Does this bother you?"
His eyes began to swell with tears as he said, "No. It's just that I've never heard anyone say something like that to me before. Older people usually tell me I'm not good at anything.".
Jamie didn’t even recognize the power of affirmation when it was spoken right to him.
"Yes" is such a powerful word. It gives you permission to wake up in the morning with a smile on your face knowing that yes, you are capable. Yes, you are loved. Yes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. It overrides the condemnation of the word "no" and all the damaging crumbs it can leave. By saying “yes”, we are giving each of us the permission to live, fall and rise up again, to make mistakes, and to bounce back.
So this week, say yes.
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