08/22/2012 08:43 am ET Updated Oct 22, 2012

Why Do We Stop Saying 'Yes' to New Experiences?

When did saying "no" become easier than saying "yes"? Recently a friend told my husband and me about Color Me Rad, a 5K wherein you get covered with colored corn starch throughout the run. My husband said, "Sounds like fun," and my immediate reaction, without even thinking, was "no." I surprised myself at this, as I was always the person who said "yes" to even the craziest ideas.... What changed, and why?

Popular Nos in Our 50s That Were Yeses in Our 30s:
  1. Anything last-minute: When we are asked to be spontaneous, it can bring up a host of anxieties related to loss of control or the fear of the unknown.
  2. Getting messy, wet or dirty: When did looking good and feeling comfortable become more important than the adventure of "doing"?
  3. Camping: Enough said.
  4. Being uncomfortable: Feeling fear that we might not be good at something new, or wanting the comfort that comes from doing what we have always done.
  5. Physical challenges: When did we stop saying yes to physical activity? Unless of course it's something we are really good at....
  6. Something new: New ideas, possibilities, or people.

Why Do We Stop Saying "Yes"?
Whenever we say "no," we miss an opportunity to try something we haven't tried before. Saying "no" often enough eventually creates a very small world. I know it feels as if there is comfort and control in a small world, but we do not have to keep our lives small to be safe. Change is inevitable and if we are too invested in what has always worked or what we have always done, we may forget how to trust ourselves and how to cope positively with the unexpected.

Some may feel that when they agree to something new and say "yes" to it, they are somehow veering off their "path." How do we know our true path if we stop trying or looking at new options or agreeing to think in a new way? My husband knows when I'm ready for a change in direction when, after I explain the new idea or activity, I end with, "It's fresh." I've found that a fresh take, a fresh idea or a fresh attitude opens possibilities.

What holds most people back is fear of losing what they already have. Holding on tightly to traditions, things, or people can be limiting, in that there is no space to create a new or different experience. Dinner at 7 p.m. and bed at 11 p.m... really? Opening new doors is a skill that can be learned and eventually appreciated as much, if not more, than the current status quo.

When we overschedule, it is easy to say "no" because we simply do not have the time for anything new. Try keeping your schedule more open for last-minute changes and opportunities. The more choices and possibilities you have before you, the easier it becomes to make saying "yes" a habit.

Try saying "yes." Say "yes" to something you would normally turn down. Take a chance, try new things: food, music, a different way of travelling, new habits, or talk to people who are out of your sphere of influence. And, as for the Color Me Rad 5K run, I know that it is guaranteed to make me uncomfortable. I'm not good at running, I'll probably be the oldest person out there, I'll get messy, and of course there is the added bonus of being worried that the paint could contain toxins. So I decided to sign up. Yes, I'm in!

For more by Linda Durnell, click here.

For more on becoming fearless, click here.