One Woman’s Yes: Lori Pickert

Like Sarah Gilbert, our interviewee last month, Lori Pickert doesn’t have a problem with yes. At least at first. Read on to learn more about how to keep the yeses coming–even when the will-power lags behind.

My default setting is “yes” — at least when I’m pitching my own ideas to myself. Whatever I want to do, I tend to embrace it wholeheartedly.

A typical exchange with my husband goes like this:

Me: Do you think I should do this?

Him: Maybe.

Me: I think I should!

Him: You should probably wait until…

Me: I’m starting today!

When I decided to write a book, I knew it was the inevitable outgrowth of my blogging and mentoring. I couldn’t keep blogging unless I stopped and wrote the book. It would be a big project, but it felt necessary and inevitable. Should I do it? Yes!

That first “yes” was relatively easy. To achieve a big goal, though, you have to say “yes” again and again and again, over days, weeks, months, maybe even years.

You have to say “yes” to prioritizing your goal. I say “no” to a lot of things — a lot of things — so I can say “yes” to the things that matter most.

To write a book, I knew I was going to have to find hours of time. It had to come from somewhere, and I didn’t want it to come from my husband or my children. After my time with them, everything else was on the chopping block.

Small commitments accumulate like small expenses — at the end of the month, they really add up. To invest in myself, I had to say “no” to spending time, money, and effort on things that weren’t as important to me, whether it was watching TV, agreeing to sit on a committee, or caving in to a request for a favor. I saved “yes” for the important stuff. By relentlessly prioritizing, I made my to-do list a lot shorter and pushed my goal closer to the top.

You have to say “yes” to things that scare you. Firsts are always, by definition, things you’ve never done before. W. H. Auden said, “Human beings are, necessarily, actors who cannot become something before they have pretended to be it.” Such a lyrical way of saying “fake it till you make it.”

Writing a book didn’t scare me — but publishing it did. I had no idea how it would be received, whether people would like it, whether anyone wanted what I had to share.

It’s part of our family culture to celebrate learning and doing and to accept making mistakes and failing. It’s okay for kids to do the failing and learning — it’s good for them! But what about the parents? The truth is, we can’t expect our children to do these things if we don’t do them as well. If you want to raise doers, you should be a doer. Even — no, especially — when it scares you.

You have to say “yes” even when you’re feeling “maybe.” It’s inevitable that your enthusiasm will wax and wane over the life of your project, and it will usually decidedly wane toward the end. There’s a reason it’s never crowded along the extra mile: most people never get there.

When the going gets rough, the more tender among us start procrastinating. We want to push that fear away for another day; we want a buffer between us and the hard stuff. It’s no good to slide your goals eternally to the next calendar day. You have to swallow hard and say “yes” now, today, and every day.

On the tougher days, when I just wasn’t feeling it, I still made myself go into the studio and sit among my notes and research. If I’d let myself lose the habit of going to my workspace and staring at my work, I would have forgotten what I was trying to do — then I would have started minimizing its importance. Because that’s what happens when you give up on something you care about: first the letting go, then the rationalizing that you never really cared that much anyway.

By building my project time into my routine and keeping it up even when I didn’t feel like it, I rode out my low periods of waning enthusiasm. On some days I accomplished a lot and on other days I accomplished very little — but at least I accomplished something, and I didn’t quit.

Every big goal breaks down into a lot of small tasks, and every tiny thing you do moves you a little further down the road. You build your future out of a long string of todays laid end to end.

That initial “yes” is important — when you decide that you care enough about a goal to focus on it and really try to achieve it. But even more important are all the little, daily yeses that follow. They’re the ones that combine to make the final big “YES!” — the one you shout when you’ve made it to the end.

Lori Pickert writes about learning at the Camp Creek Blog. She is the author of Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners.

Guys, can I just put in a plug here for Lori’s book and her incredibly rich and supportive website? Both are ostensibly about homeschooling, but her insight is equally relevant if you’re educating your kids full-time, educating them through a traditional school or (heck) if you’re yearning to become a self-directed learner on your own. I receive nothing for plugging it, except  warm fuzzies. Which thankfully are both free and priceless.

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  • Lori

    thank you, heather, for asking me to write about my “yes” — and for your kind words about my book and my site. :)

    i spend most of my time helping other people — kids and adults — figure out how to make their ideas happen. this topic that you’re exploring — how to help people say “yes” to their own ideas — is really important. the more afraid and risk-averse we are (even as children), the less and less able we are to grow.

    it’s only by doing that we build up our abilities and skills — and our confidence. we have to learn that failing is just part of the process of living, and the only way we do that is by stretching. my book is about helping children learn to direct and manage their own learning, but it’s also about raising children to feel comfortable challenging themselves. and you’re right — we all need that ability.

    • Heather

      You are welcome! I’m seeing that the grit, perseverence, and even the optimism to say yes is a habit and a discipline I can grow and develop and change. It’s not a fixed quantity. Like so much else about learning.

  • Ingrid

    Yes! what Lori said.

    • Heather

      Amen! Thanks for joining us!

  • mamacrow

    could not agree more.

    ‘If you want to raise doers, you should be a doer. Even — no, especially — when it scares you.’

    EXACTLY this!

    • Heather

      Seriously. It’s so much harder to model the behavior I want to instill than just flap my lip about it :)

  • renee @ FIMBY

    This is the first photo I’ve seen of Lori. In all these years. I’m so happy to finally know what you look like Lori. I feel much more connected to my online peers when I have a face in mind.

  • Heather

    Ha! Glad to help :)