Redefining YOLO

Redefining YOLO

Whether you see it on Facebook or receive it in your inbox every day, you can usually spot this ever-present phenomenon immediately.

We have been told by others and started believing that “You only live once.”

While that isn’t altogether false, the way it has been defined for us means something a little different.

We’ve convinced ourselves that the only way to live our lives is to say “Yes” to everything that comes our way.

Remember the film Yes, Man?

Jim Carrey plays a character who challenges himself to say “Yes” to everything for an entire year. If you haven’t seen the movie, you can imagine the sort of trouble this got him into.

And yea, his character finds good in some of the decisions he makes, but that’s not the point.

It has become apparent to me, that if we say “Yes” to everything, the “Yes” that we truly mean loses its value along the way.

hands in the air

We lose the ability to mean “Yes” when it’s something we’d really like to do.

I’m not an advocate of saying “No” to everything, but we’ve started saying “Yes” to a lot more than we’d like to despite our better judgment.

YOLO is why we end up with so much stuff. YOLO is why we end up loathing each other for one reason or another. YOLO is why we end up feeling lonely.

When we miss the opportunity to learn from having less and teaching others how to do the same, we start feeling entitled to have those things and experiences. In reality, time goes on and what you don’t get to do at one point you could very well do later.

“You only live once” cannot become our mantra; our end all be all. For what is life if not a series of chapters in which we live different lives? Where there is growth, there is new life.

This past Monday on September 11th, Jeremy came home from work and told me about an interview he listened to on NPR.

Terry Gross interviewed a man named John Feal. Feal was a demolition supervisor to the damage done on 9/11 and arrived at the scene on 9/12. Five days later, an 8,000 piece of steel fell and crushed his foot.

After extensive damage, Feal lost his foot. Out of work, Feal was denied medical compensation from the government.

Feal has since created the FealGood Foundation, which aims to fight in the legislative arena for other first responders and emergency crew who are denied medical coverage. And in 2010, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act was passed, which “extends the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program Fund indefinitely…”

I go through my life every day missing somebody. And I think we all do. I’m no different than anybody else, but we’re human beings and we’re programmed to move forward. But moving forward, I want to live my life honoring them…

If everybody just stopped and looked around and said, How can I make this country better? How can I make the world better? I think you’d see a big difference. But nobody wants to stop.

You know they’re all saying, and you know it’s normally passed down through generational vice, say from an older person, “You only live once”?

I don’t buy that. You only die once. You live every day.

You can listen to the entire interview here. I highly recommend it. 


We can continue to live our lives under the lie that our opportunity to make anything of ourselves is based on living only once.

Spend what we want, eat what we want, buy what we want…

But where is the purpose in that? 

If what we desire is connection, fun, joy, hope, empathy… we’re not going to find it when we say “Yes” to everything. Those things will get lost in the midst of everything we think we should be doing.

Even before Jeremy and I talked about marriage, we had conversations about kids, houses, and jobs.

When we talked about what we really wanted, we began to understand the values, goals, and motivations of each other. So, when we said “No” to the way we thought we had to do certain things we were able to create a life that truly reflected us as a couple. 

We didn’t want a stationary brick and mortar home. We wanted a home with wheels.

We weren’t ready for kids. We wanted to get to know each other more deeply first and become financially responsible.

We didn’t want a lot of stuff. So we used what we had and gave away the rest. 

Redefining YOLO doesn’t mean we stop saying “Yes.”

Our ability to say “No” doesn’t mean we stop doing anything. “No” allows us the opportunity for a new kind of “Yes.”


*Dedicated to John Feal and the other survivors and their families who continue to experience the side effects of 9/11.*



What do you think of YOLO? How have you seen that translate in everyday life for you and others? What does “No” or “Yes” mean to you?

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