Unlike the majority of people, I have never found it a struggle to say no.

I firmly declined to lend my desk neighbor a pencil and politely turned down their offer to “just take one sip” of an unwanted beverage. I respectfully declined an attractive job offer because it didn’t feel like the right fit for me, and I chose to end my night earlier than expected. No, absolutely not. Denying every request came so naturally to me that I found myself effortlessly responding with a resounding no; people eventually stopped inquiring altogether in anticipation of my answer.

My plan was simple: if I felt uneasy about something, steer clear of it.

[Related: 6 Ways to Deal With Post Grad Job Search Stress]

To be honest, fear has had a stronghold on me for much of my adulthood. I’ve been scared to take risks and try new things, hesitant to meet people outside of my comfort zone; dreading the possibility that anything may not turn out as planned. This trepidation kept me locked within the walls of my comfort zone. On the exterior, I might appear to be living my best life, yet internally I felt mentally and physically exhausted…and uninspired.

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite passages from the Bible has been… “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future,” Yet, I was never able to actually laugh or do anything without fear of what might happen next. Therefore, on a whim, Drawing inspiration from Shonda Rhimes, I decided to begin embracing “Yes” as a mantra. Following graduation, life presented me with the perfect opportunity – to leave my introverted lifestyle and start living unencumbered!

Rather than shying away from opportunities due to fear, I chose to embrace them with the stipulation that they remain within legal and ethical boundaries. By saying yes instead of no, I have been able to explore more possibilities and open doors for myself.

With just one word, I found myself in places where I never would’ve imagined. From a bar playing trivia late into the night with newfound friends to sitting in the front row of SoulCycle – an experience that was far more thrilling than my usual back-row corner seat. The end result of this challenge has been both favorable and unfavorable, ranging from exciting memories to overreaching my capacity which then led to certain missteps in the workplace. As expected, these blunders earned me some not-so-kind words from my boss.

[Related: “The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned After College”]

Astonishingly, it was just as effortless for me to accept the opportunity as to decline it. My heart had been pushing me in that direction all along while my head wasn’t allowing it– except for one massive exemption.

Many people were bewildered as to why I would prioritize a job over my family and move so far away from home. Wouldn’t it be lonely? How could I manage to live in such an energetic city? What if this career opportunity didn’t pan out? These questions had me on edge, almost provoking fear inside of me.

Empowered by a newfound sense of courage, I said yes to an exciting journey and boarded the plane without hesitation. If I could do it then, why wouldn’t that always be the case?

Remember when we were five, and the possibilities seemed endless? We delighted in coloring on walls and sneaking into the cookie jar without any worry of a looming time-out. Whatever felt right was fair game as we said yes to life with our imaginary friends. But then suddenly adulthood arrived, bringing along dreams deferred and an adventure lost – replaced instead by merely existing.

It’s true, we all have aspirations – yet the majority of us use needlessly contrived reasons for not chasing those dreams. These explanations are usually somewhat subtle and inconspicuous; such as an inclination to remain in our comfort zones and retain the established order. Though selecting “Yes” allows you to break out from your regular routine, so that you can get considerably more enjoyment out of life.

[Related: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Graduated From College]

There is no specific direction to follow in life after graduation. It can be a dark, complicated journey that you can only conquer by being brave and taking risks. Saying “yes” to the things that make us feel scared will ultimately lead us down the path to success.

There is no doubt that comfort can lead to success, but the most impressive successes are often born from discomfort.

Don’t miss our upcoming College Grad Correspondent post on Friday, February 5! To get a better understanding of our correspondents before then, check out the corresponding page.

Photo: iStockphoto

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