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Tell Me What You Say Yes to, and I’ll Tell You Who You Are

Benjamin Hardy, PhD
Mind Cafe
Published in
4 min readMar 29, 2018


“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett

According to Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do.” More directly, we are what we say yes to.

Every second of every day, you’re saying yes to something. Every time you do something, you say yes to that thing.

  • Every time you hop on Facebook and begin scrolling, you’re saying yes.
  • Every piece of food you put in your body, you’re saying yes.
  • Right now, as you read this article, you’re saying yes.

When you say yes to anything, you say no to almost everything else. Every choice has embedded opportunity cost. Every choice is very costly. Saying yes isn’t free.

Self-Signaling: The Science of Identity

According to research by Dr. Ronit Bodner and Dr. Drazen Prelec, “Actions provide a signal to ourselves, that is, actions are self-signaling.” In other words, your actions provide a signal to you of the type of person you are.

If you wake up early and go running, you’ll think to yourself, I’m the kind of person that wakes up early and goes running. Whatever decisions you’ve made, you’ll conclude that I’m the type of person that does X, Y, OR Z. (Luckily, as will be shown in a moment, your past is actually highly fluid, and can be changed by future actions.)

In the recent book, Skin in the Game, Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains that what you do is the purest definition of your value system. In Start with Why, Simon Sinek said the same thing. Your actions demonstrate what you really believe.

Gandhi said, “Action expresses priorities.” He also said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest,” which is what psychologists call cognitive dissonance— the state of internal conflict. You can’t be confident if you don’t trust yourself. Confidence is a by-product of congruent and successful behavior.

Confidence is the emotional state of someone whose prior action was intentional…



Benjamin Hardy, PhD
Mind Cafe

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