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The YesList


The YesList

The best thing any of us can do is pass our knowledge on and try to leave the world a better place than we found it in.

I’ve always appreciated the idea of a bucket list, except for one thing: it’s motivated by death! So I tend to gather long-held goals and new-found dreams as a life list, or a YesList, a collection of targets, experiences and lessons that band together as a motivation to not sit still, rather than hustling a last-minute dash towards making something of our limited time left.

This is a chance to get rid of that stumbling attitude we hear all around: “I wish I could do that,” “I’ll never have that chance.” Or the gorgeously passive aggressive “you’re so lucky!” 

All of these are really sad sentiments, and none apply in reality.

We make our own luck, we have the chance in time to do whatever we want, and we’re all, right now, in a position to never have to say those words “I wish” ever again. 

YesLists aren’t just about doing things and going places, they’re at the heart of who we want to be. We inspire through our actions and while our stories make us more interesting, it’s important to remember that unless you decide to make your YesList absolutely central to your identity, the list itself isn’t a story. Instead, it’s a great way to fill those moments of uncertainty or boredom and keep you focussed on learning and growing.

Creating a list is a commitment to action, developing positive habits and making life memorable. Not sure what to do with your time? When you have a list it’s easy, just scour through all these things you’ve always wanted to do and start working towards the one that excites you most.

How to create a YesList?

This bit is fun. Open your mind and be free with your dream chasing, this is a chance to set yourself targets that you didn’t even think were possible before. There are no limits here, just ideas. Be novel! Imagine who you want to be in five years time and the things that by then you’ll be able to talk about. Then get writing!

Later on we’re going to look at some ways that other people can help you do the things you’re not yet sure how to do yourself, but in the meantime it’s important to remember that this is YOUR list, nobody else’s. 

It’s not a race or a competition and there’s absolutely no timeline. The only commitment you make when creating a YesList is that at all times you’re moving, however slowly, towards ticking off another item. There are some days when we feel totally unmotivated and can’t be bothered with anything - but I promise you, a few moments with this list will get you thinking.

Start by getting yourself a piece of paper, or open up a word document or spreadsheet if you’re a digital type, and write 1, 2, 3 and so on down the left side of the page. Personally, I have my YesList on the Notes app of my phone, which syncs with my other devices - so if I ever want to check out my list or make a change or addition, I can do it anywhere.

A good YesList has at least 50 challenges in there. Frankly, the more the better so feel free to aim higher, say, 100. Within the list there should be different categories:

  • Travel: Geographically, where would you like to go? Is there someone you’d like to visit on the other side of the world?

  • Physical: This might be aiming for a PB, or taking up a new sport, or planning an endurance adventure. And bingo, you get and stay fit at the same time as ticking off another win.

  • Kindness: Whether it’s volunteering in your local neighbourhood, raising money for charity or giving a friend a hand with their latest house move, let your list push you towards making a difference.

  • Psychological: Got a fear that you’d like to overcome? Heights, public speaking, holding a spider? Here’s your chance to be less scared of life in general.

  • Habit: Commit to reading a certain amount of books in a year, learning a new skill each month or spending a certain number of nights wild camping. Developing just one habit improves your discipline in other areas of life.

  • Creative: There’s something special about making something. How’s your photography or film making? Maybe you want to learn how to draw or build furniture? Or even a tiny house?!

  • Health: Finally, maybe this is your time to give up sugar in coffee, or cut down on your meat intake? Or maybe you just need to commit to half an hour of exercise each day, hit those 10,000 steps, or down-size your meal portions.

  • Financial: Why not set yourself a savings target? Even £1 a day will give you enough for a weekend getaway by the end of the year.

  • Time: There will be some things you’d like to achieve which you simply can’t do this month or even this year. This is ok, but maybe ensure that you have enough short-term items open your list to keep focus.

You can choose as many or as few items within each category as you like but only choose items that you can qualify (ie. swim regularly is a hard one to tick off, because regularly is pretty ambiguous). Also make sure you have control over achieving your goals (ie. don’t leave things completely in the hands of fate or luck), with a little hard graft and imagination you’ll be amazed at how much easier life seems with a can-do attitude. 

And here’s a tip. If you’re making a list of 100 items, maybe keep five spaces free. No doubt you’ll find something to fill them with soon.


To get started, here are some questions you could ask yourself to inspire and aid your own list-building:

  • Are there any special moments you want to witness, or people you’d like to spend time with? 

  • Are you a mountain, desert, ocean or city person? 

  • Which countries, places or locations do you really want to visit? 

  • Is there an event you’ve always thought would be very cool to be a part of? 

  • What have you always wanted to do but until now been too scared of? 

  • What are the most important things you can do with your talents? 

  • What achievements would you like to pop under your belt? 

  • If you had one year left, how would you spend your time? 

  • What would you regret not doing? 

  • What have you always wanted to learn? (Remember, the Internet makes learning pretty damn easy). 

  • Is there a type of food you’ve never tasted? 

  • How can you best give your skills and time to someone else? 

  • What can you do only with someone else? Think of the perfect person, and what you might like to do alongside them. 

  • What would you do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?

Ok, so those are the basics. Here are questions people often ask about creating a YesList:

Can I add small things or do they all have to be life-changing?

A healthy mixture of big and small is always a good idea. Some items you’ll be able to complete in a day, some might take five years. Without doubt, many long-term personal challenges will be quite selfish - and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this it’s important to equal up our list - so make sure it’s a good split between personal development and philanthropy, easy-to-complete tasks and steady, long-term plodding towards a far-off goal.

Break it down

If you have a huge challenge on your list, like learning to fly a plane, cycle around the world or become a millionaire? Create a sub section under that item and give yourself smaller challenges that all add up to helping you complete the overall goal.

How do I choose which item to tick off next?

Think about the weeks ahead, are you going anywhere in particular? What’s the weather going to be like? How are you feeling? If you’re fighting fit (or want to be) maybe it’s time to take on a physical challenge... 

Maybe there two or three items that you can group together and tick off on your next holiday - let’s say you’ve got “Master cooking a foreign meal” and “learn how to freedive” on your list - why not go somewhere where food is yummy and free diving courses are available, like Thailand or Bali?

What if I want to change my YesList?

This is your list and your rules. If an item you wrote down a while ago doesn’t appeal anymore, get rid of it. There’s no point in you being unhappy! That said, there was a reason you put that thing in there in the first place, so try to recall what that was before you get the eraser out.

Even if you managed to start your list with a nice round 50 or 100 items, if you come up with another awesome challenge then feel free to add it to your list, you’re being freed and not limited with this project.

Remember, you don’t have to complete your YesList in order.

Should I share my YesList?

This is completely up to you, but there are a few benefits to telling other people about your list. Saying something out loud is scientifically proven to enforce an idea and therefore you’re more likely to carry it out. 

The more people you tell, the more likely you are to find friends to help you.

And finally, it’s great to have a buddy or two to be accountable to. This could be your partner, a friend or even a stranger with a winning smile. Tune in with each other every week or month and share your wins, struggles and unexpected outcomes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Inspiration from other lists


My YesList

Simple version, using Notes on Phone

With extra columns for deadline, cost and country - using Google Sheets


Why would I do a YesList?

It’ll make you more interesting, focussed and motivated. It’ll help you make decisions, become more patient, and experience the life you want to be living. You’ll have something to talk about next time you have friends over to dinner, and you might just inspire the people around you to do more, too.

You are the sum of all your experiences, so why not choose to be the sum of all the cool and hard things you’ve always been interested in? One bonus is that planning and working towards a goal will add more to your character than you know, and that’s all before you get to tick an item off. 

You choose who you are and who you’re going to be, and a YesList is just one of the ways to help you be that awesome person.

Ok we’re nearly there. Finally, a couple of tips from me:

Write everything down

Write an ongoing journal or diary tracing your progress. If it’s been a long day this is the last thing you’ll feel like doing but in time you’ll be so thankful you captured your memories. The small details can so easily be forgotten, like how you felt or struggled on a particular day, or a specially worded line of advice someone gave to you - these nuggets might just add value to a blog one day, or maybe even a book.

An important reminder

This is a practice in enjoyment, achievement and developing positive habits. It’s not supposed to be a blueprint for your entire life. Take the pressure off and don’t worry if it takes a while to tick off an experience you thought you’d have enjoyed sooner. This is your project, your list, your life. Use the YesList as a guiding stick and nothing more, and in turn it’ll look after you in ways you could never have imagined.

Now, it’s time to get started

Choose three items from your list that you’re going to tackle first, and then let me know about them on Twitter and of course, share them on the YesList Facebook group, too!

Ok, off you go and be incredible. Don’t forget to share your list with me and join the YesList group on Facebook so the community there can support and help you along.


YesStories February 2018 - A Review


YesStories February 2018 - A Review

It's always great when we add a closing bookend to Winter's hibernation with the first YesStories of the year. Andy Bartlett was back to host the event, and as usual brought a whole lot of energy to the room as well as sharing a tale about a cycle ride in Portugal which didn't all go to plan.

Andy defines himself as "a solar-powered energiser bunny" in search of warm adventures, and he reminded us that even if things don't work out it'll all be ok if you're willing to roll with the punches (and if you remember to pack your bike pedals in the hand luggage).

Follow Andy here

There are always a solid handful of people attending YesStories for the first time, and so many of them come alone. Awesome!

There are always a solid handful of people attending YesStories for the first time, and so many of them come alone. Awesome!


Stace Martin has been with the YesTribe since Year One and his confidence as a speaker grows each time he steps up to the front. His Christmas hiking adventure in Scotland became a series of falls, map-reading fails and what seemed like an eternal search for a non existent path, and Stace had us all in stitches with his dry one-liners.

"It's ok to have a slight sense of humour failure, especially when you've got one bent pole, you're tired and there's no path" Stace told us, adding that his rucksack is called Blue, guessed it, it's blue. "I'm not the quickest walker, not the quickest anything really," Stace told us, which isn't all bad, we reckon. He was motivated to get himself out of what turned out to be a tricky situation with a determination to not be that person on the news getting rescued. Thankfully, for all of us, he made it.

Follow Stace on Instagram


Val Ismaili was next up, with a brief insight into a recurring knee problem which required a number of surgeries. Then, of course, Val embarked on a long walk, becoming the first thru-hiker of the new Trans Caucasian Trail. Not only did he give everyone a little nudge towards visiting the region (a group trip he'll now be leading for the YesTribe later this year), but Val's story was a reminder of just how fulfilling it is to make a contribution on top of doing something just for the sake of it. Especially if there's vodka involved.

A yes isn't only a gift we can give to ourselves, sometimes it takes someone else (in Val's case it was the TCT founder Tom Allen saying 'yes, you should come and hike the trail') - an important reminder that we're all in that position to push others forward by giving them a bit of positive support. Of course, the kindness of strangers is never more apparent than when we're in the midst of an adventure and the friendship Val experienced on his journey made the region even more attractive. 

Follow Val on his website and Instagram


Our fourth speaker was a new Outdoor Champion for Ordnance Survey, Matt Kettlewell, who has a ridiculously varied working CV from working with disabled owls in South Africa to babysitting little (big) hippos. Matt's sometimes hapless approach to life made his presentation all the more entertaining, and you know it's going to be good when you realise he's the type of guy who accidentally accepts a job offer in South Africa thinking that SA meant 'Suffolk'.

Follow Matt on Twitter


Each YesStories we enjoy a call-in from someone in the midst of an adventure, and this time round it was Frances Mills who announced her intention to run around the coast of Britain at Yestival 2017. Frances called in from her tent, which was shrouded in red because she couldn't work out how to operate her headtorch properly!

She's taking a wonderfully free approach to her journey, aiming to round Britain over the next three winters and only running, hiking and moving when she feels like it. Daily distance goals are not on her agenda and she takes decisions according to how she feels. Frances invites people to join her on her journey and is even open to a surprise visit - just not at nighttime!

Follow France's run on



You can spot a maths teacher from a mile off, and Roshan Daryanani's slides and charts explaining her journey into doing something uncomfortable each day for 100 days were both insightful and hilarious. Roshan was full of perfect soundbites, "You have to trust yourself even when other people think you're a bit weird, and when you do something new you can't predict what's going to happen" and she left everyone wondering what their next little adventure would be. 

Read about Roshan's adventures on



Ewan Paterson usually presents alongside his fiancé Katie but as she was ill he took the stage alone to talk about their round-the-world cycling trip. Ewan was full of insights, including the freedom of travelling light, learning about cultures and environmental issues by moving slowly and a reminder that you don't have to visit monuments and landmarks to really travel.

He wrapped up with a great flip, imagining that a British family were explaining to their friends that they took in an Uzbeki cycling tourist, fed them, gave them a bed and then sent them off the next day without any clue where they were going or what they were doing. It's the type of hospitality so many of us experience on adventures and this is one of the reminders SayYesMore tries to push regularly - wherever you live remember that if someone is cycling, kayaking, walking or skateboarding past your home on their way to a far off destination then taking them in for a night is such a valuable offering. 

Follow Ewan and Katie on


Dave Cornthwaite wrapped up with a short adventure story about not having a clue how to make a film and then updated us on all things SayYesMore, including progress with the YesBus, plans for a new Tribe-wide book club and a 2000 mile community ride on the waterbike he took down the Norway coast last year. Keep your eyes peeled on The YesTribe to get involved!


Thanks to everyone for coming, to Andy Bartlett for hosting and all our speakers for sharing their tales. Here's to an amazing year to come.

Signing out, Team Yes

Night night :)

Night night :)



You don't always need a path to have an adventure. 

Sometimes it's ok to have a slight sense of humour failure, especially when you've got one bent pole, you're tired and there's no path

I am a solar powered energiser bunny - Andy

Your plans don't have to work out if you're willing to roll with the punches 

It's great to make a contribution on top of doing something for the sake of it.

 A yes isn't always something we say to ourselves, sometimes it's a gift from someone else

Kindness of strangers often appears when conditions are bad. Vulnerability means we're open to this kindness.

SA does not stand for Suffolk!

Sharing an adventure plan at Yestival meant that I was accountable, so I couldn't back out - Frances Mills

Make decisions based on how you feel

You have to trust yourself even when other people think you're a bit weird

When you do something new you can't predict what's going to happen

What are we missing out on because we somehow feel awkward - it's worth being conscious of

Challenge to everyone - be completely honest for a day

You don't need a lot of gear to be happy, if it's not being used then get rid of it!

You don't have to visit monuments and tourist attractions to really travel

Next time you see a traveller, be kind to them. It means more than you could imagine.