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The power of “not yet”: another lesson from Bali

Αs you may have read in a previous blog, my solo trip to Bali in 2014 was full of inspiring insights that I still carry with me today. I learned about the power of smiling from deep within. Here I share how I was encouraged to examine the significance of the word “no”…

“Are you married?”

This was almost always one of the first questions locals asked me, for marriage and family are among the most important values in Bali. And each time, because it was true, I’d reply, “No, I’m not.”

On one occasion, I could see the disappointment in the person’s eyes. “Why do you use the word ‘no’ ?” he asked me. He was troubled that I was using a negative word.

I admit this sounded a little crazy to me, but I was struck by the wisdom in the conversation that followed, essentially a philosophy on life.

I learned that he, and many other Balinese, are reluctant to say “no” about anything their hearts desire. “You have the ability to achieve everything you wish for,” he said. “These things will be on their way if you are just open to them. Attaining these things is therefore a matter of acknowledging your potential as well as a matter of time and of effort.”

His advice? To simply say “not yet” about the things you want but do not have at the moment.

Our happiness, then, is in our hands… In rather saying “not yet”, we keep the door open to possibilities. And by focusing our attention on potential, we also empower our inner voice.

This was very different to my usual way of thinking and I found the message positive and enabling. We are being encouraged to hope and to trust that the things we desire are on their way (provided of course we put some effort into attaining them!).

So, here’s to all the things you desire that are “not yet” in your life… may they soon come!


Does this message resonate with you? In what areas of your life could you switch from saying “no” to “not yet”?

Feel free to share this article with someone you think will enjoy it or with someone who frequently says “no”. And do subscribe to our TOP EXPAT TIPS if you haven’t already!


© Vivian Chiona

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  1. Evelyn says:

    Beautiful article and a great point. Will be thinking about whether I can use “not yet” instead of “no” in the future – even with my kids…..

    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Dear Evelyn,

      Thank you so much for your comment and kind feedback. Glad to hear that this article is of value to you.

      Great idea to use the ‘not yet’ wisdom as parenting skill! Keep me posted on how it goes.

      Wishing you well.

      Once again thanks,


  2. Louis G.L. Hofman says:

    Interesting post Vivian! I would say that the not wanting to say no is common place in Asia. I’ve been managing among others a few apartments leased to Japanese expats. I was always surprised that I would rarely get a complaint but when visiting them on that rare occasion, I would find quite a few things to look into. I lived around the corner so it was no effort at all for me to come over and address problems. Always pointed this out to them but that didn’t not make a difference though. Along the same lines, it is my expression that British and Americans in general often stay calm for a long time, I would have already been raising a stinker, but once their threshold has been surpassed, they are really of their rockers. I for one prefer to be direct over (over)politeness. Have clarity.

    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Dear Louis,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. Indeed it is a matter of cultural differences but the way I see it is that we can keep what is of value to us and then try to find ways to give back; it is about reciprocity at the end of the day; also about communicating clearly so you highlight.

      The power of ‘not yet’ which I learned in Bali and then transferred in my daily life (to the contexts that I could of course), gave me a sense of clarity and trust to what I deeply desire in my heart.

      Wishing you well



  3. Lili says:

    Dear Vivian,

    What an empowering and future-oriented philosophy! I believe that a positive and welcoming attitude towards future possibilities has a great impact on whether we manage to see them and approach them when they do appear. I am not completely certain about how my career will progress after I will finish my Master this summer; I hope that my “not yet” attitude will open up avenues that I could not have found with a more closed off mind.



    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Dear Lili

      Thank you so much for your lovely insights and response to this article. I too believe that your open mind – your “not yet’ approach – will reveal some wonderful opportunities after your Masters. Do keep us updated! Thanks for being a part of the Expat Nest community.

      Best wishes


  4. Silke says:

    Hi Vivian,

    I´m happy to come across this article now. Well, it´s so true what you say about the Balinese or in general: Indonesian world view. I have lived in this country since 15 years and one of the very first things that I learned was that people categorize something as “belum” – not yet or “sudah” – already. These 2 words also belonged to my very first Bahasa Indonesia vocabulary and it took me some time to understand why.

    Well, it´s so true and I started to see it that way as well: Giving the answer “no” feels like shutting a door for future events. Saying “not yet” keeps it open. We never know what direction our path through life will take.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.



    1. Vivian Chiona says:

      Hi Silke

      Thank so much and it is great to hear from you, especially on a topic about Indonesian culture since you are an expert.

      Well said and wonderful to learn from you these 2 Indonesian words which reflect the culture. What a great addition to this article!

      Cheers to ‘Not Yet’ and all good things coming our way,



      Ps. Bali has such a special place in my heart. You are blessed to live there ?

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