Year of Yes

If this is the first time you’ve visited my blog, welcome! And let me catch you up. I LOVE the topic of saying yes to life. (If you haven’t already, please check out my other saying yes related posts such as Say Yes and If Not Now, When?) I also happen to have loved the show Scandal. So, when I discovered that Shonda Rhimes, creator of Scandal, had written a book about saying yes, of course I had to read it!

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes, is a different kind of “say yes” book than A Place of Yes, by Bethenny Frankel, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post (A Refresher on Coming From a Place of Yes.) Whereas A Place of Yes is a mix of Bethenny Frankel’s life story and lessons on how to improve your life based on her advice, Year of Yes keeps to the narrative of Shonda Rhimes’ personal story, challenges and victories, as she completed the obligation she made to herself to say yes for one year. (Spoiler alert: She changed so much for the better in that one year that the “year of yes” has been extended indefinitely.)

By committing to saying yes, Rhimes was forced to face fears (such as being front and center instead of behind the scenes, giving speeches and making tv appearances), face her health (such as admitting she pushed down unpleasant emotions and buried them with food in an attempt to numb herself), and face truths (such as finding that people she loved were actually toxic in her life.)

Rhimes also writes some things I LOVE about being a mother and being YOU at the same time. She defends that a mother who brings store-bought treats to the school function and the mother who brings homemade treats to the school function are equals. On page 109, she writes, “Perhaps you think that it is important to your child’s personal growth to bake goods in your home. More power to you, my sister. I will defend your right to home-bake whatever you damn well want to home-bake. But I will take off my earrings and ask someone to hold my purse for the verbal beat-down we will need to engage in if you try to tell me that I must define my motherhood in the same terms as yours.” She continues, “I am not telling you to do it that way. You go bake your ass off. But we all have to acknowledge that our way is not the way.”

Other standout points for me in her book are about how difficult it is for her (and many women) to take a compliment or accept her professional achievements. She writes about how hard it is to accept and own our beauty and greatness. We worry about what others will think. On page 186, she admits, “I am scared people will think I like myself too much.”

We’re taught to be humble and modest. Those are good qualities to possess, but we’ve taken it too far when we diminish our accomplishments and talents and can no longer fathom that a compliment given to us can be true. Rhimes writes that she used to answer interview questions about her success by saying she has just been lucky. Now she answers, “Lucky implies I didn’t do anything. Lucky implies something was given to me. Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for. Gentle reader, my you never be lucky. I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass (p.180-181).

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person is not a “how to” book, but rather a “what I learned” book. And the overall takeaway from Year of Yes is how saying yes to your life, getting out of your comfort zone, getting out of your numbness, facing your fears and experiencing the resulting power and freedom after doing so, is how you find your true, authentic self. It’s how you develop into the best version of yourself, which you were always meant to be.

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Say Yes

In my last post, Sorting Out Why to Say “Yes” and Why to Say “No” I pointed out that you should assess and understand why your initial reaction to an offered opportunity is yes or no, and I noted some good reasons why you might choose yes or no in a particular circumstance. In this post, however, I am going to advocate for saying yes — especially if it interests and/or scares you. Say yes, get out of your comfort zone, and see how you grow!

If you want an illustration of how saying yes can impact your life, I recommend watching the Jim Carrey movie from 2008, Yes Man. I recently watched this movie again (I had seen it years ago) and still enjoyed it. Of course, it is a little silly in some parts, but the message of saying yes to open yourself up to life’s possibilities is carried out well. The premise of the movie is that the main character, Carl, promises a self-help guru that he will say yes to everything and if he breaks the promise he’ll be cursed. This promise takes Carl well out of his comfort zone, but he does begin living life (to the extreme) instead of merely surviving day after day.

So in real life, how do you say yes to things that are out of your comfort zone? What if you just don’t have the confidence? Well, you’re in luck because it takes courage, not confidence, to get out of your comfort zone. Confidence is built from getting out of your comfort zone! Here’s an example. If public speaking is out of your comfort zone, then it takes courage to say, “you know what…I will try my best. I will get through it, and I will be stronger for it after having this experience.” That’s how you gain confidence — because the next time you do something out of your comfort zone you can say, “well, I survived that public speaking thing, so I can survive this too.” (This reminds me of the workout t-shirt that says “but did you die?” I think anyone who tries something out of their comfort zone should wear one of these shirts!)

I challenge you to give it a try. Be courageous and do something that is out of your comfort zone this week. Strike up a conversation with the other person in the elevator. Take the dance class. Accept the job offer that gives you butterflies in your stomach. Just saying yes and getting out of your comfort zone is a success! Repeated success builds confidence, and then guess what — you’re not just surviving; you’re thriving!

Be Brave

Today I reached out to an accomplished, well-respected woman in a more senior position than mine at work. Until today, I had neither met her nor had a conversation with her, but I felt she was someone I should know, someone who might have some answers to my questions.

To my delight, she was gracious, warm, helpful, and offered to mentor me! She gave me a couple of assignments to complete before we talk again, and then what really struck me was that she told me, “be brave.” It reminded me of when my son was 6 years old and he went down a big water slide by himself, something he was too afraid to do the year before, and he exclaimed with all his little kid sweetness, “I was so brave!”

I had not thought about steps taken to advance my career as brave. Out of my comfort zone maybe, but not brave. But brave does have a better sound to it, doesn’t it? Like you’ve really done something big with your day!

So going forward, I’m adopting this phrase for every challenge and uncomfortable situation I need or want to face. And I’m offering it to you too: Be brave!