Year of Yes

It was at a recent Tony Robbins event where the affirmation, ‘Say Yes’ was imprinted into my subconscious. Over the course of the 5-day event, Tony would periodically blast out loud music to get us into ‘state’ and have all 5,000 attendants shout "Say Yes, Say Yes, Say Yes..."

That event had such a positive impact on me, as I find myself many times in life saying no...No for getting out of bed on a cold winter’s morning to go to the gym. No to eating more healthily when the bag of crisps is right there in front of me, No to family time after a long day at work...the list goes on.

But by saying no to so many things you actually might be losing out on many of life's most precious moments. I know I have missed out on some.

Many self-help books will teach you that you need to say no more often. No to interruptions as your time is valuable. That by saying no, you are in control of your daily schedule and therefore dictates what goes on it. However, my ‘no’ has less to do with me feeling empowered and more to do with just being lazy.

I usually say no to something that will push me outside my comfort zone, someone asking me to give a talk somewhere; an invite to a dinner that might be a bit of a trek to get to, a networking event, or even just going to the movies with friends and family.

In a few more days it will be 2018 and with that comes another opportunity to work on my many bad habits. I am planning for 2018 to be my Year of Yes. Like with Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man, I am hoping that saying yes to the many things I am used to saying no to, I will push myself outside my comfort zone and end 2018 as a better version of myself than when I started it.

With my goal set for 2018, I looked to Shonda Rhimes for inspiration by reading her new book; Year of Yes. Saying 'Yes' for a whole year worked for Rhimes; hopefully it will work for me.

The three most powerful points I took from the book were;

  1. Saying YES will help you escape your comfort zone, and that’s the only place where magic happens.

  2. Saying YES to better relationships will mean saying NO to the toxic people in your life.

  3. Say YES to becoming the best version of yourself.

Our household invites Shonda Rhimes’ work into our home almost every night. She’s ABC’s queen of television with her three hit shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. I am always a bit sceptical when I see my wife watching How to Get Away with Murder. Sleeping with one eye open...

Rhimes starts describing a conversation she had with her sister Delores, telling her of all the amazing invitations she was getting. Delores basically replied, “Who cares? You’re just going to say ‘no,’ anyway.”

Those words stung Rhimes because they were true. Rhimes goes on to say that her social anxiety and her unhappiness with her weight caused her to say ‘no’ to many amazing opportunities outside of her comfort zone, which was basically any place where the characters were real people and she wasn’t writing the script.

Though, in many ways, from the outside, her life was beyond her wildest dreams, with her successful TV shows and her 3 daughters. But in reality, her life was also making her miserable. In Year of Yes she details how her entire life changed when she committed to saying “yes” to everything for one year.

Now, for some, that may sound really easy to do when you’re a mega-millionaire and the things you’re saying ‘yes’ to are sharing a box at the Kennedy Center Honours with President Obama and the First Lady, posing for magazine covers and getting a book deal to write about it all. Who wouldn’t say yes to that, she asks?

But, says Rhimes, "I will be the first to tell you that money, power and accolades do not equal self-love and acceptance". The reason behind Rhimes saying ‘no’ to things that scared her is actually what makes her funny, witty, sometimes heart-breaking and relatable, irrespective of her stature in life. “I simply didn’t know I was worthy of yes”, says Rhimes.

Before, her "yes year", she was just successful. Now, she is flourishing, she states.

Say YES to using your voice.

Rhimes confesses to hiding her voice in her Grey’s Anatomy character Cristina Yang, allowing Yang to say all the things she wasn’t brave enough to say in the real world. But when Rhimes accepted that the real world could benefit from hearing her actual voice, that she could stand up and speak out on important issues and actually affect change, she swallowed her fears, wiped off her sweaty palms and began to speak.

Being Rhimes-level successful isn’t a prerequisite for using your voice, she states. The single qualifier is that you’re a person on earth. You inherently matter and so does your experience. Whether it’s on a stage or through your Twitter feed, you have the power to impact your corner of the world for the better by swallowing your fear, standing up for what’s right and speaking out in love. You never know how your voice can change a person’s life.

Say YES to your weight.

Rhimes was not happy with her weight; I can relate, but her behaviours and eating habits were not reflecting that. She was saying ‘yes’ to overeating for comfort, but had not accepted or embraced what comes with being overweight. She often felt shame over her weight and judged herself harshly.

That had to change. Rhimes decided that she wanted to be healthier, so she started working out regularly and eating nutritious foods. She lost over 120 pounds and has the energy she needs to work and to play with her kids, but most importantly, she feels great about herself and finally believes she is beautiful, she says.

You do not have to lose weight to feel beautiful, she says. Rhimes’ message is that once you accept yourself fully, then you will feel beautiful and will make better choices for yourself and your health that reflect how beautiful and worthwhile you know you are. Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight or stay the same, say ‘yes’ to loving your body and commit to giving it the best you can, because you deserve it.

Say YES to saying NO.

Before her Year of Yes, Rhimes avoided conflict as much as possible in her personal life. She wanted to be liked so much that she avoided having difficult conversations, became a doormat for others and suffered silence. For all of the wonderful opportunities, she said ‘no’ to with ease, it was only recently that she found the courage to say ‘no’ to toxic people in her life.

Difficult conversations are sometimes necessary for personal growth and for the health of your relationships and the people who love you will want to grow along with you. Learn to say ‘no’ to things and people that are sucking the life out of you. When you understand that you deserve good things, saying ‘no’ to the bad things becomes so much easier.

Say YES to real friendships.

Rhimes makes up characters for a living, but she was also making up personality traits for her friends, too, she states. She couldn’t see that two of her long-time friends were toxic people because she projected ideas and personalities onto them that made her feel way more comfortable with them than she should have been.

The more comfortable and confident Rhimes became with herself, however, the less comfortable those two friends felt around her. Rhimes could finally see them clearly and ended those relationships.

Believe people when they show you who they really are. It is not only fair to them, it’s also fair to you. When you become an honest, healthy person, you can cultivate honest, healthy relationships with others.

Say YES to love.

One unpopular opinion Rhimes voiced through Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy was her desire to never get married. In Year of Yes, Rhimes recounts her decision to break off an engagement with a great man who loved her because she had finally accepted that marriage was not something she ever wanted. Knowing that the great man wanted what she couldn’t give him, she said ‘yes’ to love by telling him, and herself, the truth.

Saying ‘yes’ to love means being honest with yourself and others and accepting honesty in return. When you understand that you inherently deserve to be loved, you can stop feeling uncomfortable when compliments come your way.

You can say ‘yes’ to help when it is offered to you because you no longer judge yourself for not being a superhero who can do everything at once, and you can fully embrace all that you are and all that you are not. When you open yourself up to love, the universe responds in kind, and, Rhimes say, you’ll be “standing in the sun” in no time.


What I took from it.

Saying no to others sometimes means saying yes to yourself. Sometimes we might even be losing 'friends' because you finally said yes to the difficult conversations and, as a result, seeing people as they really were. Say ‘yes’ to harmony in your life and ‘no’ to energy vampires.

Nobody can do everything. If you are killing it at work, chances are you are late going home for dinner. You work-life balance will be a constant struggle; but try your best.

There's always going to be something that needs to be done. That's just the way the world works. But if you commit yourself to "all work and no play," you're going to miss out on the simple parts of life, which are more often than not the best parts. You don't want to blink and miss out on the best years of your life or your loved one's lives.

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