My Yes Year: Learning to Let Go of No


My Yes Year

I’m a huge Shonda Rhimes fan. When I tell people that one of my favorite shows is Grey’s Anatomy, I usually get one of two reactions. Blank stares, or the question, “Wow, that’s still on?” which is usually asked with a tone that has just a bit too much incredulity for my taste. Yes, yes it is still on, and going strong, thank you. I can discuss the merits of the show elsewhere, at length, and with great fervor, but for now I’m going to turn my focus to the woman behind the great shows in Shondaland, and more specifically to her book, “Year of Yes.”

Now, if you haven’t had a chance to read it, that’s okay. I haven’t either…yet. I’m the mother of a highly energetic three year old boy who hates sleep, so I can’t tell you the last book I read in full. Oh no wait, yes I can. It was “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” It was last night, and it was read aloud three times in a row, cover to cover, with not a word skipped, lest I would have to read it a full, fourth time through. But I couldn’t tell you the last book I read for me. Fortunately, Rhimes gave a great primer on the contents of “Year of Yes” in the form of a Ted Talk, which you can watch here: I highly recommend watching it. As you can probably infer from the title, it’s about making the conscious decision to consistently say yes to things, to people, to experiences, to whatever scares you.

So I decided on my 35th birthday earlier this summer that this would be my own personal year of yes.

What I quickly discovered is that saying yes is helping me be a happier person in general, but it’s transforming the way I parent, and it’s making me a better mother. We get so accustomed to saying no all the time, that for me, it’s almost automatic at this point. And frankly, it’s really depressing and takes this invisible toll on the spirit. You know how there is the theory that faking a smile will actually lift your mood? I have a feeling that constantly saying no, day in and day out, is the verbal equivalent of a frown that drags you and everyone else down.

So, I decided to follow Shonda’s example. She’s a strong woman with her own empire. That’s a pretty good lead to follow. I decided that basically any opportunities that would come my way, I would say yes, with a few reasonable exceptions, of course. If saying yes meant spending a lot of money, I wouldn’t be able to do it. If saying yes meant that I would be short-changing something important and would take away too much time from my son, I would have to say no. But mostly I would be saying yes.

Now, I think it’s important that you know something personal about me. I suffer from fairly debilitating anxiety and OCD. I’ll be writing about that more at length in another post, but just know that the “year of yes” concept was terrifying. Saying no is easy. It’s comfortable and safe. Saying yes is risky. It’s unpredictable and messy. It means you could try new things and fail. But I decided it was worth the risk, so here I am, writing publicly for the first time, something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the courage to attempt. I’m getting more involved in my son’s school, and I’m accepting other opportunities as they arise. And I’m having a blast.

The best part, though, has to be the effect on my parenting. A few weeks ago, my son came into the kitchen while I was making dinner and asked if he could help. My instinct was to say no. I knew it would make the process take three times longer, and I was already tired. I knew it would be so much easier to say “not tonight, buddy” and kick that can down the road until the nos pile on top of one another and eventually he stops asking and instead goes off to teach himself “Cat’s in the Cradle” on his toy guitar. So I said yes. And yes, dinner was served forty minutes later than usual that night. But we had the best time, and nobody cared.

Now, this may seem ridiculously intuitive to most people, but for some reason, it just wasn’t for me. Maybe it was laziness, maybe it was my OCD and the need to control everything, maybe it was just compartmentalizing and focusing on the task before me, but whatever it was that made me want to say no, it took me making a conscious effort to say yes and to change my routine in order to open up a new experience for us to enjoy together.
yes year 2 (1)

I don’t know, maybe saying yes to a lot more things will lose its luster. I hope not. I’m only a few months in, but so far it has only been energizing, and it has already led to new friendships and opportunities. I don’t plan on reverting back to my old ways anytime soon. I’m having too much fun.

I’m curious, have you ever committed to saying yes more? Tell me how it went in the comments!


  1. You know? You’re right. I’m going to try this. It is hard when you are exhausted but in the long run, seems way more rewarding. Thank you for voicing your thoughts.

    • Allison, I totally agree. Saying yes when I’m exhausted has been the hardest part for sure. But it’s kinda like working out. When I’m tired but make myself give it a go anyway, I’m always happy I did it, you know? I’d love to hear how saying yes goes for you!

  2. Ashley, I am also a huge Shonda fan and am reading her book. This is something I am working on as well! I don’t think saying yes will ever lose it’s luster!

    • Well you’ll have to tell me how it is, haha! Just kidding, though I think I’ve decided I’m going to listen to it through Audible because Shonda reads it, and I could totally listen to her voice for the 7 hour runtime!

    • Hi Jessica! Sorry for the delay in response, but I’m thrilled you gave it a try. I’ll admit, I have to constantly remind myself to say yes. Some days it’s definitely still a struggle to break the habit of saying no!

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