The Year of Yes
Shonda Rhimes is well known for her slate of highly acclaimed Shondaland television series. She is a hit maker of the highest caliber producing around 70 hours or television a year. In 2015, Shonda surprised fans with her book Year of Yes where she forced herself to say Yes to everything that scared her for a year. Public speaking? Yes. What about acting? Yes. She talked about her experiences and the important lessons learned in this Ted Talk. The very act of doing the thing that scared her undid the fear. Shonda expanded the practice to saying yes to the requests of her family. When her small children wanted to play? Yes. To throw an impromptu kitchen dance party? Yes. She credits Yes with changing her life. There is a genuine benefit in the intentional practice of pushing past fears and excuses to find your own place of yes.
The Upside of the Opposite
We are a nation of people who love the word yes. Entire photo albums are filled with the Yes! moments of our lives. But – there is as much to be gained from the word No. Recognizing when to use the word no is empowering. It lets others know what to expect from you. For those in our industry who built careers on saying yes to all the difficult assignments, working all the extra hours, and taking it home when finally leaving the office, no feels like a negative thing, almost like a dirty word – something taboo. NO can feed the fear that it reflects badly on you.
The Honesty of Boundaries
I encourage you to re-examine the story you may be telling yourself about the word no. Saying yes when the real answer is no – is a lie. And you are the person that is telling it and doing harm to yourself in the process. The martyrdom of taking work home with you and laboring until late at night only to begin again before the starting bell of the next day only serves to perpetuate the problem. It disguises the true cost of doing business and contributes to personal burnout, which can be the hardest place to come back from. Telling yourself that you don’t have a choice is probably another lie. There are almost always choices. The other choices can feel scary, but as Shonda said, doing the thing that scares you undoes the fear. I shared a vlog on this topic last week with some tips on saying no.
Saying no sets reasonable expectations. It creates and supports appropriate boundaries. The answer might be “No, I can’t do that today, but I can fit it in later this week.” which provides the person making the request with the power to either accept your revised timeline or to find another resource to do the work. It isn’t magic but it does have the power to change your life and to reorder your priorities. No gives back time in your life – time to spend with loved ones and to pursue the things that bring you joy.
Yes is important. It can expand your experiences and each bit of personal growth builds on the last. It forges new relationships and enriches the ones you already have. But, yes is at its very best when it is balanced with the judicious no.