Shonda Rhimes just reminded me what happens when you spend a year saying, “Yes!” to life’s possibilities. In 2008 this became my mantra.
It had been a bad year—major surgery, my employer cheated out of $90 million by Bernie Madoff, massive layoffs (including me), the end of a valued relationship. My son, who was in middle school at the time, dragged me to see Jim Carrey in Yes Man. Inspired, I decided to try to turn my life around by saying “yes” for a year.
As Rhimes points out in her new memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person (Simon & Schuster; November 10, 2015), life takes on an entirely new texture when you face it with positivity and a sense of adventure. In Rhimes’ case, her Year of Yes was prompted by an accusation from her eldest sister: “You never say yes to anything.”
In spite of being at the top of her game as the award-winning creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and Private Practice and the executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder, mother of three beautiful daughters and a beacon to other women in entertainment, Rhimes was hiding. Her introverted nature made it comfortable to turn down social invitations and her natural shyness made speaking requests seem formidable.
“But what would happen if I said, ‘yes’?” she wondered. Rhimes just couldn’t shake the question. She realized her sister was right and took the plunge. “I was going to say yes to all the things that scared me, that made me nervous, that freaked me out, that made me think I’m going to look foolish doing it. Anything that took me out of my comfort zone I was going to do it, if asked to do it,” she told NPR.
It may sound like something straight out of ShondaLand, but the decision changed her life. She learned to be more present with her daughters and enjoy their growing up. She lost weight. She said, “yes” to Jimmy Kimmel Live and giving the commencement address to her alma mater, Dartmouth University. And she realized that she could say “yes” to what is best for her.
But you don’t have to be the uber-talented Ms. Rhimes to reap the benefit of a Year of Yes. Mine brought a new job, a passionate new hobby, unique experiences and some surprising new friends. In fact, I’m considering making 2016 my next Year of Yes. Thanks, Shonda!
Main image: James White/EW