A photo by Manik Rathee. unsplash.com/photos/a8YV2C3yBMk

It’s the fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and the chill is in the air. It seems like a perfect time to start hibernating, buckling down and settle into a steady routine. It’s a good excuse to start saying “no” to things that might disrupt our rhythm. Yet if we pay attention to what is happening in nature, we notice that the leaves are changing, the air is different, and the animals are relocating. Fall is a perfect time of change. Far too often, though, we let fear dictate our actions – or inaction – and we say “no” before we even finish hearing the question. If nature did the same, and its leaves feared changing its color and falling away in death, then the tree would not survive the winter. If the bird feared moving south to parts possibly unknown, then it would not survive the winter. We are of nature. If we fear moving or acting, we become stagnate and parts of us will not survive, parts of us will wither and die – even before our physical death. If we are to make those most of what we have while we are physically living, we need to start saying “yes,” even if we fear doing so. For saying “yes” to what we fear most may be the far less scary than not doing so at all.

Year of Yes

Producer and “titan” Shonda Rhimes famously made a year her “year of yes,” saying “yes” to all those things that she feared – public speaking, playing with her children, and being honest with her love of working. By doing so, she found her life transformed. She recognized what it is to listen to her gifts, to open herself to love, and to give herself permission to live her life.

“To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death.”

~ Jean Anouilh

Saying yes allows us to live

1. Commit to saying yes
It isn’t easy, as our fears often let us take the easy route and default to “no.” No, I can’t…, I’d love to but…, Thanks, but…. Just as saying no in improv stops a scene, saying, “yes and” allows to connect to the next scene of our lives – the next scene that, while a bit scary with where it’s heady, will undoubtedly lead us to somewhere new and move us forward. Make a commitment to say yes – even if for 30 days…then 60 days…then 90….

2. Imagine death
While it sounds morbid, imagining if you were 90 and on your deathbed, what would you most regret? For most people, it’s what they did not do. Imagine you had 6 weeks to live, what would you do? It sounds like an exercise of futility, but the reality is none of know how long we will be here – perhaps 50 years, perhaps 5 more minutes. So rather than regret, say yes (of course, this isn’t saying yes to criminal activities….)

3. Listen for the hum
Shonda Rhimes calls it her “hum,” that underlying buzz that calls her to what brings her joy and love. Our hums are always with us – the key is to pay attention and listen to it. What gives us joy, we should listen to. We should move towards it. For example, Rhimes had always thought her hum was her work. Yet when she started saying yes to her children, she realized that her hum was the love she felt playing with them. From that hum, she rediscovered her passion and genius for work. What one might think would take her away from her work – her children – actually brought greater meaning – and success. Even though sometimes the question at hand may seem to move us away, the reality is that the more we say yes, the closer we become to that hum.

4. Laugh
When we say yes, we may end up messing up or making a bit of a fool of ourselves. It’s life. It’s not meant to taken seriously every minute of the day. Laugh at yourself. Go play. Say yes and have fun. We all require it, we all deserve it.

5. Collect stories
When fear dictates our decisions, we constrict every fiber of our being. When we say yes, opportunities open up. Not all of these things will pan out. We might not become the next internet billionaire. But along the way, we collect life experiences and stories – our stories. And we all know the most fascinating people are those with the craziest stories of “when they were younger….” Be that fascinating person you already are, say yes, and collect those stories to share.