You know why you're reading this. You're reading this because if there really is just one thing you can do to make your life better, who wouldn't do that? Assuming, of course, that the thing is easy. This one thing you need to know - it's easy. It's so easy it really can be summed up in one word. You are just dying to know what the word is, but first let’s talk about how this will work.
It worked for my husband and me, and when we started talking about it and reading about it, it turned out that other people had had the same idea and it's worked for them, too. Now you're thinking, well then, if it's such a thing, I've probably already tried it, or the word is probably Jesus or something. And it's not. It's not related to religion or politics or health or anything like that.
One day a little over a year ago, we were sitting around trying to decide what to do over the weekend and we realized we were in a rut. A deep one, too. We were tossing around some pretty pathetic ideas. Italian or Mexican? Movie theater or Netflix? Blah blah, too boring to even write about. It struck me hard. We could make all the excuses for why we were in a rut…Being a cancer survivor and my medication takes its toll on me occasionally, my husband works hard, our kids are awesome and we are fortunate because they still talk to us, etc.…but the real reason we were in a rut was because at some point we got protective of our time and it backfired.
Somewhere along the way we forgot how we used to live when we were young and fun and maybe even a tiny bit cool. (My kids are cracking up right about now. That is, if they're even reading this. I'm an empty nester; who knows what they do in their spare time?)
My point is that we had become complacent, boring and bored. It must have happened a little at a time, and like the frog in the boiling water, we didn't realize it until it was too late. Except now I had realized it and needed to fix it. That's me. I'm a fixer. Got a problem? I've got answers. Ok, so how could we fix us? We thought it about it for a little while and then we decided to shake things up!
This is what we are going to do. From now on, whenever anyone asks us to do anything or go anywhere we are going to say yes!" You are already groaning. My husband did too. Then he said, "You mean yes to everything? What about telemarketers and people asking for money? What about getting over extended at work?"
Okay, maybe he had a point. Clearly there needed to be ground rules. First we committed to one year: The Year of Yes. Here's what we came up with:
- You must say yes to all social engagements unless there is a direct time conflict.
- Your default position must be yes, but you may exercise the option to say “no” if it involves a substantial financial commitment.
- The rule applies to social invitations, but the idea extends to all areas; and every invitation must be carefully considered first from the position of yes.
The next week we drove to the party in silence, both of us thinking of ways we could possibly get out of it. Could we fake a headache? Could we create a distraction and then slip away unnoticed? Instead, we pulled up, handed over our re-gifted bottle of wine, and looked around our first test case. We scanned the faces around the room, making a note of the guacamole station.
At first glance it seemed like the same boring crowd that had attended last year, but on second look, there were some new faces and we made a beeline for them. My husband made a beeline for the bar. By the time we left that night we had met two couples we actually enjoyed. As we drove home we both grudgingly admitted the evening had been much more interesting than we had thought and certainly better than another rousing debate over Mexican or Italian. Our year had begun.
It wouldn’t be truthful to say every event turned out better than we expected. Some were just as bad, if not worse, than we anticipated. But at the end of those days or nights, we had only lost a few hours of our time (which most likely would have been spent binge-watching "House of Cards").
There were weeks when it felt like we were out all the time, and weeks when nobody called at all. And when we sat down at the end of the year to reflect, we realized we had made at least six truly valuable new friends, deepened relationships we had had for years, and expanded our horizons in unexpected ways.
We had seen parts of our town we didn't know existed, gone to festivals and films we never would have attended, eaten foods we had never tried, gone paragliding, attended conferences and lectures, lobbied on Capitol Hill, gone sailing, ate too much, drank too much, seen fireworks, hiked and cooked, danced, and even learned to paint (poorly, I might add). We laughed a lot, cried a little, and still haven't caught up with "House of Cards." We remembered how to be spontaneous and how to listen to those who think differently than us. We expanded our horizons a lot and our waistlines a little.
We were just looking for a little more fun in our lives, but what we found was much richer. As we reflected back on our year, we decided to look forward and make it a lifetime of yes.