Cultivate all the ways you can imagine to express affirmation.
When the answer to all questions is yes,
you enter a new world, a world of action, possibility, and adventure.
(Patricia Ryan Madson)
I received relationship advice from a most unexpected source. A book called Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson resonated from the beginning paragraphs:
“A good improviser is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse.”
I happen to be a very self-focused person, but I don’t want to be entirely self-focused. I want to be a giver too.
The first maxim of improvisation is YES. In fact, the first chapter explains the power of this maxim in detail. When an actor throws another actor a line, the receiving actor always says “YES” and creates the next part of the story from there. And so it goes, each actor in succession saying “YES” as they build an improvised story for the audience.
The book suggests a challenge:
“Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else’s dream. Say “yes”; “right”; “sure”; “okay”; “of course”; “YES!””
I decided to give this a try with my wife.
Wife: “Sweetheart, would you like to go to the store with me?”
Me: “Ahhh… Hhh hhmm… well… YES.”
Wife: “Do you feel like ordering take-out for dinner?”
Me: “Ah… YES”
Wife: “Do you prefer the red one or the blue one?”
Me: “What do you think?”
Me: “Me too!!”
Understanding the power of yes was the easy part. It made sense. I saw the benefits it might bring to my life and my marriage. The harder part was disciplining myself to this new habit. I decided to simply start with “YES”. Whenever my wife spoke to me, I determined I would respond first with “YES” and go from there. This simple act can change your life.
Dining out is another area where the power of yes has made a delicious and entertaining impact. My wife and I will often ask our server to bring us whatever they recommend for the night. Sometimes they have interviewed us before deciding, other times not. We have enjoyed some fun and tasty meals (that we would not have ordered ourselves) by using this “YES” technique. And we have introduced this idea to our family and friends. Give it a try!
Another book on my reading list, Living Your Unlived Life by Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M Ruhl, Ph.D., made an impactful reference to the power of yes. In searching for enlightenment or overcoming the anxieties of life, the authors suggest that, “To remove this anxiety you need only say yes to what is. So simple but not easily accomplished.”
When I think about this advice, it strikes me that no matter if I say yes to what is or fight against it, it still is what it is. Why should I fight?
Oprah: “What does prayer mean to you? “
Rob: “Prayer to me is usually one word, which is YES… YES… I’m open, what’s next. That’s what it is”
Oprah: “What do you know for sure?”
Rob: “That you can say YES to this moment and experience a joy that can’t be put into words. That is actually possible. I know that for sure.”
I have decided to be like an improv artist, and make YES a practice for the rest of my life.
When life throws me a situation, I will remain open and start with YES. I am going to acknowledge each moment for what it is and say YES to what’s offered to me. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant, and it is up to me to create the next part of the story from there. I plan to say “yes” to each moment and then build upon it.
And so, as I play with my life, wife, loved ones, and all the people and situations I encounter, the power of YES will help build the improvised story of me.
Image via Death to the Stock Photo
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