I’m not big on New Year Resolutions. Mostly they seem to be about doing less of the stuff I enjoy: like eating, drinking and lying down.
Also, the first of January is a completely arbitrary date – you can make a change to your life on any day you choose. In my experience a healthy-eating or exercise plan is so much easier to start – and maintain – when it’s warmer and sunnier.
‘Dry Jan’, in my opinion, just makes a dark and depressing time of year even more so. Puh-lease… I have children!!!
I recently read a quote by business guru Warren Buffett…
“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”
I probably shouldn’t disagree with billionaire Wozza, but then I probably don’t fit his idea of ‘very successful’. The conventional trappings of success – big houses, luxury cars, designer labels, etc – don’t really do it for me.
Building my business, fulfilling work, helping my clients, creating work for others and having the means and flexibility for quality time and experiences with family and friends – happiness – that’s my success.
However, I put all these achievements down to saying ‘yes’ more.
It wasn’t always that way.
Eleven years ago I ended my first marriage after as many years together. Suddenly living alone for the first time, I went out every night to avoid the silence in the home I’d shared with my ex and his teenage daughter. Constant partying may sound fun, but the reality was unfulfilling, exhausting and expensive in equal measures.
This was 2005, the year Danny Wallace’s book, ‘The Yes Man’ came out.
(The briefest of synopses: Danny’s life is going nowhere fast, so he decides to say ‘yes’ to EVERY SINGLE opportunity or question for a whole year to see what changes.)
I realised that living with an older man and his child had meant, for me, a decade of saying ‘no’ to the usual 20-something fun. In addition, a strict, overly-protective upbringing had meant my adventurous spirit had been reined-in for too long.
I was itching to make up for lost time. So I decided (in May, I didn’t wait till January) that I was going to have my year of saying ‘yes’.
Unlike Danny, I didn’t tell my friends (so no-one could take advantage!) and I reserved my right to say ‘no’ if I felt anything compromised my safety or wellbeing.
That summer I said ‘yes’ to five music festivals and countless gigs and club nights. Highlights were Glastonbury (#lifegoals) and The Big Chill – randomly, with a girl I met at a gig who asked me to join her and 20 of her mates for the weekend as they had a spare ticket (!!!)
There was the weekend ‘pilgrimage’ from London to Canterbury with my friend Chris and his workmates (an extended pub-crawl with tents).
I went to a university friend’s wedding in NYC. I was in my mid-30s, and had never holidayed solo or been to a wedding on my own before. I found it scary but ridiculously empowering!
Emboldened, I next flew to Ecuador where my brother was volunteering (and got inspired for my own volunteering adventure a couple of years later).
That winter, my bro also invited me to Sweden where I achieved another #lifegoal and finally learnt to ski.
I even learnt to poledance! Rachael, a new girl at work, invited me to the class she taught. I might have previously declined…but now couldn’t. Those girls became a weekly fixture in my life for the next two-and-a-half years – we saw each other through marriages, births and even deaths. We also probably consumed more calories in the pub afterwards than we ever burnt off, but what fun..!
I enjoyed my job, but, again had to say ‘yes’ to a headhunter’s call, which meant I was put forward for a role at company I’d never considered and ended up with a 30% payrise. (I also met my friend Pettrina there who years later would have a baby around the same time as me – our sons have been like brothers ever since).
I told another friend who was in a work-life rut about Danny’s book. She loved it so much, she started gifting it to others. She even closed a £10K deal by sending a client the book with a simple note, “Please say ‘Yes'”.
Saying ‘yes’ more meant I dated a fair bit, but the guys asking were all much younger than me. Where were all the 30-somethings?! A workmate suggested online dating. That was quite a daunting prospect back then (wasn’t it just all saddos and weirdos?!) but of course, I took a deep breath, said ‘yes’ and signed up.
For the next couple of years, I went on some fun, hilarious, bizarre and even disastrous dates. I started with no expectations, seeing every ‘failed’ date as a quick, efficient way of learning what I didn’t want (like a dating equivalent of Facebook’s ‘move fast and break things’).
When I finally worked out my deal-breakers, I raised my expectations big-time…and three first dates later, met my future husband (on match.com, if you were wondering).
Andy stood out as he’d clearly read my profile (most guys don’t) including the bit about my favourite books.
His first message to me was pure genius: titled, “Please Say ‘Yes”’ …how could I say no? We even, bizarrely, ended up seeing Danny Wallace on our first date.
Eight years on, Andy still calls me his ‘Yes Girl’. In fact, soon after he proposed and I accepted, he laughed…”Well, that was a bit of a foregone conclusion, wasn’t it?!”
Since being a mum, I’ve said ‘yes’ to volunteering which made me some fab new mum friends, and kept my brain sharp. Some of those mums eventually became my first clients. Saying ‘yes’ also led me to my business course which has since opened more doors.
I have so much fun saying ‘yes’ that I apply this slightly gung-ho attitude to work and play every day. This often means Andy and I have an overly-ambitious schedule but life is never boring!
Hey, look. Saying ‘no’ is OK (especially if you are happy with your situation or already feeling overwhelm). Nothing bad will happen; but not much will change either.
By contrast, saying ‘yes’ can be exhilarating. ‘Yes’ welcomes new people, opportunities and change; ‘yes’ takes you out of your comfort zone; ‘yes’ fuels a child-like curiosity, sense of adventure and fun; ‘yes’ makes you feel alive; ‘yes’ makes you feel the fear and f*cking do it anyway.
So stop with the self-denial of New Year Resolutions and just embrace 2017 with a ‘yes’…to that drink, meal, event, party, coffee, trip, meeting, project, workout, course or opportunity.
What do you say…?