Recently, a new friend asked me how I came to be giving writing retreats in Tuscany, and without giving it a thought, I replied, “I just kept saying yes.”
My first encounter with the concept of “saying yes” was in an Improv class I enrolled in shortly after moving to Los Angeles. I’d just turned my life upside-down, moved to the opposite coast where, aside from a handful of family, I knew no one—so why not stretch a little further outside my comfort zone and place my introverted self in an extrovert’s arena?
In those Saturday morning Improv classes, which were both terrifying and inspiring, I discovered that many of the core tenets of Improv are apt metaphors for life, especially Yes, and/Yes, but.
The power of saying Yes, and vs.Yes, but
The Yes, and/Yes, but exercise came along early in the curriculum. The instructions were to find a partner and spin a tale, one sentence at a time, each of us, in turn, adding to the story. However, there was one caveat; we must begin each sentence with, “Yes, but … .” It didn’t take long for those sentences to go nowhere, and the story quickly died.
The second time around, we began each sentence with Yes, and—and the story flourished. I left class that day realizing what a Yes, but person I was, but inspired by the lure of all that a Yes, and life might offer. Perhaps, this awareness was the greatest gift those early classes gave me, and I’ve embraced the Yes, and concept ever since.
How did this lead me to realize my long-held dream of hosting writing retreats for women in Tuscany?
The summer my mother passed away, my siblings and I agreed we’d return her ashes to England that autumn and lay her to rest beside her beloved husband. In thinking about this trip, I felt the urge to mark the rite of passage in some special way. I shared this desire with a friend as we hiked one morning, and she said, “I’m going to a yoga retreat in Greece in the fall; you should come.” The timing of the retreat was perfect, and …
I said yes.
While I was in Greece, our instructor told me about his yoga retreat in Tuscany. When I shared my dream of taking writers to Italy, he invited me to join him in Tuscany the following year to see if the venue might work for a retreat of my own and …
I said yes.
His venue was lovely but not exactly what I envisioned for my writing retreats. While I was there, I contacted an Italian couple I’d met years ago who owned two villas, and they invited me to lunch and …
I said yes.
One of their villas turned out to be just what I was looking for, and when they offered me a contract for the following year …
I said yes.
That particular “yes” was one of the scariest as I had yet to create my offering, build a website, or formulate any type of marketing plan. That journey is another story, but it’s one built on a succession of yeses.
How much of a Yes, but person are you?
It seems the older we get, the more we say no.
Are you so used to saying no that you don’t realize you are saying it? I was. Take stock, pay attention and be mindful of your Yes/No ratio.
We often say No to what is new and different because it’s scary or confusing, not because it’s necessarily bad. If you can catch yourself in that No moment, take a breath and see if you can shift into being curious about that No.
In saying Yes, and, you suspend judgment. You remain in the present moment, and you allow your thoughts and ideas to come to life. Don’t they deserve that? If you don’t give your ideas a moment in the light, you’ll never know where they might lead.
We all have unfulfilled dreams—I had my retreats, and you have something uniquely yours to offer. If you don’t present your gifts to the world, no one will do it for you.
Try it. Start saying Yes, and—and see what avenues unfold before you.
Let me know how it goes.