Month of Yes

As part of my goals for the summer, I decided to say yes to every invitation for a month starting May 19th, a few days after I moved to the Bay Area. I wanted to try new things I never thought of trying before, open myself up to serendipity, and satisfy my curiosity about what’s the worst that could happen. I also wanted to practice at least thinking about an invitation positively, rather than auto-responding with ‘no’ just because I might be busy, or didn’t feel like it. The only rule I had was that I couldn’t schedule overlapping events unless it was reasonable to attend both of them within the same timeframe.

The first two invitations were easy (hiking and a pillow fight–not at the same time), but I was surprised at how much more I looked forward to doing them when I deliberately said yes in an effort to welcome new opportunities in my life. Instead of an automatic response or a response meant to appease the invitee, I felt like I was saying yes 100% for me. This is easy, I thought, feeling like I was going to coast along this challenge because my friends have similar interests to me, and so I would never have to do anything terrifying.

WRONG. On the 2nd day after deciding to do this, “what’s the worst that can happen?” manifested itself in the form of a good friend (who didn’t know about my decision) forwarding along a Groupon for skydiving. I’m the kind of person who goes to theme parks to take photos rather than go on roller coasters because I’m such a wimp with heights and speed. I stared at the invitation for probably 20 minutes, silently cursing myself for having made the pact, and changing my mind every 10 seconds about whether I should try skydiving or not.

However, there was a nagging feeling that if I said ‘no’, I would regret it later, or that saying ‘no’ was letting myself off too easy from a goal that was supposedly very important to me. I couldn’t do that to myself, and I didn’t want to make it easier for me to weasel out of future commitments in self-improvement. It’s one of those things that scares you to death, but you know you’ll be fine afterwards. So I took the jump (ha) and bought the Groupon. After a few more days of panicky deliberation.

It was the best scariest decision of my life.

I had my eyes closed for all of free fall >_<

I said yes to several invitations that month, including:

  • Going to an interaction design social meetup. This made me realize that although it was a great networking opportunity, it wasn’t worth the 1.5 hour commute both ways for 30-60 minutes of socialization and starvation. Complex logistics for a recurring event makes it not worth it to go regularly, and that’s okay.
  • Going for drinks with friends visiting town. I almost backed out because timing was wonky, there were going to be a bunch of other people there anyway, and I felt tired that day. But I went anyway, partially motivated by my pact. Serendipity hit and it turns out the place also sold delicious European dark chocolate, and I had a great time catching up and meeting new people. Double score!
  • Playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. I actually liked it and got my own D20.
  • Going to the SF Gay Pride Parade, which was a rockin’ day spent with new friends.
  • Going on an ice cream tour. Who wouldn’t say yes to that?

I had so much fun with this experiment that I continued it for most of the summer. It also inspired me to invite friends to try out new things I’d never done before, such as signing up for a color 5k, and going to a music festival. We even reached a point where we were too busy and couldn’t cram any more fun activities into our weekends, so had to decline a few, which will no doubt make its way into a Month of Yes, Fall Edition.

Coincidentally, my project at Google this summer was working on Schemer, a site that lets you keep track of your bucket list, or things to do before you die (see my list). Working on Schemer and this experiment (especially the skydiving) inspired me to pick a date each year to do something that scares me. Next year: scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Considering that I can’t swim and get minor panic attacks in any large body of water bigger than a kiddie pool, this is a challenge that I reluctantly but excitedly look forward to.

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  • Good for you. I just bought the tickets for skydiving too. I tried to convince my self for several months. Then when the Groupon deal comes again. I got two. Now I have made the commitment (paying for it), I think I will get it done sometime.

  • YAY! We booked the trip for a few months after we bought the Groupon. I think it was too long to be trembling in fear every time I thought of it. It’s much more fun with a friend, so I hope you can find someone to go with you!

  • katie

    Love it, Chloe.  I heard you were having a month of ‘yes’.  A total inspiration for doing things I’m afraid of.  
    Up next: a solo 5k race!

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