Say Yes And Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

January is a time for goal-setting. We make New Year’s resolutions, map out our plans for the year, and see where we are on our bucket lists. When the new year seems bursting with promise, we think big and reach for the stars, but when it comes time to put pen to paper and set S.M.A.R.T goals, we may hesitate and rein in our dreams. But we shouldn’t.

Say Yes And Don't Be Afraid To Fail

The first time I started thinking about this was while I was reading a section of Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants, called “The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*.”

The first rule of improvisation is to AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.

She explains that for an improv skit to work, each participant has to go along with what the other is doing so that the scene can develop. She ties the concept to real life, saying:

Now obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says …. But … at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

Another relevant lesson from the Rules of Improvisation is that

THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.

In improv, if you misinterpret what someone else is doing, you transform what they thought they were doing (in her example, riding a bike), to what you thought they were doing (imitating a hamster on a hamster wheel). Tying the concept to real life, she comments on the “failures” that brought us Reese’s peanut butter cups and Botox. While not every mistake can be as positive and life-changing as penicillin and Post-it® notes, we often can benefit from our mistakes by more than just learning hard lessons.

I read Bossypants in 2011, and these “rules” have stayed with me. I’ve made more of an effort to say YES to opportunities at work (even especially the ones that scare me) and to say YES to crazy adventures with family and friends.

I started thinking about dreaming big again when this quote from Robert H. Schuler was zooming around the internet, sparked by this TED talk by Regina Dugan.

Say Yes And Do Not Be Afraid To Fail

Was a fear of failure holding me back from setting big goals?

My priest put this all in a different light in one of his recent Advent sermons. He pointed out how many times in the Christmas story the angels coupled their messages with a command to not be afraid.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said:

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. …. Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

When Joseph learned that Mary was with child, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said:

Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

And when the angel appeared to the shepherds, he said:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

When God asks big things of us by writing big dreams on our hearts, He doesn’t want us to be afraid to fail. Even if we don’t achieve the goal that we have in mind, He can turn our mistakes into His opportunities.

Do you dream big?

Has a fear of failure held you back from pursuing a goal?

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21 Responses to Say Yes And Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

  1. Steena says:

    That’s pretty interesting that you got such a great message out of that book..unexpected actually! I want to read that book but haven’t stumbled on it at a used book store or library yet.
    Steena recently posted…IntentMy Profile

  2. Kim says:

    I love this – sometimes even when I say “yes” I’m doing it with a closed mind. I need to work on the open-mindedness aspect!!!
    And, yes, I have a big goal that I have already failed at once and I thought about nixing it but I’m going to try again!!!
    Kim recently posted…I’m Not Ready to Give UpMy Profile

  3. Carla says:

    ((HUGS YOU)))
    we really are so so very very alike.

    Carla recently posted…I am Carla Birnberg.My Profile

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  5. I love a book that leaves such an imprint that you remember it years later. Even one meant to make you laugh. I read that one and thoroughly enjoyed it, but it didn’t stick with me as it did for you. I do love the lesson of saying yes (although learning to say no has been important for me when it comes to additional things that may not be a priority). recently posted…Happy MondayMy Profile

  6. It is so easy to doubt ourselves! But we can’t move forward without taking some risks… I’m getting better at that the older I get, but it is always a challenge!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…The 5 by the 5th Challenge is back!My Profile

  7. Lisa says:

    Love this! Too many people don’t even TRY because it’s new and scary and out of their comfort zone. It sure was for me. But I am SO glad I kept at it, got over the fear of putting my 250+ pound body in a swimsuit and get in that pool! I lost 110 pounds by conquering that fear and have never looked back!
    Lisa recently posted…Kettle Bell ConditioningMy Profile

  8. aleshea says:

    Sounds like I need to read this book. But I love the quote throughout
    aleshea recently posted…A person’s a person no matter how smallMy Profile

  9. Casey says:

    Great post! I was in an improv comedy group in college. When I first started it was a bit scary, because you never knew what was going to happen next, but the more I did it, the more I took on the challenge and made it my own, the easier it got. The more we take opportunities that come to us, the easier it will be to take them and transform them into something uniquely ours.
    Casey recently posted…Creative Prompt MondayMy Profile

  10. Unfortunately the path of self-doubt is one I’ve traveled far too often, but I am getting better at not letting the fear of failing limit me. In fact, my one word for this year is “fearless!”
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted…Let the base-building beginMy Profile

  11. Amusingly Quirky says:

    I love Tina Fey and reading this post makes me adore her even more. I’m glad I stumbled across this post. I was just online with a friend discussing goals that I have but fear is currently holding me back. Fear of failing, of the unknown, and if this is what God actually wants for me. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to chase those big dreams and that God is with me on this journey.
    Amusingly Quirky recently posted…Stop Waiting For The Perfect Day Or Moment….My Profile

  12. olivetorun says:

    I read that book about a year ago but never took it the way you did- LOVE your spin on it and now I want to read it again 😀
    olivetorun recently posted…All I Want to Do is ZOOMA ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM! [Race Recap]My Profile

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