(Shonda Rhimes)
(Shonda Rhimes)

On Thursday, November 19 at a sold-out breakfast at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles, Maria Shriver set down with award-winning producer and writer Shonda Rhimes (creator of Gray’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal) and the author of New York Times bestselling book, “The Year of Yes,” to share her journey of change, making the decision to have a year of saying ‘yes’. “It was like a snowball going down the hill,” Rhimes said. “Every time you say ‘Yes,’ you get stronger and more confident.

It was a year ago that Rhimes decided to say ‘yes’ to things that scared her. During a conversation with her sister at Thanksgiving 2013, Rhimes told her sister about all the high profile invitations that she was planning to turn down. Her sister’s response surprised her; “you never said yes to anything.” Rhimes said that she realized her sister was right. While the characters on her shows were leading large lives, her life felt small. “Their existences were becoming huge, and mine were becoming four walls and me.” So Rhimes decided to embark on a year of saying ‘Yes.’

As Rhimes talked with journalist Maria Shriver, they discussed the importance of saying yes, the ripple effect of the small things we do, being a good leader, motherhood, raising good citizens, their joint fight against Alzheimer’s disease, and the importance of not just dreaming, but putting action to those dreams. “Dreams are lovely but at some point you have to stop dreaming and do your thing,” Rhimes said.

What has Rhimes learned about saying yes for an entire year? “I’ve learned that I don’t know anything, that I am lighter physically (she’s lost over 100 lbs), several toxic people lighter, a happier boss, braver, more creative, a better parent and family member and a lot kinder,” Rhimes said. When asked which ‘yes’ caused the most change? Rhimes said “being able to have difficult conversations at home, at work, with yourself.”   “And I’ve learned to say ‘yes’ to more play. Now if my kids want to play, I drop whatever I’m doing and I go and play.” In learning to say ‘yes,’ Rhimes admit that she also learned that saying ‘no’ is really just another way to saying ‘yes’ to yourself. “We bend over backwards to be nice. You find yourself saying yes to things you don’t want to do and there’s no reason for it. So I did learn to also say ‘no’.

When asked about Rhimes, Shriver said that Rhimes “embodies the true meaning of an architect of change.” “Architects of Change are what we call conscious idealists, people who see things as they are but think about what they can be and Shonda’s life not only informs us but inspires us to reach beyond what is right in front of us and propels us forward.”