“Yes And” Approach

How to Make Opportunities Fall into Your Lap 

This likely won’t surprise you, but I was a theatre kid through high school and college. And theatre people, when bored, often play improv games to pass the time. There was one called “Yes, and” where in a scene, if a person introduced an idea, the others went along with it, adding more detail to it. So if I said, “oh look at the cat!” the other people on stage might say, “oh isn’t he cute” or “wow, look at him walk that fence.”

While my theatre training provided me with a host of valuable professional and life skills – like people management, how to sew, and great presentation delivery – this simple game is probably one of the most impactful lessons. I bring this idea of ‘Yes and’ to brainstorming sessions, conversations, and it seems, life.

When I first moved to China in 2005, the opportunity came about through a project for my MBA. I spoke to an organization to study them, and it turned out they had a position open. I asked for more information, and one thing led to another. In nearly all our moves (9 cities and counting), there was a moment of ‘yes and’ in order to take the leap. And even getting into coaching was a curious moment where a coaching company needed marketing support and I, a marketing professional, was interested in coaching.

It’s really easy to say no or come up with all the reason to that something won’t work. Whether real barriers or self-limiting beliefs, the reasons can feel incredible heavy, pulling us down: job, kids, family, house, health.

But imagine for a moment what it would feel like to say yes; to taking a day off, to visiting or moving to a new city, to dessert before dinner, to learning something new. Don’t you feel lighter already?

You might have been smiling there, for a moment, before your inner critic barged in and told you all the reasons you can’t say yes. And I’ll be when she did, your smile faded.

So how can you grow your mindset to a more ‘yes and’ approach?

  • Start small. Maybe it’s a moment, like letting the kids play with paint before dinner, or at work, in a brainstorming session trying ‘yes and’ and building on others’ ideas. These small steps will start to change your habits!
  • Play a pretend game of ‘what would I say yes to now if I had no limitations’ with your partner or friend. This could uncover desires that you didn’t know were there, and you might start thinking about ways to make them happen.
  • Can you lead with curiosity? When an idea is presented rather than rejecting it straight away, find what is interesting to you about the topic. Start asking questions and see where that leads. This is a great way to quiet that inner critic, too.


Try it for a day or a week. I’ll bet you will start to see your opportunities increase. When you do, get in touch and tell me your experience!