Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: Book Overview

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes about? What are the main takeaways of the book?

In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes explores her journey from a life of merely surviving to full-hearted thriving. The Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator outlines the meaningful lessons she wishes to pass on to her readers so they can reclaim their lives from fear.

Read below for a brief overview of Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

What would happen if you faced your fears and said “yes” to everything outside your comfort zone for a whole year? In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes answers that very question. Her book relates how, by facing her many fears and moving through challenges instead of avoiding them, Rhimes was able to liberate herself from anxiety, self-doubt, and deep unhappiness. 

By consistently pushing herself out of her comfort zone, Rhimes discovered new ways to face many problems in her life fearlessly. She blossomed into a new person, empowered to fully embrace herself and her life with love.

From Fear to Love

Before the year of facing her fears began, Rhimes appeared to be on top of the world. She had an Ivy League education, a creative career she loved, fame, a beautiful home, and three wonderful daughters. She had worked hard to achieve success and recognition as the head showrunner for two wildly popular television shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and her production company, Shondaland, was working on a third. 

But behind the scenes, Rhimes was withering. She was overwhelmed by the demands of her career and coped by avoiding anything outside of work that pushed her out of her comfort zone. As a result, her life felt increasingly small and repetitive—she rarely socialized, and she stayed out of the public eye and hunkered down at home as much as possible. She refused every invitation to events, parties, award shows, and interview opportunities that came her way.

Additionally, Rhimes worked under immense pressure because the success of her company and television shows rode squarely on her back. As one of the first Black women to achieve such a high level of success and power in the entertainment industry, she felt she was working not only for personal success but also for the success of all Black women in the industry. As a result, she felt obligated to never make mistakes. 

One day, with the help of her sister’s honest feedback, Rhimes realized that she wasn’t happy or satisfied. She was letting her introverted personality, career, societal pressures, social anxiety, and self-doubt rule her life. As a result, she never said “yes” to anything challenging or scary. This realization inspired her to experiment with a new way of living—she committed to facing her fears. 

The Transformative Commitments

As Rhimes journeyed through her year-long experiment, embracing her difficulties instead of avoiding them, she discovered many areas of her life where she didn’t feel satisfied, engaged, empowered, or free. To improve these areas, she made five transformative, liberating, yet challenging commitments that can change your life, too. 

  • Commitment #1: Make yourself seen and heard.
  • Commitment #2: Re-examine your priorities.
  • Commitment #3: Get comfortable with conflict.
  • Commitment #4: Embrace your truth.
  • Commitment #5: Let go of unsupportive relationships. 

As we explore these commitments, we’ll also share Rhimes’s journey with them, showing how her experiences challenged her to restructure her approach to life, which eventually brought her to a place of greater vitality, freedom, and love for life.

Commitment #1: Make Yourself Seen and Heard

Rhimes describes herself as highly introverted and shy, making fame a difficult adjustment for her personality. But she realized that hiding herself from the world and letting her introverted personality and social anxiety dictate her life was not making her happy. To improve how she felt, she knew she must commit to being seen and heard by others, even though it was uncomfortable. She discovered the more she pushed through anxiety, accepted compliments, and walked with her well-earned swagger, the more comfortable she grew with being seen and heard, and she began to feel like her authentic self. 

Commitment #2: Re-examine Your Priorities

Rhimes loved her career. Before her life-changing year, she happily gave it most of her time and attention. But during the year, she realized she needed to better balance her priorities so that she didn’t neglect her family or her health. She started prioritizing playtime with her children and rethought her relationship with food. With these changes, she felt more alive than ever.

Commitment #3: Get Comfortable With Conflict

Before her transformative year, Rhimes would avoid conflict with others. During the year, she learned that conflict wouldn’t bring about the end of the world, that she could assert her boundaries by saying “no,” and that having difficult conversations could bring her a measure of peace and confidence in herself. Ultimately, these realizations led to more honest and authentic relationships.

Commitment #4: Embrace Your Truth

Rhimes realized that when she embraced who she truly was and allowed herself to openly speak her truth—her beliefs, preferences, and limitations—she became less afraid of the things that had once scared her. She thus committed to living a life dictated by her truth, regardless of whether or not she conformed to societal standards.

Commitment #5: Let Go of Stale Relationships

As Rhimes began to change, her relationships began to change. Before the year of yes, she often didn’t see people for who they really were. She describes how, much like she created characters for her shows, she “made up” supportive, fun personalities for friends who were treating her poorly. But during her year, she let go of friendships that were not good for her and strengthened her friendships with people who genuinely supported her growth.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: Book Overview

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Shonda Rhimes's "Year of Yes" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Year of Yes summary:

  • The story of a woman who said "yes" to every opportunity for a year
  • How to go from surviving to full-hearted thriving
  • Why you shouldn't be uncomfortable with receiving praise

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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