If you have ever watched improvisational comedy, or have done creative brainstorming, you might know what the ‘Yes, and…’ principle is.

“Yes, and…”, also referred to as “Yes, and…” thinking is a rule-of-thumb in improvisational comedy that suggests that a participant should accept what another participant has stated (“yes”) and then expand on that line of thinking (“and”). It is also used in business and other organizations as a principle that improves the effectiveness of the brainstorming process, fosters effective communication, and encourages the free sharing of ideas.[source]

It looks like this:

“You are a bear, right?”
“Yes, and I am running wild in the woods.”

You cannot use “no” or “yes, but” which is rejecting the offer.
Rejecting the offer (You are a bear) ends the story, the relationship and the potential for growth.

Accepting the offer, leaves room for opportunity, creativity and discovery.
It magnifies the problem. And that is often the problem in business or life. We do not like problems. And making them even bigger is counter intuitive.

When trying this out however (whether in a game, while brainstorming or real life situation) you may realise how hard it is to always be accepting and say ‘Yes, and…’ despite your willingness to do so. You become aware of how often you say no, or yes, but. Your brain seems to have a tendency (a well worn neural pathway) to critically analyse and judge. Your brain wants security and control. It wants to be honest, logic and consistent.
But you can train your brain to be more accepting of the things that are thrown at you.
It will allow you to re-think certain problems.
Not all problems or situations are re-thinkable of course.

A problem is always a contrast between a fact (what really is) and the expectation (how you would like it to be).
This creates tension and thus a problem.

You have 4 options to address a problem:

  1. Change the facts. Which is fine if you have a flat tire (fact) and you can fix it (solve problem).
  2. Change your expectations: you accept the fact and let your expectation go. The problem is then no longer a problem (as the tension is gone). Example: you always wanted to become a pilot but it turns out you have really bad eyesight.  If you let the expectation go you no longer experience it as a problem.
  3. Do nothing: you sit in the problem situation, you experience it. Facts are facts and changing your expectation will not change the facts. Example: you are in a traffic jam and will be late for a meeting. You can only accept the situation for what it is, but still have the problem.
  4. Rethinking. Yes, and…

I can already hear you say ‘Yes but that is not easy.’  Of course not. Knowing that there are 4 ways to address a problem already is a way of rethinking.

The first thing you do when you want to rethink a problem is:


Experience the fact that you have a problem (ie. that the facts are not in line with your expectations) as creative tension: oh, I can do something here, instead of shit, no, no, no I don’t like/want/deserve this.
If you have the option to fix it (flat tire), fix it.
If you do not have that option, tell your brain that it has an opportunity here, that this frustration is the same as creative energy that hasn’t found a shape or outlet yet. Allow the brain to do its work without intervening and going back to old solution patterns. Let it open up to new possibilities.

In the flat tire situation you can call your appointment and tell them you have good news because they can now re-arrange their agenda as you have a flat tire. Or that you can arrive late but then will show them how to fix a tire. Or you come to the realisation that this appointment was too early/not necessary/against your values…

Changing your attitude to accept that a setback is a blessing allows you to prove that concept for each problem. Life is usually fun if something happens that you did not think about. It opens the door to adventure.

This type of thinking not only changes the way you address problems but also contributes to you constantly changing and becoming a freer person who is not being hijacked by his/her expectations.

Expectations are not the same as desire.

A desire is something to be taken seriously, something you really want and pointing to an internal experience.
An expectation is linked to a strategy or mean to how things should happen.

Let’s say you have the desire for a glass of wine but while opening the wine bottle the cork breaks and you cannot get it out. You are disappointed, annoyed and your expectation is that you should get the cork out of the bottle. But that is a limiting thought because you can of course also push the cork into the bottle. When you practice rethinking, it isn’t about whether things go as expected but about whether the things you desire are realised.

And turning that which you desire most into doing is what we all strive for.

One great way of starting is to create a vision: an attractive picture of the future reality (a vision board for example). Then start working towards that vision. On the way there, things will happen that are less fun or even unsettling, but all that is not important as long as you experience creative energy, the energy needed to create your vision. As long as you follow that energy and see what happens, life will unfold, effortlessly.