The “Yes, I’d Love To,” Jar

unnamed-1Happy February! Am I the only one happy that January is over (in 4 short hours!)? Now that sickness has swept the house (last one standing!) we can move on to the month of love!

Speaking of love, I bring you the “Yes, I’d Love To!” Jar.

Many months ago I heard about this idea on a podcast (wish I could remember which one!) The darlings became my guinea pigs. The idea is simple:

1. Put a jar on the counter

2. Label it: “Yes, I’d Love To.”

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, respond with “Yes, I’d love to!”

4. For every “Yes, I’d love to” response, put a cotton ball (or something similar) in the jar

5. When the jar is filled up, go for ice-cream

Of course the darlings liked the ice-cream idea. And it became somewhat comical how fast they could fill the jar up – like in five minutes – by asking ridiculous questions and rushing to make a basket.

I told them we had to play for real.

My older kids humor me, even when obviously feeling “I’m-way-too-old-for-your-games-mom.” (I like to live in the dream world where they actually like my cheesy games.)

And so we began.

“Nelson, would you please get me a fork?”

Instead of, “Get it yourself,” he caught himself. “Yes, I’d love to, Brynne,” in yes, a somewhat sarcastic voice. But he still handed her a fork.

“Mom, would you please get me some milk?”

Instead of, “I just sat down” or “You have legs” I caught myself trying to ever-so-cheerfully set the example with, “Why yes, I’d love to!”

“Cope, would you please cut me an apple?”

Instead of a flat, “No,” Cope darling sighed, but eyeing that jar in need of filling and with ice-cream fairies dancing in her head, responded: “Why yes, I’d love to.” Add some eye-batting. And a high-pitched Cinderella voice.

Maybe we’re just competitive. Maybe we like games. Maybe we just wanted ice-cream, but the jar began to fill. And seeing the jar fill, made us want to fill it faster.

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At first I wondered if I was just teaching them to be fake or only acting for a prize.

But then again, we nudge our children all the time to do things they don’t actually feel like doing. “Say thank you,” “Tidy up your space,” “Be kind to the new kid,” “Write a note.” In fact,  isn’t that what parenting is all about? Isn’t this part of the future training of America? Do the thing you really don’t want to do because it’s just the right thing to do!

Also, because it was on my brain, a quote from philosopher and psychologist, William James:

“Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.” -William James

Oh yes, I love it. Armed with James and his mighty words of wisdom, I felt completely justified in the training of my guinea pigs with the “Yes, I’d Love To” jar.

An avid Gretchen Rubin fan, I loved her advice on episode #42 of her podcast: Act the Way You Want to Feel.

Based on research for Better Than Before (fabulous new book on habits) Rubin found if we want to feel a certain way, we can act that way first.

It’s really hard to change our emotional state just by wanting to change it (though Mindset surely is powerful.) But it might be easier if we ACT first and let the emotional state follow.

Wasn’t that so true when I was at home with little kids. Just the act of changing out of my pajama bottoms and doing my hair as if I was going to a real job – which motherhood surely is – changed my whole day from slogging through to more-happily mothering.

It works. It really does. When I’m irritated and snappish with a child, it works wonders for me to laugh. Or hug. Or smile.

“Fake it ‘Til You Make it” works.

Isn’t it the truth that when we speak more kindly, we feel more kindly?

It doesn’t really matter if we want to get a fork for our sister. Get the fork. It makes her happy. And guess what…we all know acting kinder makes us happier, too.

Brain research supports this idea. Act the way you want to feel. Not the other way around. If you’re walking around yelling and slamming doors, that only makes you want to yell and slam some more doors. Your brain says: “I must be really angry!”

Harvard research says that the act of giving thanks actually makes us feel happier. Such a simple and quick fix for general grumpiness.

I used to hear that boys should go “punch something” to get their aggression out. Perhaps they should make some cookies for the neighbors instead.

Feeling shy? Introduce yourself! I swear it works wonders. Suddenly we’re confidently chatting our way through an awkward social situation.

This experiment suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, because they can’t make angry, frowning faces. Crazy, huh?!

This phenomenon happened to me the other day.

I was feeling pretty miserable. My energy was low. Consistently telling myself how much I hate January doesn’t help. I had to take a car full of kids all the way to Concord, be in charge of an youth activity, and then drive everyone home again. Growling would just not do (because not all of the occupants were my kids 🙂 ) I wanted to lay back down on the bed, read, and be served warm toast. Instead I got out of my sweats and pulled on a pair of jeans. I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on some mascara and started the carpool. By the time I got home I was a totally different person. I was actually happy.

Was I being fake? I don’t think so. I think I was choosing to be the person I wanted to be that night.

The aftermath of the “Yes, I’d Love to” Jar was this: over time the darlings lost interest in putting cotton balls in the jar. But I did notice that the “yes, I’d love to” phrase hung around for much longer. It still comes out of everyone’s mouth once in awhile. The jar works best if it’s on the counter for awhile and then put away for a season. It’s like a special toy – best to be pulled out only occasionally. And then when it’s pulled out again, it’s fun.

So I ask you – How do you want to feel?

Then act that way.

The jar hasn’t been out for months. But I think it’s time again. The dishwasher needs emptying 🙂

 

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5 thoughts on “The “Yes, I’d Love To,” Jar

  1. Steven Nelson

    Happy Monday Amy – your post was a great way to start the week. It made me feel like a million bucks … does that mean I will become rich today? I’ll let you know. Steven

    Reply
  2. Julia Tomiak

    I love this. I’m doing it! I’m sure I’ll get sarcasm and Cinderella too, but I think it will be fun. We’re working on being more positive and kind in the Tomiak household… this seems like a good, practical way to get the ball rolling. As always, Thank You!

    I’ll tell you how it goes. 😉

    And now, to add the Gretchen Rubin podcast to my list…

    Reply
  3. Mary Nelson

    James also wrote: “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”

    Reply
  4. Buck

    Bells, thank you for keeping this real. For reminding me that my dilemma – however hard it is – is another privileged problem. After having a miscarriage before my first child, I do not take my fertility for granted and I do feel so unbbaievlely lucky to be able to even contemplate an addition to our family. I sincerely hope that my words today do not strike you as insensitive. I was merely trying to voice my own confusion and collect some thoughts from all of you. Again, thank you for weighing in with your important perspective.

    Reply

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