How One Word Changed Shonda Rhimes' Life

"Doing something you're afraid of makes it stop being something you're afraid of," Shonda Rhimes tells PEOPLE

Shonda Rhimes doesn’t have a problem telling people no.

The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal used to turn down gala invites, interview requests and even playdates for her daughters – anything that could put even the smallest spotlight on her, really – without batting an eye.

But that all changed after Thanksgiving 2013 when one of her older sisters pointed out that Rhimes “never” said yes to “anything.”

Letting those words sink in, the executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder decided to spend a year saying yes to the social and professional opportunities she had spent years shying away from.

“Doing something you’re afraid of makes it stop being something you’re afraid of,” says Rhimes, 45, in the current issue of PEOPLE.

Her challenge to resulted in her new book Year of Yes, a weight loss of more than 100 lbs., a smaller but tighter-knit group of friends and closer relationships with her daughters Harper, 13, Emerson, 3, and Beckett, 2.

Though her “year of yes” is technically long over, Rhimes says her resolution has changed her for good.

“There is no real finish line,” she says. “There is no way for there to be one because now everything feels possible now. Now that I know what happens when you say yes, how could I possibly go back to saying no?”

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