I was watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday a month or so ago, which is one of my favorite TV shows. In it, she was interviewing John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. While I take away little nuggets of truth each time I watch an episode, I had no idea that this particular interview would profoundly change my life.
While the entire interview was wonderful, one particular part stuck with me. He shared that while he was in college, he was taking a class where one of the assignments was to read a very long, boring book. He decided that he didn’t want to read it, so he didn’t. He then decided that he didn’t want to take the class at all, so he dropped out. He then took this one step further and decided that he wasn’t going to do anything that he didn’t want to do. So he took classes that fed his soul, received hundreds of hours in credits, and left college without a degree (since he didn’t take the classes needed to receive one). He’s stayed aware of this life motto throughout his life and still embodies it today.
I walked away from the interview feeling inspired. I knew that while I was so grateful for many aspects of my life, there were still quite a few things I was doing that didn’t feed my soul. I was still (for one reason or another) doing things that I didn’t want to do. And I set out to see if there was anything that I could let go of and say no to.
I began to look at how I felt while going through my days – who I interacted with, how I spent my time, and what was coming up on the horizon. I started to notice how my gut felt when I participated in each activity or when I thought about doing a particular task. This awareness gave me a barometer – I could tell that when I was doing something simply because I thought I had to do it, I was tight and resentful and tired. And the contrast was that when I was doing something that I truly wanted to do, I felt open and energetic and excited.
I took a look at my calendar and my tasks and my day-to-day activities and began to go through them one by one with a discerning eye. I asked myself these questions:
“Why am I doing this? (Is it coming from my head – because I think I should or because I don’t want to upset or hurt someone or because I’m afraid to let it go? Or is it coming from my heart – because I truly want to do it – because it feeds my soul?”
“How would I feel if I were no longer doing it – if it were no longer a part of my life? Relieved? Sad? Happy?”
“What would I be able to bring into my life if I let go of this particular task/activity/person?”
One by one, I began to take a clear look at my life and put each task through this filter. And this practice has been so liberating and life changing! I started to find so many things that I could say no to and let go of – from doing radio interviews and telesummits that didn’t feel quite right (but I was considering saying yes to because I thought I should or because I didn’t want to hurt anyone) to promoting things for others that didn’t sit well in my soul (that I normally would have considered simply because I didn’t want to hurt anyone or have them mad at me) to not going on a trip where the timing would create extra stress (that I was going to go on because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone) to putting off having difficult conversations (that I didn’t want to have because I was afraid of what they might think of me) to letting go of anything work-wise that kept me from the Soulful Life Sanctuary and connecting with others (which is where I want to devote all of my attention).
The list went on and on. So once I got clear about the things that I was doing that I didn’t want to do, I started to take action. I postponed the trip. I said no to the promotions and the interviews. I had the difficult conversations. I let go of extra work commitments.
And I started to notice something: an inner strength began to emerge. While my worry was that I was going to feel horrible for saying no and for letting go, the opposite happened. I felt empowered and liberated. I felt free.
I realized that all of the things that I had been saying yes to (but didn’t really want to say yes to) were draining my energy. They were taking quality time from my connection to my soul and my connection with others. And so giving myself permission to let them go freed up circuits for things that I could say yes to (that I wanted to say yes to).
Now, this doesn’t mean that it’s been easy to let go and to say no. There have been times in doing it where I’ve questioned everything, to be honest. I never want to hurt anyone, and throughout my life I have gone out of my way to keep the peace. But, I realized that doing this has been hurting me, which is something I’m no longer okay with. I also found that when saying no is offered with love and honesty, it usually ends up being okay. There hasn’t been as much friction as I thought there would be. And in some cases, my saying no has brought me closer to the person I was saying no to because it gave us a chance to have a deep, meaningful conversation.
But even if this weren’t the case, I would still stay on this path of arranging my life so that I don’t do anything that I don’t want to do. And while this is still in process, it’s very freeing to be making steps towards a life where I get to spend all of my time doing exactly what I want.
I do believe that it’s possible. I really do.
And not just for me, but for all of us.
We are the conscious creators of our lives, and we are such powerful beings. If something isn’t working, we can change it. If we don’t like something, we can do something about it.
We really can. We’re that powerful.
I would love for all of us to remember this. And to follow in John Mackey’s lead by taking a good look at our lives and start to say no to anything that doesn’t feed our soul.
It’s such an empowering exercise!