Years ago, I attended an event led by a business coach. It was the first time I’d gone to anything like that, so I wasn’t expecting the offer of coaching at the end, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it to cost what it did.
I was in shock. It was more than I’d paid for anything that I couldn’t live in or drive in.
It would have been super easy to say no. In fact, it’s 100% easier NOT to do something, especially if it costs big bucks or is inconvenient.
But here’s the thing about saying no: It has a cost, too. The problem is that you can’t know that cost until you’re in it. Your brain can’t calculate what you’ll get by doing something, or what you’ll lose by not doing it.
There’s a part of our brain, I call it our Safety Self, that takes over when it feels like we may be in danger. Its job is to keep us safe.
Your Safety Self comes from a very old part of your brain. It was designed to look for trouble. It comes from the time when survival meant ignoring the beautiful scenery and looking for tigers hiding in the foliage. When fitting into the group meant life, and being kicked out meant death.
It makes total sense that your Safety Self equates familiarity with safety and newness with danger.
It also is a concrete, black and white, yes/ no thinker. It doesn’t worry you’ll lose some money, it’s terrified you’ll lose it all. It doesn’t predict you’ll end up in a slightly older home, you’ll be a bag lady!
And the more you ignore or shame your Safety Self, the louder and more extreme it gets. After all, it’s trying to save you and you aren’t listening!!
Making a Sound Choice
When I was at that workshop and heard the price of the coaching program, my Safety Self started screaming:
- I can’t spend that much money!
- What will my husband say?
- Go to Asheville for 4 retreats?? That’s even more money!
- I can probably get this stuff on my own. Or find it on the internet.
- I could just set those weekends aside and really work on my business by myself.
- She might not even be as good as she says she is. There’s no guarantee this is going to work for me anyway.
So, I made a reasonable decision.
I wrote the coach a long email that night telling her how much I loved the event and that the program sounded great, but that I just couldn’t afford it.
And I felt heavy and disappointed.
I couldn’t sleep.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was hiding in my stories. Stories like, “I don’t have enough money.”
Did I have that money sitting in my bank account, waiting to be spent on self-improvement? No. Not even close.
Could I get it? Yes. Not easily and not without some serious stretching, and I could do it.
So in one sense the story was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth.
The part about being nervous, even scared, to tell my husband about this was true, too.
I get interested in a lot of different things and he’s this steady guy. I often felt like a flake and was sure he’d think this was just another one of those things that I’d pursue for a little while and then get tired of.
What’s also true is that I was sick and tired of letting that stop me. I was tired of playing small because of my fears.
As I lay there in bed, other truths came to mind, too.
Like how badly I wanted a successful business. I knew that the tools and experience I had could make a tremendous difference for other people. I knew that I could help people be more successful in their business and share their unique gifts with the world, and that would make the world better for everyone!
I also wanted to have the experience of creating a successful business. I wanted to feel what that was like. I wanted to get that clear, to be in my power that much. I’d dreamed of this since I was in high school.
Another truth was that I didn’t have a clue how to do it or even where to begin. And I knew that, being who I am, I needed support and encouragement along the way.
Thinking over the last few days, I remembered how deeply I’d resonated with this coach. She used many of the same words talking about business that we’d used talking about energy and spirituality. She even said that the most important thing in running your business is your energy!!
Another truth was that, in the midst of still feeling nervous and scared to death, I was also beginning to feel something new. It was like at dawn when the sky is gradually getting lighter and lighter.
As the feeling got stronger, I could identify it. It was freedom. It was that feeling I get when my inner guidance is saying, “Yes! Go this way.”
My next thought was, “Fuck, I have to do this.”
What I’d learned over the years was that, when my inner guidance tells me to make a specific choice, it’s absolutely worth all fear, discomfort and sometimes even pain involved.
And it still wasn’t easy to do. At all.
When the coach expressed her surprise at seeing I’d signed up, I sighed and said, “I had to. It scared me in just the right way.” She nodded with an understanding expression. Yeah, she got it. And it was definitely the right choice for me.
How Can You Know What to Do?
I think about this experience when someone’s telling to me why they aren’t going to do something.
There are definitely times when “no” is the appropriate answer to an invitation or request. I’m a huge proponent of self-care and not doing something because of a list of shoulds.
I also have a huge commitment to living fully, and that means saying “yes” to the things that are right for me, including when I don’t want to.
When I did an intensive leadership program, this meant that I continually volunteered to co-lead when I sucked at it. (And no, that isn’t self-deprecation or exaggeration. And yes, I did get better. In fact, it’s one of my strengths now.)
It meant signing up for pole dancing when my heart and body leapt at the thought. Again, it wasn’t because I was good at it. It was because it made me feel alive.
Time and again for myself and my clients, I’ve seen that there are 3 signs to show that your soul wants you to do something:
- At the very least, it’ll be uncomfortable. It may even feel scary, hard, inconvenient and undoable.
- In addition to that, you’ll have a sense of freedom when you think about it. It might be buried pretty deeply. If you sit with it, you’ll find it. It may feel like lightness, excitement or even relief.
- It’ll take you toward a goal you have or will be in alignment with your core values. In fact, getting in touch with these may help you choose that path, or understand why you’re choosing it.
So before you say “No” to something, really be with it. What are your values and goals? Is the “no” coming from your Safety Self, or your Inner Guidance?
If you’re saying no because of fear and discomfort, dig deeper. There may be gold just below that layer of dirt.