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When Martha Beck and I spent the day together recently, I wound up getting an impromptu coaching session while sitting in the lobby of the hotel after a full day of filming a documentary that features us both. Since I’m the luckiest woman on the planet to benefit from life coaching from Martha, I wanted to share what she taught me because I know it applies to many of you.

How many times per day do you get asked to do something you either don’t want to or don’t have time to do? Personally, a part of me has come to dread my email inbox because it’s so full of sweet, generous invitations from kind people who want something from me.

Speak at this telesummit. Keynote our conference. Give me advice about my sick child. Write the foreword for my book. Help me with my book launch. Promote my teleclass with me. Give me suggestions for how to get more traffic to my blog. 
 
I want to be useful. Many of these people are SO nice. And yet, there’s only so much of me, and if I say yes to everyone, I wind up neglecting the people I love most, my health suffers, and I get so busy that I lose my capacity to find the stillness within me.

What Motivates a Horse?

Martha knows this about me. I’ve been in the ring with Martha and the horses being the blessed recipient of the kind of equine therapy we do with the doctors in the Whole Health Medicine Institute (you can read all about it here). So I knew exactly what she meant when Martha said, “Lissa, horses don’t do favors.”

Duh. Of course they don’t.

When you enter the ring with a horse, the horse will only “join up” with you if the horse reads the energy you exude and genuinely wants to join up. If the horse doesn’t like what it reads of your energy, the horse will turn away and try to get out of the ring without a lick of concern about hurting your feelings.

Horses are not people pleasers. They’re not horse pleasers either. They aren’t motivated by the desire to be liked or even to be helpful. But they are motivated by clean, positive energy. If they read that in you, they’ll bump their life force up against yours and basically mimic everything you do—happily. 

When to Say Yes, When to Say No

So what should we do when trying to decide whether or not to say yes to someone who wants something from us? Martha says we must be like horses.

What does that mean? When you notice an impulse to say yes, when you’re feeling like you want to help, check in with your motivations. Are you saying yes because the person who is asking has such pure, radiant energy that you want to bump up your life force against theirs (clean energy)? Or, are you motivated by wanting to be liked, a desire to please, a sense of obligation, or guilt (dirty energy)?

What if it’s okay to never do favors?

What if we only said yes because we wanted to bump up against clean energy?

What Motivates Visionaries?

When I returned from World Domination Summit, and everyone else was posting inspiring blog posts about how they were going to change the world, I felt weighted with what felt like an important question: What motivates visionaries to want to save the world?

Are we motivated by a noble, clean impulse to save the world because we genuinely care? Or are we motivated by dirty energy stemming from an underlying sense of unworthiness that spurs us to make the world a better place?

Either way, the end result can be a good thing, but how we feel about the work we’re doing will feel very different depending on whether we’re motivated by clean versus dirty energy. If we’re like horses, drawn toward being helpful because it lights up our life force, our work will fill—and fulfill—us. If we’re motivated by a deep seated sense of not being good enough, our visionary work is likely to deplete us.

Putting This Into Practice

After absorbing what Martha was teaching me, I invited myself to put this into practice where I find it hardest—my inbox. The first four requests for my time tempted me to say yes—but only because I wanted to please those asking me for favors. The fifth was a request for support from someone whose life force is so bright and sparkly that, even though he wasn’t asking for it, I offered to spend a whole day bumping my life force up against his, motivated by a pure desire to help him generate even more beautiful clean energy.

Since then, I’ve been ruthless, gently saying “NO” any time I’m noticing my shadowy motivations—the tendency to sell out my own desires in order to please others.

Do you have these same tendencies? What would happen if you only said yes when you really want to?

Try it…I dare you…

Practicing “no,”

Lissa Rankin


Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself. Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities—HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.

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* Photo Credit: Eduardo Amorim via Compfight cc