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Leading and Living from your Whole Body Yes


People who learn to honor their Whole Body Yeses report that they experience more vitality, physical and emotional well being, joy and creativity, and connection with others.

We've gathered the best resources here to help support you in leading and living from more of your Whole Body Yes.

F.A.Q.


What is a Whole Body Yes (WBY)?

A Whole Body Yes happens when you are fully aligned with your whole body (head, heart and gut) and there is a bodily sense of well being as you consider a choice.

How do I know what a Whole Body Yes feels like?

Each person has their own unique way they experience a Whole Body Yes. Use the exercises below to familiarize yourself with what a Whole Body Yes versus a No feels like for you. If you’re like most people, you’ll notice the difference in sensations between a Yes, a Big No, and Little No.

Build More Awareness of your Whole Body Yes

Whole Body Yes Guided Visualization

Whole Body Yes Visualization on Tim Ferriss Podcast


Explore your Three Intelligence Centers

Head 

Think of a time when you came to the logical conclusion that something made sense. Perhaps it was a choice after thoroughly considering an issue. Notice what it feels like in your body as you think of that memory.

Heart

Feel into your heart center and think of a decision that your heart was deeply aligned with. This might be described as an emotional longing or being emotionally passionate about something. When our heart says yes, we feel connected to something or someone. Take yourself back to that exact moment and notice how that feels in your body as you think of that scene. 

Gut

Drop into your gut, your instinctual center. Think back to a time when you knew instinctually “I want that” or “This is it.” Recall how good it felt to be this solid in your choice and notice how it feels in your body.

Self Guided Visualization Overview

Close your eyes and pay attention to how the sensations in your body change (constrictions, expansions, tension, relaxation, temperature, etc.) as you revisit the following memories in your mind:

  • “I’d love to live that again” or “I want (more of that) in my life” memory. This is what your Yes feels like. 
  • “I never want to experience that again” memory. This is what your Big No feels like.  
  • “Something I did out of obligation” memory i.e. agreed to go to a restaurant I don’t really like or said yes to a project that isn’t really interesting to me. This is what your Little No feels like.

What is valuable about living more from your Whole Body Yes and No?

People who learn to honor their Whole Body Yeses report that they experience more vitality, physical and emotional well being, joy and creativity, and connection with others.

What are the costs of not honoring your Whole Body Yes and No? 

  • Loss of vitality/aliveness
  • Exhaustion/burnout
  • Not being on purpose (more about this in a bit)
  • Not being in your full creativity
  • FOMO, which actually leads to missing out on the deepest, most meaningful  things in life.
  • Pseudo relationships. If we can’t be honest, our relationships will be somewhat inauthentic and built on pretense.
  • Resentment toward self and others
  • Chronic breaking of agreements with self and others

Specifically, what are the costs to my important relationships when I don’t honor my Yeses and Nos?

Whenever you do anything from “should” or “have to,” it leads to resentment. This includes saying Yes when you don’t really have a Yes. From obligation, you believe that “they are making you do it” and you aren't really free to choose. At first this resentment can be subtle, but over time, as you live and relate more and more from obligation, the resentment grows. 

Then entitlement shows up. It works like this: “I have been doing all of this for you, so you owe me. I’m entitled to get something in return for all that I have done for you.” This cycle shows up in all relationships, both personal and professional.

Read about The Antidote to Resentment and Entitlement (spoiler alert: it starts with Whole Body Yes).

What are some of the core fears that keep us from honoring our Yeses and Nos?

Fear of...

  • Missing out
  • Not being liked 
  • Losing control
  • Not having enough of something (time, money, achievements, etc)
  • Being excluded
  • Doing it wrong
  • Being unkind 
  • Being disloyal
  • Being insignificant
  • Being alone
  • Feeling heartbreak

What’s an example of what this looks like in the workplace?

Read this story of a leader making a hard staffing decision from his whole body that co-founder Diana Chapman shared.

What about things I just have to do that I don’t have a WBY to? (e.g. paying taxes, dishes, your role, working at this company, medical check-ups etc.)

You may not have a Yes to the action of filling out your tax forms, but you likely have a Yes to honoring the law and/or not paying fines. So you use that “Yes” to take action. Or you may not have a Yes to working in the role you are in, but have a Yes to staying in place to help the company launch its big product and build your resume. Or you may not have a yes to a colonoscopy procedure but you do have a yes to staying healthy.

If I’m scared does that mean I don’t have a WBY?

You can be scared and have a Whole Body Yes. In many cases, fear is an intelligence that is asking you to pay attention to what you need to learn as you take your next steps.

What if my head says Yes and I really like the idea, but I notice the feelings of a No in my body?

There are times when we’re excited about the idea of doing something and our mind says Yes. As we listen more deeply to the heart and body, there’s wisdom that says No. Anything other than an aligned Whole Body Yes (Yes from all three intelligence centers) is a No. 

What if my head says No and my body is saying Yes?

Check and see if the head is saying No because of fear of the unknown. Sometimes the mind automatically jumps to a No to avoid a feeling. We suggest you pause and address any aversions you might have from a state of threat, and then listen again for alignment. If you have questioned the mind and you're open to all options, and still the mind makes logical sense with its No, then we suggest you honor that as a No. 

Is my Whole Body Yes always loud and obvious?

At times it’s clear and unmistakable in its expression; sometimes it can be subtle and quiet. Sometimes it requires you to get very quiet yourself to sense it.

Are you suggesting I live this way all the time? That I only do things I have a WBY to and say No to everything else? 

We are inviting you to become aware of what is truly a Whole Body Yes versus a No for you. Then notice the costs of denying your No and create more opportunities to honor your Yeses and Nos.

What happens when I have a Whole Body Yes to two things that conflict and I have to choose one?

When we’re reactive, it often seems that we only have two options (either/or), yet there are ways to create a “both/and.” With curiosity and creativity we can often find a way to honor both yeses.  In those rare times where it doesn’t appear to be possible, then rely on your core values to decide which Yes to prioritize.

What tools can I use to practice on my own? 

We recommend you use these practices to build awareness of your whole body Yeses and Nos. 

Daily Energy Audit

Learn where your energy goes up and down throughout your day.

No Diet

Use this handout to learn to practice saying No. Learning to say No is key to living and leading from Whole Body Yes. To gain clarity on your Yes, practice saying No. 

​​No Diet


Train others around you to ask you if you have a Whole Body Yes to what you’re agreeing to support you to check in.

Use an app like MindJogger (iOs) or Randomly Remind Me (Android) to ask you multiple times a day to pause and check to see if you have a Whole Body Yes to what you are doing in the moment.

I don’t trust that I can use this for important decisions until I feel more confident in this skill. What are some ways that can I begin honoring my Whole Body Yes that don’t have significant consequences?

  • What day and time you have a meeting
  • Selecting which restaurant to choose and menu items to order
  • Walking or driving route options
  • Choosing a greeting card 
  • Deciding when to go to bed 
  • Defining by when you are willing to complete a task

What are the challenges different Enneagram types have saying Yes and No?

If you know your Enneagram type, you can use this to learn more about the specific challenges of your type saying Yes and No.

How do people internally justify saying yes when they don’t have a Whole Body Yes?

Rather than having a Whole Body Yes, many leaders give a “corporate nod,” nodding their head yes when they really mean one of the following (which would be Nos if they were following Whole Body Yes): 

  • I don’t really want to do that, but I can’t say so in this meeting.
  • I have no intention of doing that, but no one will ever follow up.
  • Sure. I’ll do that if I get to it, but I have a lot to do and this will fall low on my priority list.
  • I’m saying yes because I’m afraid to upset you if I tell you that I don’t want to.
  • I want to be seen as being valuable in others’ eyes, so I’ll say yes.

What do people say out loud that sounds like a Yes but may not be a Whole Body Yes?

  • Sure. If you really need me to do that I will.
  • If no one else is available I’ll do it.
  • I think I could find time to make it happen.
  • I’m good at that so I’ll take it on.
  • You can count on me!

What are thoughtful ways I can say an honest No to others? 

  • “I want you to know I thought about your request and have decided it’s not a good time right now for me to get involved. I feel a sense of loss that I won’t be working on this project with you. I hope there’ll be another opportunity to collaborate.” 
  • “I’d love to support you right now but I’m choosing to keep my focus on my current commitments. I imagine you might be disappointed, which would make sense. I notice I’m disappointed that my current priorities mean I don’t have time in my schedule to engage in the project.”
  • “I’m passionate about what you’re up to and sat for some time with your request. Right now I’m feeling fear about taking on too much and so I’m going to pass on this wonderful opportunity. I hope you’ll understand my need to keep balance in my life. I’m honored that you thought of me.”
  • “Wow, this opportunity sounds wonderful. I can sense the part of me that is scared I will miss out if I say no. However, I’m staying in devotion to my current mission and so I’m choosing to pass on the opportunity. I wish you well!”
  • “While I value you and the work you’re doing, it’s not fully aligned with my current mission. I’m concerned that you might not appreciate how challenging it is for me to say no, especially since you’ve supported me in many ways. I hope you’ll understand. I wish you every success.”
  • “I’m feeling some heartbreak about not saying yes to your ask. I’d love to engage with you if my circumstances were different. It’s important for me to stay in integrity with my current commitments and not to stretch myself too thin. I value our connection and hope you’ll understand.”   
  • “I appreciate you thinking of me. I don’t have a yes to doing this right now.”
  • “As I tune in, I notice I don’t experience an uprising of energy that I’ve come to expect when I’m fully aligned with something, so I’m going to pass.”
  • “I’m disappointed because my head says yes, but my gut says no. I’ve learned to really trust my gut in situations like this, so it’s a no.”
  • “I’d like to say no for now and I’ll get back to you if I change my mind.”
  • “It sounds like a great opportunity. I don’t like saying no, but I’m going to prioritize handling what I already have on my plate.”

Why else do people struggle with saying No?


Avoiding Discomfort in the Body

For many of us, honoring our yeses and no can generate feelings of fear, sadness, frustration, joy, and creative feelings. These feelings show up as sensations in the body that can be uncomfortable. For example, swirling in the stomach and heaviness in the chest. Even too much pleasure can feel disorienting. The resolution to this challenge is to become more emotionally intelligent and learn to easefully move sensations through the body.

Codependent Relationships 

A simple definition of a codependent relationship is, “I’ll take care of you...be responsible for your happiness, and you’ll take care of me and be responsible for my happiness.” One of the cardinal rules is that I won’t do anything to upset you because upsetting you is a violation of our agreement. Saying no to a request you make is a sure fire way to upset you; our unspoken code is that I won’t do that. In co-committed relationships (the opposite of codependent) several commitments are foundational to our relationship. They include:

  • I commit to be responsible for my own well-being and happiness and I don’t look to you to make me happy or keep me happy
  • I’m responsible for my feelings, not you. You don’t make me feel anything. I create my own feeling experience by what I’m believing about reality.
  • I commit to feel my feelings all the way through to completion and to support you to do the same, including when we say no to each other.
  • I commit to reveal my authentic self including my thoughts, feelings, wants and desires. This includes what I want to do and don’t want to do. I reveal myself so that you can know me, not so that I can be right, defend, justify or explain.  
  • I commit to living in my full creative expression in the world and supporting you to do the same.
  • I commit to living from a Whole Body Yes and supporting you to do the same as a means of being fully alive, available for creative expression and to connection, on purpose and aligned.

Outsourcing our Core Wants/Needs

Another reason we think we’re afraid to say no is that we’re outsourcing our core wants/needs. All humans have core wants: approval, control, security. and When we think that these wants/needs are not being met we experience a sense of lack. This lack drives us to get these wants met from the outside, especially from other people. People devoted to consciousness learn that these three wants can only be met internally through a genuine unshakable experience of OK-ness. Not having an inner knowing that your core wants are always already met leads you to say yes even when you don’t have a Whole Body Yes. For example:

Approval

If you don’t feel a deep sense of internal approval, OKness (being liked, loved, valued, wanted) then you need others to approve of you. When you think that saying no to them will create disapproval you won’t say no. In fact, you actually can’t say no, because to do so presents an existential threat to your wellbeing.

Security

Security is the desire to survive and to be safe. People don’t say no in the workplace because they believe that their security/survivability is tied to their job and their paycheck. If you believed this, you’d be crazy to say no to anyone who could affect your compensation or employment. It would be going against your basic needs for survival. Humans believe that to survive they must be part of the tribe/pack and if saying no creates the possibility of being kicked out of the pack they will not say no.

Control

Most humans are trying to control people and circumstances all the time. Whether it’s the traffic or their download speed or whether others will purchase their product or like them. Feeling out of control can be terrifying, so we’re devoted to controlling. One reason we don’t say no is that we want to control others. We want to control their experience of us: what they think and feel about us, what they say about us to others, whether they want to be with us, work with us, and so on. This mindset leads us to being far more interested in maintaining control (or more precisely the illusion of control) than in being real, authentic, open, honest.

Lacking a Clear Purpose

People who are clear about their purpose are generally more willing to say No. Once you’re clear about what you're up to, your purpose becomes a useful filter for discerning what you say yes and no to. For example, our core purpose at CLG is to support the expansion of conscious leadership in the world. When someone asks if we would spend time on a project that isn’t aligned with this purpose, we say no. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes we feel more torn. Always it’s a No. Learn more about living on purpose.

Where did this idea of Whole Body Yes come from?

We learned about Whole Body Yes from Gay and Katie Hendricks at The Hendricks Institute.  

How do I get supported in living from my Whole Body Yes? 

We’ve found that one-on-one coaching is the most effective way to get support with finding your whole body yes. Our team of coaches is available to guide leaders in this practice. Click here to learn more. We’d love to support you.


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