The Power of “Nah, I’m Good.”

The Emperor sent his men to bring the Taoist sage, Chuang Tzu, back to the palace so he could serve and provide good counsel to the Emperor. Of course, Chuang Tzu declined the honor when the soldiers found him sitting in the dirt at the foot of a shade tree.

The soldiers demanded he explain his refusal and Chuang Tzu replied, “Do you recall the massive tortoise shell on the wall above the Emperor’s throne? That turtle was sitting in the mud when he was captured and taken to the palace to be sacrificed.

“It was, of course, a great honor. But don’t you think that turtle would have preferred to be left alone in his pool of mud?”

“Of course,” replied the soldiers.

“Than leave me in my pool of mud,” Chuang Tzu replied.

One of the most powerful tools in our “mental health” arsenal is the ability to decide what we care about. This, in theory, is simple…but practice is significantly harder. Everywhere we look, someone is metaphorically screaming for attention. Regardless if it’s an advertisement telling you to buy the newest gadget, or best clothes, or perhaps it’s someone asking you to devote time and energy to caring about their political stances, someone is looking for you to devote your cares to theirs.

While this may all seem well and good, it’s a huge drain on our sense of well-being and energy. Most of us do not reach a place of mental strain because we’re apathetic. On the contrary, it may often stem from the fact that we care entirely too much.

There’s a few articles and books about the different aspects of the psychology of “no” as a statement and how it can be done in a compassionate way if you struggle with being a “yes person.” Personally, I’d think that the most important thing to consider is that a lot of times, we say yes to things that we know we don’t want. I personally have taken a job promotion before when I was perfectly content where I was. It took about 1 and a half years before I was looking for a new career, because the commitment level was entirely higher than my own priorities dictated.

Perhaps, we could all do to say, “Then leave me in my mud,” more often.


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