Follow Your Heart – Being Truthful to Yourself and Others

Always follow your heart, making the choices that serve you well first and foremost!

I plan the blog post topics ahead of time. After all, planning is one of the keys to repeated success. It turns out there is just one problem with that. When you write from the heart and when the way you feel about the subject at hand changes mid-course, you need a new plan and you need one fast!

This post was going to be about what I anticipated would be the unforgettable yoga workshops by Anusara master John Friend. I was certain there would be a sea of new lessons to impart on yoga and on life. I even expected this knowing that these workshops were going to be different from the type of yoga I generally enjoy and practice; I wanted to appreciate differences nonetheless. After all, John Friend is a world-class revered yoga teacher. When I took two of his classes at the Omega Institute, I recall being impressed by his knowledge about body alignment and his teaching on how to find comfort and challenge in any pose.

Lifted Lotus Yoga Pose

That was 7 years ago and either memory serves me poorly or else his yoga workshops last weekend were geared toward an entirely different purpose, one that I sadly was neither able to comprehend nor fully appreciate. I was sorely disappointed.

What to do when circumstances fall short on meeting your expectations in life? In some irony, I am taking John Friend’s own advice from the lectures in transforming the energy of that frustration and disappointment into an energy of innovation. I am turning that disappointment into writing about the importance of being true to your own heart and making choices in life that serve you well first and foremost.

Anusara yoga has a strong following where I live. Over the years, I have tiptoed into it many times; I would learn about body alignment here and there but the pace was always too slow for me and the mid-class lectures would disrupt the flow of my yoga energy. The truth is that I am simply not in love with Anusara the way I am in love with Baron Baptiste power yoga and Ashtanga yoga. And for me, indifference or casual affection in life just won’t do; you must be in love with something to give it your all. You must feel it beat to the rhythm of your heart, whatever it may be. Then and only then do you know it belongs with you.

After this weekend, my hesitation on saying no to Anusara is over and my exploration of this type of yoga has reached its end. Ten hours of lectures and teachings later, I have given it more than a fair try and will now be able to close the door.

In the process, I have realized the greatest – and simplest – lesson of all, following my own heart. A thought process, a mental exploration and a reaching of clarity. It seems that lessons did materialize from my experience after all. May they resonate with you as they did with me:

Let the Heart Choose Between Originality or Popularity

There are those who never follow the crowd and those who always follow the crowd. I think the most useful guideline is to not follow the crowd just for the sake of popularity and to not stray from it just for the sake of being different. Do things because they beat to the rhythm of your own heart, be it the most popular thing or the least. Be original if you must even if your heart’s desire is obscure to the masses. For me, originality stomps popularity if and only if it is what my heart desires. The combinations of all the choices which are your heart’s truest desires will most likely make you an original person anyway because we are all unique. So choose carefully and choose well and always follow your heart.

Hesitation of your Mind is a Sign

Listening to your heart and understanding of the self takes conscious effort. Sometimes, you may only hear a faint voice or you may only get weak signals. You must be in tune with your inner self and listen carefully. Are you really excited about the things you are doing or do you sense a hesitation that you can’t quite explain? There is a good place for curiosity; it is the element that pushes us to explore in life. Curiosity then gives way to passion when you stumble upon the right thing. You will be jumping up and down with joy and feeling anticipation and excitement every time you pursue that new passion. If you hesitate, time and again, before you do something, you must be doing it for less than ideal reasons.

Knowing the difference between Respect and Love

To respect something is not the same as to love it. You can certainly feel both on many occasions but remember to distinguish between them when they are mutually exclusive (one or the other but not both!). You can respect what your friends’ are pursuing even if you have no interest in those pursuits for you. You can respect what others highly recommend for you to do, knowing full well that you cannot love those pursuits either. Showing respect to all things while choosing only the things which you love, that is the way to follow your heart and to be true to both yourself and others.

Learning how to Say No without Hurting Feelings

Have you struggled with saying no in your life like I have? It is easy to say no with excuses and it is easy to say yes without being truthful to yourself and others but to just say no, an honest heart-felt no, without hurting others’ feelings, without showing disrespect, now that requires guts and a few well-thought-out phrases.

In the process, try to avoid taking shortcuts. These tactics in the long term do not serve you or others well when faced with awkward requests:

Apologizing for who you are or what you want
Making up excuses rather than saying no
Delaying an Answer
Ignoring a Response altogether

Instead, be firm and truthful with kindness. These phrases below have served me well in saying no without guilt in many of life’s awkward moments:

When a close friend asks you get involved in a cause or a charity or volunteer effort outside your interests and passions:
“I am so happy for you that you are engaging in these activities and pursuing your interests. I will not be able to join you with the same passion but I am here to fully support you and cheer you on.”

When an opportunity arises through your well-established connections and you want to turn it down:
“I am so flattered and honored for this opportunity; I’m afraid it is not a good match for my skills and what I am able to offer but I wish you the best in finding the ideal candidate for the job.”

When a friend asks you to join them on an activity which does not interest you:
“I hope you have a fantastic time and thank you for asking me to go along. I will be opting out of this one. Unfortunately it does not align with my passions and interests.”

When a parent or a spouse or a partner asks you to pursue something with them and you really don’t want to hurt feelings:
“My darling, I am so very happy that you have found your passions and you know you have all of my support and devotion to your success. I wish I had the same passion in this as I do in {these other things} but I want to hear all about your adventures.”

What a fantastic relief it is to be true to your own heart, to make a decision and take a stand on an issue and do it all by opening your ears and listening carefully to yourself. What others wish for you to achieve is nice and flattering but you have one life to live and one lifetime in which to do it all and you should always be the path of your own making.

Share your thoughts:

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your perspective on your success or struggles in following your heart, being truthful to yourself while being kind and respectful to others.

Yoga Chaturanga pose with Quote

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  • sooski

    Brilliant tips on how to say “No” truthfully! :)

    • Farnoosh

      Sahar, they always work and they tell the truth – thank you :)!

  • Raam Dev

    I loved this Farnoosh! I think you made an important point about lessons materializing even after you pushed onward with something you didn’t fully enjoy.

    Sometimes the lessons we need in life can only be found by walking down the wrong path. It’s like walking down a dead-end road to grab a key that we need to open the next door on our journey.

    • Farnoosh

      Raam, thank you and I love your analogies. A key to a door that will then open the next door. I have no doubt you run into this in your wild and crazy adventures around the world with a backpack and a big brave heart. Thanks for sharing your thoughts from half-way around the world!

  • Keith Davis

    Hi Farnoosh
    “What to do when circumstances fall short on meeting your expectations in life?” – now that is one big question.
    One of the problems is that we all look for heroes in our life, role models, someone to look up to, someone to emuate.
    For you it was your yoga teacher and when he fell short, your hero was suddenly human.
    One of my heroes was someone I used to ski with. He made skiing look effortless. Deep snow, ice, steep terain, he always looked in control.
    One day he told me that he felt as though he was skiing really badly – suddenly my hero was human.
    Even our heroes have bad days!

    • Farnoosh

      Keith, indeed, he fell short and I hardly regarded him as a “hero” but many people did and do. I think it really comes down to what we want to see in our heroes. Yes he is definitely human (and humans err and that he did many times ;))! but alas, I am going to make the best of it. Thanks for the ski story. Well-said though: Even our heroes have bad days!

  • Lance

    Hi Farnoosh,
    I attended a leadership/self awareness workshop last fall (in NC!!) – and one of the big take aways for me was exactly this – getting to that point of saying “no” to those things which didn’t align with me. (so…yes, I have been there…to that spot of saying “yes” all too often). What I’ve found, since then, is that I’ve become much more connected to what matters to me. Do I still sometimes say yes when I should say no? Probably – although it’s a lot less than it used to be. And I just really feel so much more at peace with everything.

    So – I’m happy for you. Happy that you tried something, recognized it wasn’t the right thing for you, and moved on. Farnoosh, I really get a feeling from you that you “care”. And that’s you, shining in those things that have deep meaning for you. It’s so, so good to see…

    And…wow!! I just love the photos you’ve shared here today!

    • Farnoosh

      Lance, my most cheerful friend, you were in NC for a leadership class, ha? What a small world!! I think you told me about this trip – and are you now suggesting I teach leadership classes ;)!!
      Thank you for sharing in the excitement. It’s brilliant to turn those disappointments into pure learning pleasure. And I love the photos too. Pascal did such a nice job with my yoga photo shoot!! Thank you for the wonderful comment here.

  • Sandra Lee

    Farnoosh, this is a beautiful post, one of my favorites! “Follow only the rhythm of your own heart always” and “Be what you seek” are profound reminder phrases. You bring so much beauty through your blog, which inspires me greatly. May you continue on the path of self awareness through all your lives. Thank you.

    • Farnoosh

      Sandra, *blush* – thank you. I am so happy to have touched you. I was determined to make something out of my weekend workshops and in reading comments like yours I am entirely fulfilled. Thank you and many same wishes to you.

  • rob white

    Hi Farnoosh,
    You certainly found a gold nugget in your disappointment. The secret to success to be sure! When we make it our conviction to learn from every situation, we glean lessons from our disappointments. We discover that there is far more out there in life that is for us than against us, no matter how rocky the terrain may appear to be. The golden nugget in any disappointment is always the insight it offers us.

    • Farnoosh

      Hey Rob, what a great phrase….yes a gold nugget I found. I am going to quote you “far more out there in life FOR us than AGAINST us”! Beautiful words, my friend.

  • J.D. Meier

    I bet you were in the zone when you wrote this. Your words flow so well and hit the nail on the head.

    I like how you elaborate the point of testing things out, being open and respectful, but ultimately following your heart and leading the life you want to live, on your terms.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi J.D., I was! Did I give it away? Thank you for reading and for taking so much away. Yes, test things out but do ultimately follow that heart. Many, many people loved those workshops and I am ultimately all the better for having taken them, albeit for different reasons than what I had anticipated. Thank you for saying hi and sharing your thoughts!

  • Keith

    Hi Farnoosh!

    I’m sorry the workshop was a disappointment for you, but you know what?

    I’m kinda glad it was because what you have written here is REAL. You know what I mean? It is pure and full of the energy with which you wrote it. I read the comments of others on this article and I know they felt the same thing. We all have received something from this and perhaps much more than we may have otherwise had you written favorably about the workshop. These words flowed directly from your heart and the passion is tangible.

    Thanks so much for all you shared here. It is truly helpful!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Keith, welcome back here and thank you for identifying those great points. I did write this from the bottom of my heart – because all that energy had to go somewhere useful :)! – Thank you thank you. I am so happy this was helpful.

  • Dia

    If we don’t follow our heart then who will? I find that whenever I follow my heart, things seem to go right. Unfortunately, many times people follow what others want and end up not happy.

    Brilliant post as always :) Thanks for sharing Farnoosh

    • Farnoosh

      Dia, no one will probably follow our heart if we don’t – and then what a shame, what a loss at what could be such greatness. I am so happy you read the articles and find them “brilliant” even – *blush* and thank you!

  • Rebekah

    What a gift, this freedom in life to pursue wholeness, and these thoughts of yours come in a timely season for me. Thank you for another inspiring blog!

    • Farnoosh

      Rebekah, that alone makes it worth all the effort it takes to think, plan, write, edit, review, publish and share these ideas…..I’d do it again and again if it inspired even just one single person especially in their time of need so you are quite welcome!

  • Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills

    Hi Farnoosh, this was really good. If we are not aligned with self we will be out of alignment with everything else. The only person we were designed to be is that unique and special individual that is looking back at us from the mirror of our heart.

    • Farnoosh

      Jonathan, so happy to have your stamp of approval :)! Thank you for articulating it so well. How can we get everyone to follow this? So much potential for pure happiness …thanks for sharing and validating my thoughts here.

      • Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills

        To follow ones heart requires that a person know their heart. Not just their wants, but also their deepest values and passions. I think this is where the resistance lives. Most people don’t know where to start or how to go about discovering who they really are. All too often there are unrecognized walls, limiting beliefs, and misconceptions blocking the way the way. Get past those and everything open up.

  • Deana

    Hi Farnoosh –
    Great post – appreciated your honest reaction to the workshop (bummer that it was a disappointment but good that you gave it a chance and saw it through and that it wasn’t for you. Now you know, and that’s valuable in itself) – and good lessons on being truthful. I often have a hard time saying no – not saying “the truthful no” because I’m worrying about hurting feelings or letting someone else down. I’ll have to practice saying some of those phrases…It’s pretty helpful to see the concrete examples.

    • Farnoosh

      Deana, honesty before everything, right? I would love to know if those phrases come in handy. I have read about them, heard about them from coaches, and made them up over the years to find a way to be true to myself and yet not let people down. There IS a way to do both. Thank you so much for the encouragement here. On to the next yoga workshop for better results. :)!

  • Hulbert Lee

    Hi Farnoosh, I have always believed that we should follow our intution or what our heart is telling us. I like how you brought up hesitation as a sign. I think when you hesitate too often to take a certain action, you should rethink if that action is one that you really want to take. Usually, if you follow what your body is telling you though, you’ll go with the right decision. Thanks for another great post!

    • Farnoosh

      Hey Hulbert…..Hesitation is such a giveaway! I am glad I was not the only one experiencing it when things were just not right….always listen to ourselves. Great advice. Thank you for stopping by…

  • Armen Shirvanian

    Hi Farnoosh.

    I like where you discern between respect and love, and say that we should show respect for all items and only love those ones that we desire. That makes sense and is completely doable.

    Those example responses you provided really get the message across about being direct and nice. There are people that will take any “no” in a bad way, but there are very few of them. Most who hear a “no” are later glad that the other person didn’t say yes just to appease or seem friendly.

    It is cool that your articles now have black and red and blue text colors in them, and solid subheadings, and indented regions and so on. This does a lot to enliven the message.

    Hesitation of the mind sure is a sign. When I hesitate to do something, there is always some reason I try to ignore that is causing it. I might hesitate to make a certain recipe because I feel like I am missing an ingredient in the back of my mind.

    Folks who are truthful with themselves win more often.

    • Farnoosh

      Armen, you read every word, don’t you? :)
      Yes, there is such a difference between respect and love – and saying “no” is still a challenge even for me but at least I know I share it with so many others. Oh and I am so glad you like the formatting – so there if of course the header format in Thesis (or it might be WordPress) and I try to highlight and bold some key phrases so if someone does not have time to read everything, they should gather the key messages by quickly perusing the article with those words. There was logic behind it, I promise :)!
      So nice and reassuring to read your thoughts on everything I wrote. Thank you!

  • Sibyl – alternaview

    Hi Farnoosh: I really liked this post and couldn’t agree more that we need to learn how to hear that voice within us (even if at first it is faint) and then follow it. There is something amazing about finding your own answers and living out your own truth and we should always make certain we are doing both. Thank you for the sharing your thoughtful post and insights. I really enjoyed it.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Sibyl, thank you thank you – “living out your own truth” – I love how you phrased it, much better than anything I said…..That faint voice inside. So nice to hear that you listen for it too…..

  • Roman Soluk

    Very true and nice words! Thanks a lot for them!

    • Farnoosh

      Roman, you are back again :) You are so welcome…..Thank you for reading.

  • Phil – Less Ordinary Living

    Farnoosh –

    I love your flexibility in turning a disappointment into a moment of wisdom. Thanks for listening to your heart and sharing this. A great tutorial on saying no with grace and dignity here too. I really enjoyed this post as always.


    • Farnoosh

      Phil, it wasn’t easy but I had to make something positive and memorable to come out of my weekend – and sometimes the outcome is most unexpected. Grace and dignity – great choice of words. I am so glad to hear you enjoyed it. Thanks for saying so!

  • Michael

    Hi everybody, If you are a fan of Baptiste power yoga, the next time you are in the Seattle area visit Shakti Vinyasa Yoga in either Bellevue or Ballard. Lisa Black is a master Baptiste instructor bringing joy and care as well as a highly talented collection of teachers to her studios.

    The place was an oasis for me during a very difficult time. Peace.

    • Farnoosh

      Michael, I was in Seattle in October and loved it. I tried a yoga class and it was good but I would love to go to a Baptiste style so noted big time….thank you for the great tip and welcome to prolific living!

  • Negar

    Thank you for this informative post! It was quite inspiring (as are all your posts!). This is by far my favorite quote from the post, “And for me, indifference or casual affection in life just won’t do; you must be in love with something to give it your all. ” No words ring more true!

    • Farnoosh

      Negar, you are so welcome…..! You can quote that anytime, anywhere you like….Thank you for commenting here with your lovely thoughts!

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  • kavya

    Brilliant. Thanks for clearing somethings for me. I always believed in originality, but sometimes it becomes hard to make choice and now i can practice how to do it :)