We live in a world filled with activity. Oftentimes it seems like it’s all happening at a frantic pace and it is easy for most of us (including me) to get stuck in just trying to keep up. In this world of full calendars, always being on our way to the next thing, and having constant distractions, it is easy to forget to listen to our gut.
When I say gut, I’m not talking about the bit of anatomy that is in charge of food and gets very upset after a misguided night of discount sushi. Instead, I’m talking about your intuition, your instincts, your knee-jerk reactions, your spontaneous knowledge.
In this busy world, it’s often all too easy to discount our intuition about all sorts of situations. We have a feeling that the weather is going to turn, but we decide to leave the warm coat at home. Our intuition says that car we are buying has got some issues, but we convince ourselves that the salesman wouldn’t sell us a junker. Maybe our instincts say that our significant other is lying to us but we ignore it, only to find out later that we were right.
How often have you said to yourself after something goes wrong “I knew that was going to happen, why did I do it anyway?” If you are like most people – it’s fairly often. And most of the time it isn’t a big deal, right? If I left my coat at home I’ll just deal with being a little cold. If the new car breaks, we just take it to the shop to fix it. If our significant other is lying then we can talk about it and still muddle through to make it work. Right? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that our gut is trying to talk to us about more than just the weather, it’s trying to help us lead the life we really want.
When I talk to a lot of my clients what I hear is that they know that there is something better for them out there. They know that they deserve something else, but they choose to ignore that gut feeling. What happens? They end up feeling hemmed in by a life that doesn’t quite seem to fit them.
Why is it so easy to disregard that important voice? I think it’s because we spend so much time in our heads, being amazing logical creatures, that we don’t give a whole lot of credence to that ‘mumbo jumbo nonsense’ about our inner voice. It might also be because, when the gut calls for change, we often have another voice that comes up – that of fear.
Yet, we all know that what the gut tells us is important. When it tells you that you are wasting your life in your current job, that if you don’t do something about your health you are going to die too young, or that you really need to save some money in case things go south, we know that it isn’t lying to us. Still, though, many of us discount it, choose to be ‘rational’ or listen to the fear, and stay stuck in the areas of our lives that aren’t serving us.
How can you step out of that cycle and start to move towards the life you really want?
First – have a feedback tool. For me, and many, the easiest way to do this is a journal. For some, it might be talking to an audio recorder (hello smartphones!), or talking out loud as you walk. If you have one of those incredibly rare friends who will just listen and not give you advice, talk to them. Try all of them and see what works. Go into it with a simple question in mind. Something like – What isn’t serving me right now? How could I be happier? or What needs to change?
Second – pay attention to what comes up. This is not the type of thing where you sit and journal once and then walk away with your whole life being different. You really have to pay attention to what your gut tells you through that feedback tool. Often, when I’m journaling, I start with a simple question, and then whatever answer comes up for me will turn into my next question. So, if the answer I get to “What isn’t serving me right now?” is ‘I am working too much and feeling burned out, missing my hobbies and friends,’ then my next question would be “Why am I working so much?” Then I write until my brain runs out of juice, ask another question and go again.
Third – recognize the limitations. Our intuition is a fine-tuned tool for helping us avoid danger. It’s what tells us not to turn down that alley at night, not to take the job even though the salary is amazing, and not to get involved with the creepy person who is just a little too friendly. Our intuition often tells us what we should avoid, not what we should run towards. So, if you are asking yourself the question ‘what would make me happy?’ and your gut isn’t responding – that is perfectly okay.
Lastly – take action! All of this does no good if you don’t act on it. Use your feedback tool to brainstorm ideas about what you could do other than what you are currently doing. After you’ve got a mighty list, pick two or three to try out, make a plan for them, and GET STARTED! It probably won’t be easy (although it might end up being easier than you think), and it won’t happen overnight, but creating action is the only thing that is going to move you forward. Find the folks who can help you define and execute your plan, then get out there and DO IT!