“You will never follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind.” ~Roy T. Bennett
One evening my husband and I decided that we, along with our daughter, would go together to a neighboring town about thirty minutes away the following morning. He had an errand to run, and I was going to take our daughter to a nearby playground.
The morning arrived, and as I thought about it, I had a wave of feeling/thought that said, “I don’t really want to go,” or maybe it was more like, “I’d rather just stay around here because that would be more fun.” All I can say is that there was an inner nudge that told me not going would lead to a happier outcome.
Instead of going with my gut, though, I asked my daughter if she wanted to go to the playground, and when she said yes, I let that change my mind. (She’s four! Of course she wants to go to the playground!)
We piled into the car and headed to the highway. Before you get any ideas about this being a horror story about a car accident or other life-altering incident, let me assure you that nothing terrible happened. Just something that showed me I need to keep up my practice of listening to that inner voice we all have.
We dropped my husband off and went to the playground. It was fine, I guess, but sort of frustrating: My daughter played for maybe five minutes before asking to go to the bathroom. After that, she said she was ready to leave the playground and have a snack in the car. It had been all of fifteen minutes.
We got back in the car and drove to the spot where my husband was. After fifteen or twenty minutes of us waiting for him in the car, he came out, kind of a in a grumpy mood, and we debated who would drive back home.
I have a story about not wanting to drive when my husband is in the car. I tell myself he makes me self-conscious and I’d rather just have him drive. I was already in the driver’s seat, though, and he didn’t seem to care either way, so I stayed where I was.
As soon as I started backing out of the parking lot he told me to watch out. He was worried about me hitting someone. I got annoyed, but kept going.
When we got to the road, I had to make a tricky left turn. It’s a spot where people are coming from all directions, and there happened to be a police officer waiting to pull out across the way from us.
I was about to go, but a car came quickly around the bend. I felt like I was out too far and started to back up a little, then my husband said, “What are you doing!?” That did not go over well with me.
I got a little hysterical, feeling trapped. I couldn’t make the turn, I couldn’t back up, and my husband refused to switch places with me because he thought the police officer across the way would be suspicious.
I ended up yelling and freaking out, even dropping an f-bomb, which is so not the way I want to act, ever, but especially not in front of my kid.
I finally made the turn, then got off the next exit and asked my husband to drive. Sitting in the passenger seat it hit me: My inner voice said I’d probably have more fun staying close to home, and I realized it was almost certainly right.
The trip to the playground was a bust, my daughter and I had to spend a bunch of time in the car (half an hour both ways plus the time waiting for my husband) to do basically nothing, and my husband and I ended up having a bit of a blowout.
I couldn’t have predicted how the day would go, but I knew in the morning I felt like taking it easy, and instead, I put myself in situations that had the potential to be stressful.
It’s not that anything awful or life-altering happened; it was just a clear example of how going against what felt right, what felt like the most fun, ended up being not the best choice for me. And I was particularly annoyed because I’ve been dedicating time and attention lately to listening to my intuition.
Overall, though, I have been getting better at tuning in and heeding the advice of my inner guidance. Here’s what I’ve done over the years to get better at it.
I regularly check in with my body.
My body is so much smarter than I am. She knows when she’s had enough to eat and she knows when a situation isn’t the right one for me. Experiences that don’t align with my innermost desires result in me having a tight feeling in my chest or a churning feeling in my stomach, and if things go on long enough, I’ve been known to manifest physical symptoms that send me to the doctor.
I once ignored my intuition about taking a job. I only lasted there a year, and I was sick constantly. It’s rare for me to get sick at all, so this was just a confirmation of what I’d worried about from the beginning. The body knows, even when the mind isn’t willing to acknowledge it yet.
I started looking at what made me feel light and happy.
Like the body, emotions are an incredible guide for showing us where to turn next. If something makes you feel alive and excited, then go in that direction! If something makes you feel low-energy and sad, it’s time to change course.
I look for the next right step instead of trying to figure out a thirty-year plan.
Our minds want to have all of the answers right now, period. If you feel excited about a new and completely different career path but your mind can’t figure out how it can earn you a living, you may shut it down completely, ignoring your intuition and probably squelching your happiness.
These days, I just try to figure out the next right step, the one for this moment, rather than trying to see how it will play out when I’m eighty. Sometimes the next right step is for me to go to sleep instead of thinking about it anymore!
If I’m frazzled and worrying about a million things that are work or business related, I slow myself down and ask what has to be done right now. The answer is usually something simple, like answer this email or take a break for lunch and come back when I feel refreshed. If you take it moment by moment, it truly slows things down and simplifies them.
I do the thing that makes me feel good whenever possible.
It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s often much easier to get done what you need to when you follow the path of what feels best. For instance, one evening I needed to write a blog post, but I just wasn’t feeling it.
Instead of forcing myself to do it, I made some art and watched some TV. After maybe an hour I felt jazzed up and good, and it was incredibly easy (and fast!) to write the blog post.
I ask questions with the intention of getting an answer.
Instead of walking around all day thinking “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do,” I now make a point of asking, either in writing or in my head, “What’s the best thing for me?” It takes practice, but you’ll get answers, even if they’re subtle.
I can hear you wondering, “What am I supposed to do when I have to do something, but my intuition says it’s a no-go?”
I’m the mom of a young kiddo, and even though I don’t always feel like getting up with her at the crack of dawn, or peeling the skin off her apple, or watching that episode of a cheesy cartoon with her one more time, I usually still do it.
Time with her at this age (and in general) is fleeting, and to combat the feeling of obligation I remind myself that I chose this life. I also check in to see what I can do in any given moment to make sure I’m getting some feel-good time for myself. I think it’s important for her to see me enjoying my life and making choices that support my well-being.
I know there are lots and lots of obligations we feel tied to, but I believe if your intuition is telling you over and over again that this is not right for you, you must start to listen and let it go.
Perhaps you feel you can’t give up this obligation right this second, but how can you move away from it? How can you take on more of what feels joyful and right for you and less of what feels burdensome and heavy? Just do it a little at a time, if that’s what feels best.
I’m really passionate about this subject, and it’s because I have seen how much my life has improved by going with my gut. I’ve also seen what happens when I don’t, even if it’s minor like the incident I described.
When I see and hear other people struggling with decisions or doing something big (like getting married!) even when it doesn’t feel quite right, I want to reach out and hug them and tell them that going with their intuition will always pay off in the end, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense in the moment.
You already know the answer; you just have to listen.