To make choices we usually need to evaluate the facts, but we must also respond to gut feelings that give us information. Together, these can make up our inner compass.
But most of us at one time or another dismiss the gut feelings. We have all sorts of reasons for doing so. We’re scared, or we don’t really want to do the work required of us. (This happens a lot to storybook heroes at the beginning of a journey, right before they accept a challenge and go on a wonderful adventure). Maybe we aren’t willing to give up on a dream in which we’ve invested a lot of effort.
We all know this feeling of self-dismissal, and it looks something like this:
Inner Feeling: I’ve been tense all week. This feels awful. Thought: I have got to talk to my boss about the workload—it’s an unreasonable amount and I can’t keep up. I need to let him know and ask for changes.
Rationalization: Do I really need to talk to him? It’s probably better just to suck it up and keep going.
A few people are so prone to action that they quickly move beyond the rationalization, and forge ahead. But for the majority of us, that’s tough to do. It’s okay not to jump in immediately, but it’s worth learning how to get better at following where the compass directs us. Here are a few useful ways I’ve learned for how to get there:
1. Get clarity around why you are rejecting the inner voice. Just knowing the reason—I’m scared, I’m feeling lazy, I’m mad and want things to be different—is a good start.
2. Find someone you trust who can hold you accountable. This could be a friend, partner, colleague or coach. You can share your gut feelings, and they can help you sort out what’s important, and, when you decide on a course, help make sure that you follow through.
3. Actually follow through. Take the direction you sense is right. You could start with a small decision, but make sure you are taking some sort of risk. After you’ve followed your intuition, reflect on the result. Did it turn out as you wanted? Would you do it differently next time? How did it feel to take that leap?
The more you do this, the easier it will get. You’ll be able to look back at past successes, and thank your inner compass for being true.