You will never follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind.
— Roy T. Bennett, author, The Light in the Heart
Listening to your inner thoughts is difficult when the voices are so loud. It’s that feeling when negative chatter clouds your head, and you don’t know what to believe. You can’t get clarity on making a decision because your “gut” tells you one thing and your fear shouts another. “Be careful!” it says, and it stops you in your tracks.
Wiktionary defines gut reaction as “An instantaneous reaction made without thought.” For example:
“When he saw that lion leaping towards him, his gut reaction was to run.”
The gut feeling and subsequent reaction are derived from your past experiences and how your body processes the thought or event. You actually feel it “in your gut.” Your heart jumps, and you might feel fear. Once your mind kicks in to analyze it, you can either react… or not.
It’s an important reaction we rely on to make decisions, sometimes the most important decisions of our lives.
However, in an article by Geil Browning in INC, she says, “Going with our gut implies uncertainty and does not guarantee a good outcome.”
She suggests honing your gut instincts by sharpening your intuition.
When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense.
— Kahlil Gibran, writer, and poet, The Prophet
The dictionary defines intuition as “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” People often call it “a feeling.” It’s an intimate moment between your mind and emotion when you just know. Your intuition is your soul speaking. It feels like a calm and clear message.
Even though gut instinct and intuition are often thought of as the same, each one serves a different purpose and plays an essential role in guiding your life.
Gut instinct often feels similar to the “fight or flight” reaction we might have in a new or dangerous situation.
Gut instinct, intuition, fight or flight… what can you trust?
Not long ago, I had to attend a new networking event, one where I didn’t know anyone but the organizer.
When I walked in, I glanced around the room, and my gut reaction was that I felt horribly out of place and I wanted to flee. My negative inner voice whispered, No one will notice if you leave now.
I took a minute to breathe. I decided I’d wait for my intuition to kick in. Fear made my mouth feel dry, and I thought about something to drink. I spotted a woman at the bar who looked as awkward as I felt, and I walked toward her. My instinct told me to stay, offering the option of striking up a conversation while ordering my glass of wine. At least I could attempt to meet someone.
As it turned out, we had a lot in common, and I was so glad I stayed because there was a wonderful speaker who provided lots of entertainment and inspiration!
Fear can hold you hostage.
My fear tried to hold me hostage, keeping me from pursuing my purpose in being at the networking event… to meet new people, to gather new information, and to enjoy myself. Your gut can help protect and guide you, so it can often be the right choice, but sometimes it keeps you from taking chances on something new.
In Steven Pressfield’s book, Do the Work, he says actor, Henry Fonda was so nervous before each stage performance, (even at the age of 75!), he would run to the bathroom and throw up.
It didn’t stop him though. Even though his “gut” was telling him to be afraid, his love of theater kept him alive and passionate about his art, in spite of the fear. He made his fear work for him.
Recognize your fear when you have it, and then work on transforming it into working for you. Sometimes fear rises up when it is something that really means a lot to you! You have so much on the line, and yet it seems overwhelming. Take time to let your mind adjust its thoughts by either quieting your mind in meditation or writing your thoughts down.
Developing your ability to tap into your intuition is an essential attribute of aligning your thoughts with your intention. It’s a component of resilience in that your intuition is guiding you as you move forward through the ups and downs of life.
No one is immune to feeling fear. Dismiss it as a natural reaction and then analyze the very next step. I felt fear at the networking event, but I chose to move forward and get that glass of wine!
How to develop your perceptive skills.
One way to develop your inner perceptive skills is to write daily in a notebook and let your intuitive thoughts guide you as you put your pen to paper.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of A Whole New Earth, described the process of writing his best selling book as listening in stillness. He first allows himself to become focused and aware of his thoughts as they arise. Then, Eckhart writes the words when they come into his brain. He doesn’t force or prod, he listens, and they flow.
I’ve implemented this process many times when I write, and I sometimes think… where did that come from? I’m doing this now as I write the thoughts I want to share with you. I began with the thought, “how can I share what I’ve learned about the importance of intuition and resilience? I then let my inner thoughts guide me.
I urge you to sit with a notebook in a quiet place and begin with a thought.
Try asking a question first, and then let it flow.
Ask questions like:
- What can I do today that will make me happy?
- What can I do today that will make today better than yesterday?
- What things can I implement that will make my work more satisfying?
- What is the biggest reason I want to pursue_______?
- How am I really feeling today?
This type of self-inquiry can open the floodgates of your mind! When you write, ask the question then wait for the thoughts to arrive in your consciousness. The words are there if you listen. They often come so fast you might not be able to keep up with writing them down!
Don’t worry if you go off-topic… but stay “on purpose.” Your mind guides you as to where your thoughts need to be. But, be mindful if you’re thinking of grocery lists or dinner plans. Keep it productively mindful.
Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.
― Madeleine L’Engle, author, A Wrinkle in Time
Practicing these tools enhances your ability to be more creative.
This idea can enhance other creative projects, too. Don’t just make the next brush stroke in your painting… wait for your intuition to guide you. If you listen, it will tell you where it belongs, and then it leads you to the next stroke, and the next.
That’s the difference that launches the genius in you. Just ask Picasso…
I begin with an idea, and then it becomes something else.
— Pablo Picasso, artist
Find peace throughout your day and take moments to “check-in.”
Your mind is constantly working to feed you information. Sometimes it’s exhausting. Take a moment to breathe, rest, and listen to your true thoughts.
An article by Francis Cholle in Psychology Today sums it up like this,
“In essence, we need both instinct and reason to make the best possible decisions for ourselves, our businesses, and our families.”
You’ll begin to have faith in your ability to analyze your instincts whether it’s a gut feeling or intuition. As you grow more confident in trusting yourself to choose the right thoughts to make the right decisions, you’ll feel peace wash over you. You’re in alignment with your inner self. You then become the narrator of your own story… make it a great one.
This post was previously published on Sandy Peckinpah and is republished here with permission from the author.
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