I’m closer to that part of myself that knows exactly what I want; that part of me is now my BFF, my closest confidant and my trusted guide. That little voice says, “Turn left. Stop. Go. I’m happy. I like this. This is fun.” You’d think being connected to that side of me would be the most natural thing in the world, but I’ve cultivated this relationship.
I’ve known it was there for a long time. Its guidance has been the basis of my greatest successes. But listening was the exception not the rule. I first started to listen to that voice on purpose, taking one day at a time, one step at a time, when my life felt its most desperate. I soon realized that I never hear it when I’m scared or panicked. I only hear it when I’m relaxed and calm. I consciously started to listen to that voice because the part of me that supposedly “knew,” the part of me that is logical and practical had led me astray. I had done everything I was “supposed” to have done; yet I was nowhere near what I would have called happy. So it only made sense to try something different. The something different was consistently listening to my own inner voice.
When I sat down and studied my life, giving it my full focused attention, the way I do when I really want to know something, I realized that there was a path to success that I often used, but hadn’t deeply appreciated. And connecting with it requires that I wait. When it came to work and school, I would wait until I just “knew” it was time to act. And it always worked out. The problem was that although it always worked, I was never really comfortable with it because it usually wasn’t logical. It didn’t make sense to major in Italian at university, or stop working in corporate American just when I had really started to gain upward momentum, or to focus so much attention on writing movie review instead of business development for my own company. But in the long run those were exactly the thing that I needed to do because they have supported my long term success in ways that I needed, but could never have guessed. But I reached a point in my life where my situation felt dire, so I slowly started to follow the path that had in all actuality led me to my greatest happinesses. Not surprising, it is also a path of slowness, patience and presence.
In addition to not feeling like I was control, living on faith, invariably listening to that voice led me to unfamiliar places. It’s not that the results made no sense, they were very plausible, but they were far from “normal.” I found myself doing things that no one else was doing. But again the result were what I wanted, so I continued on this obscure path. It took a great deal of faith and focus to get my brain to default to listening to that voice and consciously and deliberately leave the supposedly tried and true. But, and this is a big but, when I stop thinking and start observing I notice that where that voice leads me is without exception exactly where I want to be.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, and karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” —Steve Jobs
It’s not that I now unilaterally rejected what everyone else does, but I do sort through it. If there iss a result I liked, I’ve learned to repeat what they do. But if there’s a result that I don’t like I don’t. I’ve always believed that I could learn from other people’s experience. I don’t have to do everything or repeat everything to learn. Have you ever really evaluated what has worked and not worked for you and in the lives of those around you? People are offering us great gifts of their experience all the time.
There are several things to understand about this approach though.
- Once you’ve taken all the good other have to offer, if you want to continue to grow you’re going to have to step into he unknown.
- Once you step into the unknown, your old support system is going to eventually break down because those people aren’t going to be able to help you.
- And you’re going to have to find new models, people or groups to fill the gaps.
It takes courage to set off on your own. Fortunately, your ability to evaluate what works and doesn’t work will help you.
We should all feel confident in our intelligence. By the way, intelligence to me isn’t just being book-smart or having a college degree; it’s trusting your gut instincts, being intuitive, thinking outside the box, and sometimes just realizing that things need to change and being smart enough to change it. —Tabatha Coffey
I’ve written before that my heart or that small voice decides my course of action and my head formulates the strategy to get there. Still I want to write that I “think” about what I’m experiencing, that’s not exactly it. There’s no thinking in it at all. It is only after the realization of what I want that I “think” about how I’m going to proceed. Now my head and my gut are equal partners; and I’m much more sensitive because of it. William Shakespeare writes, “Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.” I interchange the words will, knowing, spirit, that little voice to describe that part of me that desires to be present, to feel, to experience heightens all my experiences. And the result of listening to it is that life is more fun. I feel more alive.
I think many people would say I’m aligning with my passion. But passion is such a big word, full of energy and excitement. I’m sure that if I was in the throws of passion, heart beating, mind whirling that I’d totally miss many of these quiet messages. In trying to describe how this happens I questioned whether I truly understood the definition of passion. So I look it up and Google defines passion as “strong and barely controllable emotion.” And no, what I’m talking about it not uncontrollable—that’s too close to reactivity. Reactivity—automatic, reptilian brain, survival reflex— separates me from this kind of inspired action. I say inspired because it doesn’t always seem like it me. I often feel more like the witness than the actor. That’s not to say that I have to be still to know. But it is to say that even in motion, I’m observing, I’m not caught up or out of control in the moment; I experience the moment. The results? Now my head and my gut are equal partners; and I’m much more sensitive because of it.
Where do you start to connect with all this? Notice the things in your life that bring you the most joy and the things that bring you the most sadness too. This is not the moment to be shy. Get next to everything you feel. Notice which activities energize you when you do them. Is it writing? Talking to people? Working on a design project? Being with kids? Over the next week, grab a journal and record how you feel as you’re going through your day-to-day activities, as these activities can be big clues into what your passions are. And don’t dismiss any activities—if you feel good when you color coordinate your closet, wash dishes or garden that counts. As Thomas Carlyle says, “Our grand business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” Today is the day to notice your grand business, so matter how big or small it may seem to you. In my meditation classes, I repeat over and over again, don’t judge your experience, and just observe it. In same vein don’t judge what you like, just like it. We all just want to be happy right? If happiness arrives in the form or sweeping do you really want to miss out because it isn’t grand enough?
So your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves continually getting to know who you really are because life is the practice. Since you are the creator of your reality, go forth and be your own life’s detective, then choose your course. This message will self-destruct…