Always trust your gut. My inner voice is always something I have been in tune with. I can recall many times as a child having these strange feelings around certain people or events. It would come forward as this odd tugging feeling in my belly, when something just didn’t feel right. All too often my “suspicion” was confirmed, and something untoward would happen. One of the reasons I started studying Social Work and Psychology was because I felt that I had natural intuition about things. My friends tell me that I understand people well, and can usually sum up a room quite quickly.
So what is this inner voice we listen to, and how come some of us just “know things”? If you have been gifted with the power of a gut instinct and intuition, instead of repressing or dismissing it, you need to try and establish a healthy relationship with it. Evidence suggests that our intuition can help us make better decisions in our lives, your inner voice isn’t some spirituality concept, but rather a scientifically proven skill. So, learning to trust your inner voice can give you an advantage in both your personal and professional life.
How often have you felt an inner voice offering you guidance, or had a “feeling” about a situation or another person? Sometimes you acted on it and other times maybe you ignored it. Your inner voice or intuition is an ability to know something based on your feelings rather than on facts.
According to the Dictionary Of Psychology, intuition is defined as, ” An immediate understanding, knowledge, or awareness, derived neither from perception nor from reasoning.” Intuition is derived from patterns we’ve identified from past experiences.
As a therapist I often rely on my inner voice when interacting with my clients. There have been many times when a client wont tell me something or is unaware of a blockage they face. If it wasn’t for my intuition I would not have been able to assist a client who was suicidal, or help a woman who was being abused by her husband. There is often so much people tell us without communicating it to us, and this is where that inner voice can help.
So where does this inner voice come from? Intuition comes from a collection of subconscious experiences controlled by the limbic system in the brain. This right hemisphere of the brain gives people the ability to make decisions without analytical thought and rather allows us to make choices based on unconscious information stored in the brain.
This process helps people to make better decisions, especially if the information holds value beyond what they store in their conscious mind.
“Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.”
We often say listen to your gut, and there is a physiological reason for this. The inner voice operates all the way from the brain through to our digestive system. Scientists call our stomach the “second brain”. Our stomach is full of neurotransmitters, and when they are stimulated we get the sensation of butterflies in our stomach or an uneasy queasy feeling. This is the gut talking to us, so we need to pay attention.
We are not usually taught to listen to our inner voice, but rather to rely on logic and analytical processes. However, using a combination of rational thought and intuition can push us outside of our comfort zone and give us the courage to overcome various obstacles in life. By combining our usual way of thinking with gut instinct, we can make decisions without being impulsive. This will give us the best possible method to navigate our lives successfully.
The video below explains the amazing power of intuition and how it can influence the way you interact with people, make decisions and even run your company.
On the “flipside” of intuition we are faced with another dilemma. Self-doubt and our critical inner voice. If we are to hone into our true inner voice and use intuition to the best of our ability we first need to understand how to separate our self-doubt from our gut instinct.
Our internal critic comes from our experiences and interactions with others. Thoughts like, “I will never be good enough” or ” I am not worthy” are some examples. Often these thoughts come from negative attitudes or judgements we have picked up throughout our life, usually given to us by loved ones, friends or people we have respected.
This inner critic is not a guide to be trusted. It is usually degrading and pushes us to make decisions that are not always healthy or right. It is a destructive road to follow because you start believing the negative things you tell yourself. This hinders your ability to trust your intuition and decisions are made based on fear, self-loathing and low self-esteem.
Self-doubt has been a friend of mine before. A year ago I used to be the Director for a Non-Profit Organisation, I was elected by the board, when my mentor passed away suddenly. I was young and inexperienced and had no idea what I was doing. I was asked to make changes to the structure of the organisation and people looked to me for guidance. We were in a sinking ship and I was now their Captain.
I was given so many opportunities to expand the business and my employees trusted me and believed in my vision. However, this is what happened; I kept telling myself that I was not qualified for the position, I allowed fear to rule me and I never believed I was capable of taking charge. My inner critic won. Instead of trusting my gut and making the right decisions I hid away, and ended up resigning from the position. Looking back I am disappointed in myself, I know now that I had the knowledge to make the changes the organisation needed, but I let self-doubt triumph.
The thing is that deep down inside I knew I was capable. I had waited my entire career for this opportunity. If I had only trusted my gut and listened to the right inner voice, my life may have been a little different. What I learned however, is that this negative type of thinking can be challenged. It all starts with self-awareness and learning how to make intuitive decisions.
I am sure many of you can relate to my story above. Often we make poor choices that lead to regret. The important thing to do is combine both reason and intuition so you not only become a better decision maker, but start making choices that are aligned with your self-worth and values.
You can start making intuitive decisions when you follow the below steps:
Pause and take a moment to reflect on a decision. Notice if your inner critic or self-doubt is guiding your thoughts and distorting your beliefs. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable when faced with uncertainty and we don’t know why. This doesn’t mean we don’t have the answer. Allow yourself some space and time to think about it.
Pay attention to situations and listen to people carefully. Make sure you are informed and have all the facts. Listen to your body as well, often discomfort can manifest itself physically. Agitation, nausea and insomnia are often signs that you are making a choice that doesn’t align with your beliefs.
Feedback is important. Talk to other people and find someone you can talk to about your feelings and decisions. Sometimes other people can be objective and show us different ways to approach situations. When we communicate with people our inner voice can often become obvious as we say things out loud.
You can easily rely on your intuition when you learn to recognise, label and interpret your emotions. I have often mistaken my insecurity for intuition.
The best way to practice making intuitive decisions is to put yourself in a situation where you can make decisions often. Create an environment where failure is okay, mistakes are lessons to be learnt from and where you can celebrate small victories.
Another great suggestion is to try and practice “doing”. If you are concerned about a situation or problem, and fear is stopping you from moving forward. Take action, one day at a time. Once you move through this resistance, the answer often presents itself.
Practice making snap decisions. Next time you are faced with a difficult choice try this:
Intuition is a skill that needs to be developed, it’s like training a muscle, or doing exercise for the brain. Completely trusting your intuition wont happen overnight. With consistent effort you will strengthen your inner voice, and find it much the easier to allow intuition to guide you.
Here are a number of ways to strengthen your intuition:
Keeping a daily diary is a great way to get your thoughts and feelings down. Often when we give ourselves a chance to sort through our internal dialogue we make choices that align with our values. If you struggle to write in a diary, read my blog article about journaling for beginner’s here.
Mindfulness is the art of being in the present moment. It teaches you to listen to all your thoughts and feelings without judgement. When we are mindful we don’t allow past regrets or future worries to consume us. Rather we actively stay in the here and now and make decisions based on ideas and beliefs free from stress and anxiety.
Mindful breathing exercises have been a great help to me lately. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by a decision or problem I practice this breathing exercise and I immediately feel that I have things under control. I end up bridging rational thought and intuition in such a way that my choices are derived from a place I truly trust.
We cannot stress this enough. The simple act of eating well and doing regular exercise has far reaching benefits. When we are free of anxiety and stress we make better rational decisions, but it also allows us to harmonise our mind and body and get in touch with our inner voice.
Pay attention to your dreams. When the conscious mind rests the subconscious mind opens. Dreams are basically a way the subconscious mind processes information, experiences and feelings. So all that weird stuff you remember the next morning has some relevance, don’t ignore it.
When the mind is constantly busy or stressed it struggles to get in touch with its inner voice. So when you can, change up your routine. Go away for the weekend, take a drive and put yourself in new surroundings. Practice self-care, meditate or get creative.
Technology has become obsessive, we are constantly looking at our phones, scrolling through social media or watching series on our laptops. When we do this we numb our inner voice completely. We have basically rewired the brain in such a way that a notification gives us a chemical rush…literally.
Rather practice time-outs with technology. Put your phone, laptop or iPad away and take a walk in nature. Get comfortable with the outdoors, and learn how to be alone in your mind again.
Practice observing people and “feeling” them out. Intuition often relies on how much attention you pay to the world around you, so practice being present in the moment as often as you can. Try make small decisions based on feelings rather than thought and see what comes up for you. Again mindfulness is a great tool to use to harness your inner voice.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift”.
Looking at my life my inner voice has helped me become more empathic towards the people around me, it has helped me make important decisions, set realistic goals and trust my judgement about other people. When you want to live a life with meaning, you have to trust your inner voice. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail, fall or feel that a decision you made wasn’t right for you. Every single choice I have made in my life has made me the person I am today and I am grateful for that.