I am an extremely rational person. Some may call me an over-thinker. I am not “laid back”, and I have even been described as “intense”. I know you wouldn’t think it based on all my fun, witty blog posts, but this is my curse and I’ve come to terms with it. One big issue with being so analytical is that oftentimes people like myself have a difficult time listening to their instincts. I faced a huge crossroads in my life around this time last year that drove me to a near nervous breakdown and sent me on a six and a half week journey alone to Southeast Asia (which you can read about here). It was during that time that I vowed to pay more attention to what my gut was telling me, but I still find it a difficult task. I had to figure out — why is trusting your gut instinct so hard sometimes?
Intuition is the incredible gift humans have to tap into our subconscious minds; a place where we have stored information that we may not always remember on a conscious level. So even though our brains pick up and processes everything in our environment, our neocortex (conscious mind) can only process about four pieces of information at any one point in time. At a primal level, this ‘gut reaction’ evolved to protect us from danger. Using the gut we could sense predators before we saw them with our own eyes. To rely on feelings, however, can be challenging – especially for those of us who like to over analyze. Most of us are switched off to our primal instincts, and instead, let fear and our mind’s strong desire for comfort rule our decision making process.
You see, often the wrong decision is also the easiest, and our mind gravitates to this false sense of security. Especially when it comes to big, life-impacting decisions, we quickly can allow fear to prevent us from taking risks. We don’t listen to our guts, our hearts or our intuition and we live with that nagging feeling until we either have a breakdown or decide to simply ignore it (hello Zoloft). Trusting your gut is certainly something that you can practice at and learn. Here’s some advice:
1. Understand that it’s never a wrong decision: This sounds like something you would hear in a yoga class, but realize that every choice we make, and the consequences of that choice will be what is best for us at that time. We put so much pressure on doing the “right” thing that we block out our intuition and go into analytical mode. Stop focusing on every small detail and enjoy this journey called life.
2. Give yourself a chance to breathe: Step away from the situation and allow yourself to really reflect on how you’re feeling before making a decision. Some people need to go to Thailand for 6 weeks, others may just need a long walk or some meditation. When you escape from all the distractions, you’re able to sit with your feelings and be honest with yourself. Are you making this decision because you’re simply afraid of failure? Afraid of hurting someone’s feelings? Being selfish and doing what is most comfortable for you? Listen. Your unsettled feelings are there to guide and support you.
3. Consider keeping a journal: So many life coaches prescribe this as a useful method to release emotions and process your thoughts. Writing in a journal can be great way to tap into your creative brain and at the same time reflect on the situation at hand and consider the bigger picture. Having to process and be attentive to how you’re feeling could lead to tapping into that intuition you’re ignoring.
Obviously we still need to be rational when we make decisions. I wouldn’t want my accountant using her gut when deciding on my refund, but we need to be more conscious of what our bodies and hearts are telling us when it comes down to making important life decisions. The more you’re able to silence your inner critic and become more aware of what your gut is telling you, the more you’ll be open to it when it tells you to not to stay at a shitty job or in the wrong relationship (with the hot actor/bartender/dj).