Learn to Listen
“There come to us moments in life when about some things we need no proof from without. A little voice within us tells us, ‘You are on the right track, move neither to your left nor right, but keep to the straight and narrow way.” -Mahatma Ghandi
We’ve all made decisions, from carefully thought out plans to spur of the moment actions, that didn’t quite turn out the way we hoped. And afterwards you’ve probably found yourself saying, “I knew I should have followed my instincts!” or “My gut told me to go left instead of right” or “I should’ve trusted in/listened to myself.”
That little voice deep inside of you (whether you call it your conscious, your instincts, your heart, your gut, inner wisdom, or feeling down to your bones) is often overlooked when it comes to making decisions. You tend to go with what seems to the most logical or appropriate, the way you “know” things are supposed to be. These are often closely tied in with strong emotions, such as fear of trying something new or different, anger leading to hasty actions, comfort in the familiar, or the binding sense of obligation. These emotions are much louder than the little voice inside of you and so they drown it out, and again and again you are left shaking your head and wishing you had listened to yourself.
Learning to listen to the little voice inside isn’t difficult, but it takes practice.
1) Relax. When your mind is constantly in motion with thoughts and worries, there’s no way for the little voice to make itself heard. You need to quiet your mind and relax in order to start hearing it better. Start by giving yourself a few minutes each day where you simply aren’t thinking or worrying,
Perhaps you make this quiet time in a dedicated meditated session or before you get ready for bed. The more you do this, and the longer you do this, the easier it will be for you to relax and listen when you need to make a decision and connect with your little voice. This is especially helpful when you may need to make a decision quickly and may be negatively impacted by stress or anxiety.
2) It may really be your gut talking. Your body can physically respond to decisions you make and learning to understand these reactions is a big part of getting in touch with your little voice. That sinking feeling you get in your stomach is one big clue that something’s probably not right. Or you may become tenser, agitated, toss and turn at night, or even become nauseous. These physical reactions can be different from person to person, so take some time to identify which reactions are a “yes” vs. “no” feeling when you’re making smaller, daily decisions (2% milk or whole milk?) so you can be ready to “listen to your gut” or that “feeling in your bones” when it’s time to make an important choice.
3) Pay attention. The little voice can easily be overlooked, especially when you’re used to relying on the “logical” choice. It’s time to start listening with all of your body to sort through the physical, emotional, and mental reactions and begin understanding what you’re really trying to tell yourself. If you have any doubt or uncertainty, pay attention to it. Think about why you feel that way. Likewise, if you feel an immediate sense of “Right” give yourself some time to understand why you’re reacting that way. The more you pay attention to how you’re reacting or feeling when making a decision, the more you’ll begin to understand the why behind your choices. Patterns in your thought process may emerge, and awareness of these patterns, for better or worse, will help make your inner voice speak all the louder.
And most importantly, acknowledge that life is not something you can plan from beginning to end. The path you take is winding, has forks and crossroads, goes down valleys and up mountains, and sometimes loops around. Trust that it will take you where you need to go. You are going to be your only companion along the entire path, so learn to trust yourself and start listening to the little voice inside of you to make the journey easier.