Change starts with a choice. Many times a day, you’re faced with a this or that option. Sometimes, your choice is clear, and other times, you’re stuck. The funny thing is, it’s not the magnitude of the choice that keeps you marching in place but your inability to trust your gut. As you well know, it’s just as easy to get hung up on the big stuff as the minutiae.
So, what do you do when you have to make a choice? Let’s say it’s picking where you go to dinner, the font size to use in your presentation, or getting new eyeglasses. What about taking a new job, buying a house, or having children?
If you’re like most people, you ask others what they would do if they were you. However, it’s you who 100% owns how you act, not them. You’re no longer a four-year-old and can’t proclaim: “They told me to do it so I did!”
Why Ask For Input at All if the Goal Is To Trust Your Gut?
I’m not suggesting you stop gathering opinions. I am telling you that no matter what someone on the outside says, the answers are inside of you.
Trusting your gut isn’t the same thing as existing in a vacuum without the support of other people you both like and trust.
There are ten reasons we get input from people before making a decision:
- Don’t care. This is when you genuinely have no opinion because you don’t care at all. All options are equally fine with you.
- Bounce. Sometimes you need to throw something against the wall and see what it feels like when it comes back.
- Never learned. You never trust your gut, and that’s that.
- Push. You want to leap, but taking that step feels overwhelming no matter how much you want it.
- Searching. You are in an “I’ll know when I see it” space.
- Validation. You are right. You are so right. Now go forth and be right.
- Prove me wrong. You want people to poke holes in your plan.
- Not ready. No urgency, no action. So, instead of acting, you get busy collecting input and thinking about what you’ll do… eventually.
- Risk. You know what to do, but you’d rather not take the blame if you’re wrong… just in case.
- Marketing. You tell people what you are considering because you enjoy talking about yourself and your “gee, whatever will I do” dilemmas. You’re not actually input-gathering at all.
Of course, if you’re a leader, you should ask for input from your team and colleagues. This isn’t about collaborative decision-making but trusting your inner-knower when it’s time to make the call.
Can You See the Path Forward?
This week, I went shopping for new glasses. After trying on the vast majority of frames in the store, I left without a pair.
I liked a few and dragged my daughter with me to get her opinion. Turned out she didn’t love the ones I preferred. Uncharacteristically, I thought she knew best and went with her top choice —sort of. I said I’d be back in the morning to complete the order and left the store.
The next day, I returned, tried on the glasses I said I’d buy, and didn’t love them.
Welcome to round two of the frame frenzy.
This time, I found a few I liked and texted pictures to my Mom and daughter. In not one instance did I write, “I like these a lot. What do you think?” I gave no indication of my preference because I wanted to get theirs.
Even the lady who worked at the store gave me her two cents which I immediately discounted. After all, she told me to never put my glasses on top of my head, which I do countless times a day. Comfort in all positions mattered.
Self-doubt crept in. Did they like the best of the worst? Could I do better? I was crushed that the ones I liked best they thought were, um, less than flattering.
Yet again, I walked out without placing an order. However, it felt different than before. This time, I trusted my gut and not only other’s opinions.
Seven Ways to Turn Up the Volume on Your Gut and Find the Inner-Knower Within
You may be wondering how the heck you learn to trust your gut after a lifetime of asking everyone and their grandmother about the right choice for you.
These are not steps one to seven but fundamentals to self-trust.
1. Listen to yourself first.
Have a starting perspective. Sure, it can shift. Other people have great points; that’s why you asked. Nevertheless, when you have no starting point, you’re like a lost balloon being thrashed about in the wind. When you listen to yourself first, you’re more like a kite, still attached to solid ground and able to brave the gusts.
2. Speak up.
If you disagree, don’t go along. Say it. Saving someone else’s feelings is not a reason to stomp on your gut. When you know what’s right for you, own it.
3. Let go of the fantasy.
There will never be a big red arrow or flashing neon sign that makes it absolutely clear what you should do. There will always be an element of faith before you leap.
4. Follow your timeline.
Listening to your inner-knower does not equate to an instantaneous call to action. There is no magic formula like: Ask three people, divide it by your age and multiply it by your favorite number. Give yourself a little time (not forever) to listen to your gut before leaping.
Stop obsessing and agonizing over your choice. Ever notice that when you stop thinking about something all the damn time, that’s when clarity often emerges? In the shower or in the car, you’ll have an aha moment. Don’t dismiss it – it’s your inner knower, your gut, speaking up… listen.
6. Feel it.
How do you describe it? Peace? Calm? Weight? Lightness? Notice the feelings within your body, heart, and mind. When you become aware of them, you can dial into them more effectively. The more you become familiar with the sensations, you’ll improve your ability to turn up the volume on your inner-knower.
7. Don’t run because it feels strange.
Any time you do something new, it feels awkward at first. Like breaking in a pair of shoes that feel firm and make you self-conscious… a week later, they’re broken in and your favorite.
You can learn to trust your gut, but it is a process. At the core, it’s learning to trust yourself. When your inner voice whispers to you, don’t ignore it, but instead dial in and receive the message you need to hear.