How to Learn to Trust Yourself

It's a piece of time-honoured wisdom, and there are many ways to express it.

Trust your gut.

Follow your nose.

Listen to your heart.

You know that your instincts are a critically important guidance system when you are making any significant decision, such as:

  • whether to change jobs (or careers);
  • what to do about a difficult relationship;
  • how to deal with financial stress. 

But, how often do you actually pay attention to those instincts? 

Do you sometimes second-guess yourself about what to do when something doesn't feel right? Do you often end up following the advice of family or friends, rather than taking the action to which you are personally drawn?

The facts of a situation can themselves make decisions seem complex and overwhelming. And we also have an unfortunate tendency to add to the confusion, by imposing layers of our own hang-ups: self-doubt, insecurity, fear, shame, guilt, worrying about other people's opinions, and so on. These layers make it difficult to hear your heart's voice, deep inside, which is guiding you towards the path that is right for you.

And that's where learning how to get quiet, trust and listen to yourself becomes critical.

As a professional accountant, I would never advise someone not to include facts and logic in their decision-making process. These have their place, and are an important component of any choice you face. 

But once you have gathered all the data and the rational arguments on all sides, it's important to take a step back from all the noise, get quiet, and just listen. What is your instinct telling you? What FEELS right? 

This isn't necessarily about choosing the easiest or least painful path. You know it's not all a bed of roses when you are striving towards a goal, and anything worth going for is going to require you to get out of your comfort zone, at least a little bit. There will usually be difficult moments along the way. There will virtually always be a measure of hard work and drudgery. And there may very well be moments when you want to quit. But, should you? How do you know?

All the facts may be pointing you in one direction, but it may also be clear that taking that path is going to be painful, or difficult, or will require a major sacrifice. If you're already in the middle of it, the struggles you experience can seem overwhelming at times, and this can put you in a kind of no-man's-land of inertia; unable to make  progress towards the goal, and yet unable to let it go, for fear of being labelled as a 'quitter'.

But if your situation is making you truly miserable, or causing pain or significant upset, you need to consider very carefully whether the end result is worth it. What are you ultimately aiming for? The secret, I think, is in regularly evaluating your goals and dreams, to see if they still excite and energize you. 

Many of us were raised with the "Winners never quit, and quitters never win" mentality. Once we start working on a project or goal, we feel that we simply MUST see it through to completion, because after all, we made a commitment, and we don't want to let anyone down (including ourselves). 

Not giving up on your dreams is certainly important, but only if they are still your dreams. And sometimes, you wake up one day and realize they never were your dreams, but rather the dreams of your parents, or some other influential person in your life.

Your circumstances change over time, and along with them, the things you are striving for may also change. I may be the first one to tell you this:

It's ok to let go of a dream that no longer serves you. 

Go ahead and check in with yourself every so often. Ask yourself, "What do I really want?" If the answer doesn't come right away, that's ok. Just pick up your journal, keep asking the question, and see what comes out on the page.

Once you have that answer, the next question to ask yourself is, "What am I willing to do to get it?" How hard are you willing to work? What sacrifices are you willing to make, and where do you draw the line?

Another great question to pose is, "How can I make the journey enjoyable?" Don't underestimate the importance of this question; it's every bit as important as the first two. If you don't enjoy the process, you will either remain stuck, or you will find yourself constantly questioning whether it's worth the effort. You'll also be less able to tap into your reserves of creativity and innovation, meaning the end result will be less inspired. 

Once you have these answers, use them as a framework you can apply to all your current goals and projects. If any don't fit the framework, it may be time to let them go. 

And if, after going through this process, you're still having trouble figuring things out, that's where coaching can help! As a coach, I'm trained to ask the questions that will put you in touch with your own inner wisdom.

Not to tell you what to do, but to show you that you've had the answers inside of you, all along.



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