Friday, August 1, 2014

On Trusting Your Instincts

I was talking to a friend of mine a last week. I was telling her how I usually know when it’s time for me to move. It seems to many that things have always fallen in place for me; in career, in love, in life. But, "falling into place" isn't exactly the right way to describe my circumstances.  I go out on a limb here to say, that I am on a carefully thought of path.  I listen when the path tells me it is time to change directions.  My friend asked me, “How do you know? What makes you aware that you ‘know’ this?”
It was a reasonable question: What is the actual sign that indicates that you “know” to do anything?

“You just know,” I told her.

“But how?” she asked, curiously.

I didn’t really have a good answer for her at the time, but it stuck with me.
After thinking about it for awhile, I realized it’s not in the “knowing” that we get stuck. We always know. It’s in how well we trust what we know, and whether we’re willing to trust it enough to act upon it.

So, how do you know that you “know” something?

Well, let me ask you this: How did you know that you were going to marry the person you married, or take the job you were offered, or go see the new doctor you read about?
What made you decide that this was the right decision for you? What made you “know” that the house you bought was the right one for you or the apartment you chose to rent was the perfect spot for you?

It’s intangible, isn’t it? It’s a feeling. You know, and then you “know” that you know.

Or, how do you know when it’s time to end a relationship? Or when it’s time to move on from a friendship that is no longer serving you? Even if it’s been one you’ve been with for a long time?

I’m going to say it: usually, you know. Most often, it’s not the “knowing” that is the case. It’s the trusting. As I was reflecting on instincts and taking leaps and changing paths, something jumped out at me.  Literally!  My youngest leapt into my lap off the couch.  He jumped knowing that I would catch him.  He does such things often.  He runs at me full tilt, lunging himself at me trusting that I will be there to catch him.  How does he know? Is it a feeling? A look? Instinctual? Trust?

Trusting that our assessment is accurate, that our feelings are valid, that our observations are not all in our head. Trusting that we know what is true for us. And then trusting that we have enough courage to take action on what we know.

We often doubt ourselves. We wonder “What if I’m wrong? What if something better doesn’t come along? What if it’s not the right time? What if…?”

So, what to do?

My feeling about it is this: We always know what is going on with us, but fear has the opportunity to creep in when we second guess ourselves. So, when I get stuck in a particular situation, I always ask myself this question:
“I know what I don’t know. But what is it that I do know?”

Then I usually go into a litany of what I actually know, either because circumstances have proven it in the past or because of a logical conclusion: I know that I can never make a wrong decision because I can always “right” my decision down the line. I know that this is an opportunity that is presenting itself now, which means on some level I am ready for it.

I know that I can try it out for awhile and see what it’s like. I know that I can always change my mind if I want to. I know that in making a decision, I will propel movement, either way, and change is good. I know that things always work out for me, regardless of what happens. The list goes on and on.
There are a few things we know. Always. And we can stand by them. 

So, what is it that stops us, really, from trusting ourselves?
That we’ve made wrong decisions in the past? That some of our decisions have caused us pain or misfortune and we are afraid of our judgment? That we don’t know what the outcome will be and so if we can’t predict it, why risk it?

What is it? Even these argument we can dispel. We are a result of all we have lived. Every experience we’ve had contributes to the people we are today. And this is not all bad. We stand at the precipice of new beginnings, right now. Life is full of second chances.

So, the question is not if we’ve made poor decisions in the past. Undoubtedly, all of us have!
The question is: How willing we are to get up to the plate and swing again? Make a new decision, have a new experience, try something new?

Trusting yourself is a practice, but you can’t get the practice if you don’t start somewhere. How is it that you gain trust of anyone in your life?  Time. Watching whether they do what they say they’re going to do. Consistency. Faith.

So, start with yourself. Build the kind of trust in yourself that you would want in a good friend. Make a decision, stick to it. See what happens.

Someone once pointed it out to me that choices are “strategies.” They’re not right or wrong, good or bad. They simply either work or don’t for the time being. And when they don’t, you can always choose a new “strategy.”

In either case, it starts with us. Are we willing to take the bet on ourselves that we “know”—that it’s time, or that it’s ours, or that we need to take the risk and just go for it?

That’s what it takes.

Trust in our truth. Faith in ourselves. And a little bit of surrender.

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