I felt lost, confused, aimless. Flailing for something to hold on to, something to trust. I went through the motions, in a constant state of stress, hustle, and burnout. Anxiety became the norm.
Another year passed by, and life started getting real. If I keep going down this path — where will I end up? Do I like what I see? Why do I feel so uncertain?
I turned to my mind for answers. Trusting my ability to observe and learn, I turned to books, podcasts, and deep conversations with friends.
My mind expanded, but the anxiety was still there. There was a nervous feeling in my gut, a suffocation in my chest — and I realized that my head, heart, and gut were not aligned.
My thoughts were driven by the “shoulds” and “should nots.” I should get a promotion. I should get a great job at an amazing company. I should make more money. I should prove myself.
Then, I turned within. I started journaling after work, getting the chaos of my thoughts out on paper so I could start uncovering my inner voice.
It was a voice I neglected for so long, because it was overpowered by my inner critic.
And in the quiet of my heart as I meditated, I felt this bubbling joy expand in my chest. A sense of calm and trust. A connection to who I was at the core.
The Intelligence of Intuition
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. — Albert Einstein
Beyond the intelligence of the mind, I found there’s another intelligence. It’s the intelligence of intuition. It’s that gut feeling that guides you, though sometimes you might not notice it.
I can feel it in the excitement rising in my chest when I’m engrossed in work I love. It’s the quiet pull to act upon a decision. And when doors start opening, it feels magical. Spiritual.
I believe this intelligence has guided some of the most important decisions of my life: the schools and jobs I applied for, the people I dated, the friends who’ve changed my life.
And it played the loudest role in my decision to quit my job to build an unconventional career.
I’m hungry to strengthen my inner voice.
I want to make decisions that come from a place of abundance, not fear.
I get to create a life that allows me to be my truest self.
Strengthening Your Intuition
The courage that’s needed the most isn’t the kind that drives you to prevail over others, but the kind that allows you to be true to your truest self, no matter what other people want you to be. — Ray Dalio
We spend a lot of time in our heads. And I’d like to think we’re pretty good at rationalizing our decisions.
But what would it look like to strengthen your intuition? I’m not sure if we’ve been taught how to do this well.
Look to the Past
You’ve trusted your gut many times before. List the big decisions you made in life by trusting your gut. This helps build awareness of how you felt when you listened to your intuition.
How did it turn out? Do you feel good about those decisions?
As your instincts become honed with practice, you get better at pattern recognition. You start noticing the small signals in your emotions and what pulls you. This helps you notice your intuition sooner and make even better decisions.
Take Power From the Inner Critic
Intuition gets louder when you quiet the noise of the mind. When you notice your inner critic going in circles, it’s an invitation to pay attention.
What are the voices in your head? List them all. What do they say? Which voices conflict each other?
I’m not good enough. I’ll fail. Other people are better than me. I can do it. I think I can. It’s too late. I can’t make money doing this.
Which voices are you allowing to take center stage?
You don’t need to try to resist the inner critic, because that’ll only make it stronger. Instead, take away its power by developing your awareness of it. Acknowledge the insecurities it brings up.
If it helps, you can even give your inner critic a name. Silly Eeyore. There you are again. Label it, because it’s not you.
Recognize the voices that aren’t serving you, so you can identify your most authentic inner voice. That’s the voice of your heart, your soul. Allow it to have a conversation with your inner critic, then take center stage.
Understand the Physical Signals
Your brain is located in your head, but you can find the intelligence of your heart and gut throughout your body. Learn to take inventory of your emotions and physical symptoms. They’re telling you something.
How do you physically experience the following?
- Anxiety — Sometimes, it’s a tightness in your chest or throughout your body. Brain fog. Pressure in your forehead, or waking up with a palpitating heart. A sense of unease in your stomach. This may be a signal that you need to make a change. When you feel anxious, it’s your body’s way of telling you something’s off.
- Sadness and depression — You feel a sense of emptiness or sadness in your heart. It’s important to notice this and be curious to investigate the disharmony. What makes you feel sad or lonely? Is your head (what you think will make you happy, or your expectations and desires) misaligned with your heart?
- Nervousness and unease — Usually felt in the chest and stomach, this can show up as a sick feeling in your gut. When do you feel nervous? Is your body telling you something?
- Excitement — This one’s easier to notice. But when do you feel most excited? What types of work, activities, and friends make you feel joyful? What habits and routines improve your mood? How do you tap into your happiest states?
- Fear — Here’s a confusing one. We feel fear, and sometimes before we even identify it, we start running away. But fear about a goal or dream can be a signal indicating something you do want badly. It’s important to notice it and know when you should push through despite the fear.
- Awe — Interestingly, there’s a good kind of awe-mixed-with-envy that I’ve learned to listen to. When I feel awed by someone else’s career trajectory or lifestyle, I see it as an indicator of something I want to create for myself. When my friend quit her job to travel the world and start her own consulting agency, I felt envy and admiration because this was my dream, too. And six months later, I took the same leap.
A Daily Practice
Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory. — Jim Carrey
Following your intuition is a daily practice, because the inner critic likes to distract. But it gets easier to ignore as you build awareness of it.
Stop caring what others think. This is a lesson I know I need to learn, because it keeps coming up over and over again in my life. Rationally, I get it — but I want to internalize the lesson and live it from the core.
As I walk further down an unconventional path, I’ve had to rely more on the intelligence of my intuition. It gives me the signals to know I’m on the right path for me. Without it, I’d be vulnerable to my inner critic. I’d run back to my “shoulds” and “should nots.”
It’s hard, because society puts pressure on us to follow a certain path. But then, I stop and think — who is Society?
Ourselves. Our minds. The stories we tell ourselves, from years of following and observing social norms.
We may be the greatest obstacles to our dreams. So we must get out of our own way, guiding the mind and trusting our inner voice.
I’ve come to realize there’s no point pursuing what you’re not truly passionate about, because you won’t be able to throw your full heart into it. It will wither away. So why not take a chance on your dreams?
If you want to overcome your inner critic and accelerate progress towards your dreams, check out the short thought experiment below.
6 Limiting Beliefs Keeping You From Your Dreams — And a Thought Experiment to Overcome Them:
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