I’d spent eight years working in the corporate world, and I was finally in a place where I felt I had climbed the ladder to the top of my company. Along with a great job, I was dating a chiropractor who my girlfriends all thought was my perfect match, and I was in the best shape of my life. On the outside, I looked like I had it all. At the time, I felt like I did.

Then one summer afternoon I was on my way home from a lake trip with friends. Momentarily distracted while reaching for something, I swerved and hit a guardrail. The resulting accident was minor, but I was left with excruciating back pain. I felt frustrated and like everything in my was crumbling.  My acupuncturist suggested I seek counseling—he explained that he had a feeling that the pain I was experiencing was resulting from my father’s sudden, unexpected death years prior. I thought to myself, No way. That was like ten years ago.

Nonetheless, I began weekly sessions with a spiritual director. Weekly sessions required I see life from the inside out, and throughout the sessions, the perfect life I imagined I was living melted away. I realized that I had no idea who I was or what I wanted or how to be truly happy. Rather, my focus was on everyone and everything else in my life: my boyfriend, who wasn’t really available; my friend who was planning to marry an alcoholic; my mom and sister, who consistently determined what was best for me; and my boss, who needed me to fill three different roles in the company. My life may have looked ideal to an outsider, but I was a disaster on the inside.

My life may have looked ideal to an outsider, but I was a disaster on the inside.

My mentor ultimately referred me to Dr. Coletta Long, a regression pioneer and expert. Working with Dr. Long, I was able to go past my immediate, conscious brain to understand how my father’s death had affected my subconscious brain on a deeper level. With this discovery, I was able to start living a life I truly wanted rather than the one my brain told me I should want.

Understanding how the mind works is an important first step in gaining clarity in your life. Your conscious brain may rule your life—it will second guess you, tell you “no, you can’t change careers” or “don’t bother trying for that promotion”—but it’s your subconscious mind that’s more connected with your intuition, which is, in turn, more closely tied to your true desires. It’s only when we can hear the the difference between the two that we are able to make clear choices for ourselves.

A lot of my clients struggle with their life choices and finding the clarity in their lives to understand what they want to pursue. This is due to the fact that we cannot attract our dreams and desires when we are not clear about what they are.

To know what we really want, we must understand what our minds are thinking and what our hearts are wanting.

In a conflict between the conscious and the subconscious, the subconscious should win out every time, but it is the misleading stories our brain tells us that complicate life. But as we learn to let go of the stories and connect the mind and heart, transformation is possible.

An example is a friend of mine, Michelle. She came to me, feeling flustered and overwhelmed; she was struggling at work, dealing with financial issues, her car had just broken down, and she was single and unhappy about it. The mountain of problems in front of her were clouding her intuition and made it impossible for her to know what to do next.

She was beating herself up for all of the issues in her life, but also feeling like she had no time to fix any of them. By leading her through questions—Why are you beating yourself up? What needs to happen so you can forgive yourself?—we got down to the heart of the matter: She wasn’t making herself a priority.

She felt that she was allowing all of the external factors—her job, her car, her relationships—to control her life. She wasn’t able to hear what she wanted over the noise of her stress and anxiety. It was only by giving herself five minutes to sit, talk, and listen quietly to her heart desires that she was able to identify a job she really wanted. Once she had clarity, she could confidently walk into her boss’ office to lobby for herself. And guess what? She got the promotion.

Like anything, listening to your intuition is a skill that can be trained. I’ve learned how, and so has Michelle. Have you?

Robin Emmerich has spent close to a decade coaching some of the most successful women in business. Even with their considerable success, the common denominator is that as much as they seemed to be cruising through life on the outside, they were melting on the inside. It’s why Robin created Beauty and the Mess—an athleisure brand launching Spring 2017—in support of a sisterhood who understands that life is messy and difficult and challenging, but together, can find the strength to prioritize passion over perfection and fearlessly seek beauty in their everyday lives. She currently offers the CIJourney online course, based on the famed Stanford Masters Degree Course, ‘Creativity in Business,’ individual coaching and worldwide retreats. Connect with Robin at robinemmerich.com on Instagram, or Twitter.