I sat in the bath, drowning in a state of utter paralysis.
I knew I had a decision to make; one that would shape the rest of my life. Should I accept the job in a new city to be with my partner (who’s been acting a little funny lately)? Or should I stay where I am, live with my parents, and focus on building my business?
I just couldn’t bring myself to decide. The pressure was too much; I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
Our long-distance relationship was at breaking point. If I stayed, we wouldn’t make it. But if I moved, I’d have to take a job that didn’t allow me the freedom to work on my side hustle. Gahhhh.
How would I know if I made the right choice?
People often say, “trust your gut”, or “follow your heart”. In reality, it’s torturous for us to make decisions this way. After all, nobody ever teaches us how to tell if our gut feeling is actually correct.
I eventually made my decision, and stayed where I was. All along, my intuition had been telling me which direction to head in.
Here’s how I knew it was the right thing to do.
Intuition versus fear
My current partner recently told me he doesn’t trust his intuition. As a therapist, he said, he’s seen too many clients who mistake their ego (that loud, fear-based voice inside our heads) for their intuition, and thus make some pretty terrible life decisions.
To make good decisions, then, we need to recognise the difference between our ego, and our intuition.
We’ve all had experienced the voice in our head when things get tough, telling us crappy things like: “it’s not the right time… I’m not ready… I can’t do this”.
Sometimes these thoughts are helpful, but most of the time they’re not. It’s our old pal fear talking – our scaredy-cat ego trying to keep us safe from ‘harm’.
As I sat in that bathtub, this voice was incessant. It drove my crazy.
I’d evaluated all the pros and cons, made a lot of lists, and rationally assessed the situation, yet I was no closer to moving forward.
What I really needed was a framework to help me make a confident, soul-aligned decision.
Identify any secondary gains
If you feel stuck, think about what you’re gaining by not moving forward. The fear voice – the ego – is trying to protect you, by guiding you towards pleasure, and keeping you away from pain.
For example, if I moved (and abandoned my dream of starting a business), I would have avoided the uncertainty of not knowing whether it’d be successful. After all, I couldn’t be a failure if I never tried.
So ask yourself:
- What am I gaining by staying right where I am?
- What might it cost me if I do this (and fail)?
- What might it cost me if I don’t do this?
Your “secondary gains” are a great indicator of your current comfort level.
If it’s clear that the potential benefits outweigh the risks – but you’re still resisting – you might be about to make a decision out of fear.
Recognise sneaky self-sabotage tactics
Once you understand your “secondary gains”, you begin to see how, when, and why you sabotage yourself. These tactics stop us from going after what we really want, and prevent us from fulfilling our true potential (sad face).
One of my own “secondary gains” was that because my relationship was long-distance and time-consuming, I had an excuse to only work on the business occasionally, without taking it too seriously.
When the issue of moving was raised, there was suddenly more pressure, and I was faced with either sabotaging myself (by giving up), or following my intuition (by making the business a priority).
- How do you sabotage yourself (for example, giving up, avoiding important tasks, doing the opposite of what would help you get where you want to be)?
- What feelings do you experience when this happens?
- What thoughts do you have when this happens?
Our self-sabotage usually happens on a subconscious level, but reflecting on times you’ve done it in the past will help you spot your own patterns.
Then you’ll know that when these crop, you might be about to make a decision out of fear.
Tune in to your intuition
Now you’ve identified some of your self-sabotaging habits, it’s time to tap in to the wisdom of your body to distinguish the difference between fear and intuition.
This is the exact process I followed in that bathtub. I got quiet, closed my eyes, and asked for a little inner guidance.
If you have a decision to make:
- Close your eyes, and imagine all the possible outcomes of your decision, one at a time.
- As you visualise these, notice the sensations in your heart, solar plexus, and belly areas.
- Notice if you feel a sense of expansion (a flush of energy, openness, lightness), or a sense of contraction (tightness, tension, heaviness).
- A sense of expansion indicates an intuitive ‘yes’, and a sense of contraction indicates an intuitive ‘no’.
The sensations might be super subtle; but they’ll be there. Our bodies always give us the answer – the more you’re used to ignoring the body’s signals, the harder it might be to recognise at first.
The more aware you become of the expansive sensations, the more confident you’ll feel that you’re about to make a decision out of intuition.
Make confident decisions every time
Give this exercise a go for any decision you’re struggling with right now – and leave a comment below sharing your experience.
Becki Sams is a writer, mindfulness meditation teacher, yogi, and wellness warrior. She spends her days writing about how we can all become happier humans. Subscribe to her email list to download your free stress melt meditation and a free copy of her Unplug, Unwind & Recharge e-book.
Image courtesy of Andrei Lazarev.