Gut Check

Ever find yourself spinning round and round over a decision? You know that if you don’t make the exact right decision, you’ll be some level of screwed from minor inconvenience to total life meltdown. You frantically think it through trying to analyze the decision from every angle. Yet the spinning continues.

My suggestion–do a gut check. Everyone has “gut feelings,” but many people ignore them in favor of trying to think through a problem. This sounds very smart, rational, and adult except for one problem: in the words of Martha Beck, “our minds lie to us like two-bit ladies of the night.” (Er, paraphrased) The reason we spin out when trying to think through a thorny issue is that our mind starts in with the chorus of our greatest fears which go something like this:

“If you go back to school/change careers/take up skateboarding you’ll end up totally broke everyone will think you’re crazy you’ll never be smart enough people will point and laugh no one will love you…blah, blah, blah.”

It’s very hard to make a decision with this kind of mental noise. Our minds try to steer us toward the “safe” decision, which rarely leads to happiness and often isn’t even that safe. That’s where the gut check comes in. The mind tends to be governed by fear and becomes clouded by it. Your essential self, that part of you that isn’t worried about the fear chorus, talks to you through your body. And your body never lies. If this sounds a little woo-woo, it’s actually very practical. Think about a time you had a gut feeling about something, perhaps you felt an immediate connection (aversion) to someone you met , or a sense of rightness (wrongness) about a situation, or walked into an office to interview and knew you’d be working there (or knew you should turn and walk right out the door). That’s your gut talking to you. Was that feeling ever wrong? Was there a time you ignored a gut feeling and were sorry you did? Exactly.

Now, back to that question you’re wrangling with. Submit it to a gut check. When you think about Possible Action A, what’s your gut feeling? How about Possible Action B? If you’re still getting a cloudy reading, try again but preface your gut check by asking yourself the question, “What feels the best if I knew everything would work out perfectly?” You’ll know which action is on the right track because it will give you the sensation of peace, freedom, excitement, generally of rightness. Pick that one.

Pay more attention to the gut check and see where your essential self guides you. Try it on everything from what to have for dinner, to whether you should go on that second date, to your next job. I promise you it will be a fun ride.

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