Has a leadership coach or self-help guru ever said to you, “You have all the answers inside of you; you just need to listen?”
Upon hearing this, I usually roll my eyes.
Please, I’m a smart cookie. If my intuition or whatever tried to speak to me during this crossroads, I would tell myself, I’d have heard it by now. But I’m still lost as to what to do. I’m still floundering. So she must not be speaking my language.
But at a retreat a few years ago seriously changed my tune. Here’s what went down:
I attended a women’s weekend retreat in Calistoga, California. Hosted by my lovely friend, speaker and author Shasta Nelson, this was about getting away, diving deep and learning how to listen to that quiet little voice that (seemingly) speaks a foreign language to me.
Fueled by prompts, deep questions and fun exercises, we did a lot of journaling. Some of it was led by out guts, some of it was more thoughtful. We used words and images to wake up our inner wisdom and get it talking. Some of the work didn’t make sense at first….until it did and the insights cracked open right in front of me.
While I’m not a “woo woo” kind of gal, I have to admit: it worked.
The topics I journaled about, the images I was unknowingly drawn to, the words that popped into my head–they all pointed me to the same conclusions for how to spend my year. True, some of these themes had been marinating for months, but I still craved clarity and direction. It dawned on me that I already had direction, but lacked the confidence and permission to do what my soul was crying out to be done. I was too wrapped up in other people’s expectations and self-invented pressures. Doing the work shed those layers and forced me to face the core truth, with flashing neon lights pointing me in the right direction.
I think I actually heard my soul huff in exhaustion, “Finally! She gets it!”
What I uncovered is less important than how it was revealed. Like a lightning bolt, I finally got it. When people say, “You have all the wisdom you need inside of you,” all they mean is that…
When you take the time to journal, or ponder, or use your gut to find images or words that speak to you (for whatever reason), themes will emerge. (TWEET THIS!)
And you have to parse out and pay attention to those themes. While I was guided by activities and prompts all weekend, in the end, no one led me to these conclusions but my own subconscious. There was no therapist, guru or teacher spoon-feeding me these ideas. No one else but me came to those conclusions in my own heart and mind.
This, my friends, THIS is what they mean by tapping into your inner wisdom.
So how can you as a leader or entrepreneur, do it, too? I’m clearly not an expert, but here’s what worked for me:
- Write down your thoughts. Yes, not everyone likes to journal, but you can’t believe the power of getting the slush and mud out of your head and onto paper. Feeling angry for no reason? Write it down. Have a daydream or desire? Write it down? Want to feel a certain way, even though you’re not sure what action it takes to get you there? Write it down. A sentence, a paragraph, a word, Whatever. If writing is not your thing, perhaps use simple one-word descriptors or images. The important thing is to get the chaos out of your head so you can examine it and find the patterns. It’s amazing what your subconscious is trying to tell you, but like a toddler, it can’t always find the right words, so it needs your help.
- Find some quiet: Your wisdom is struggling for to speak to you: you just can’t hear it above the constant noise in your life. Turn off the phone, shut down email and go for a walk, sit by the beach or just lie on your couch with a warm latte in your hand. We try so hard to numb our confusion with external distraction that we can never discover what our body and intuition yearns to reveal. Maybe we’re scared. Maybe we’re lonely. But finding the quiet is essential to hearing the small voice inside of you. I have a rule of never listening to music while I walk my dog by the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. I spend that time listening, dreaming and pondering in silence. It is truly a delicious luxury.
- Share your journey: This one can be especially scary. But sometimes the best insights can come from hashing it out verbally with someone. Open up about your fears, dreams, and dilemmas with a trusted friend and as you do, you’ll find your own truths will reveal themselves as you talk it out. Introverts may not love this idea, but as an extrovert, I can tell you that some of my best ideas have come from talking things out. Forcing yourself to verbalize your desires and challenges (especially if you hate writing, see #1 above) helps you to clearly focus on the real issues. This is why talk therapy works so well. Try connecting in person with a confidante and instead of dishing about our latest Netflix obsession, spend time sharing what’s coming up for you in terms of direction and desire. You may surprise yourself.