Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 4, 2019

How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

Five years ago, my husband Jake was training for a triathlon. He had just purchased a new road bike and woke up one sunny Saturday morning to take it out for its first spin.

As we were lying in bed, he looked at me and said, “I don’t have a good feeling about this; I hope something doesn’t happen.”

I suggested if he had a bad feeling, maybe he shouldn’t go. He thought for a moment, his logical mind kicked in, and he replied, ”Of course I should go, it’s fine. I need to train. It will be okay.”

Fast forward two hours later when I got a call from an unknown number. I answered with trepidation, knowing exactly what this call was going to be. A man told he had just found my husband in the middle of the road. He had an accident and the ambulance was on its way. He would stay with him until it was there.

Turns out, he was lucky to have just broken his femur and hip. Jake knew that morning that something wasn’t right. But instead of trusting his intuition and listening to that inner voice, he went anyway. It happens to all of us.

You often hear people say, “Go with your gut”, “Trust your instincts”, “Follow your intuition” and “Listen to your inner voice.” That all sounds great, right? If only it were that easy.

With all the external noise and internal conflict, how do we listen to our inner wisdom?

When you can tune in to that inner voice, you can make better and faster decisions, solve problems with greater ease, and live a more fulfilled and happy life.

But HOW?

I’ve worked with thousands of people over the course of my career and have learned that while this inner voice shows up in a variety of ways for each of us, we ALL have it.

In this article, I’ll outline some tips and strategies for how to identify and listen to your own inner voice. If you can find that voice and truly listen, it can save you a lot of time, energy, angst….and perhaps even a broken hip along the way.

I understand this might be easier for some than others. But regardless of who you are and how you’re wired, I just know, in my gut something will work for you.

What Is Our Inner Voice?

Call it Gut. Knowing. Insight. Soul. Innate Wisdom. That’s the voice we’re looking for.

The dictionary defines intuition as, “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.”

It’s a hunch. A feeling. An inkling. A sense.

Advertising

In Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, he explores the inner processes of intuition and instinct, examining how we make snap decisions and judgments. He has numerous examples of people having a hunch, feeling or intuition and how, while there was no hard evidence to back them up at first, science and data eventually backed up what they knew to be true.

Did you know that 95% of our brain activity happens at an unconscious level? Studies from numerous cognitive neuroscientists show that only 5% of our cognitive activity (decisions, emotions, actions, behavior) comes from our conscious mind.

We are taking in information through all our senses all the time – and processing it at an incredible speed. So that intuition, hunch, inkling, sense, voice, is coming from masses of information we can’t even cognitively or consciously process.

Then there’s cognition. “The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”

This is more about understanding. Problem solving. Discernment. Organizing.

This is the logical, thinking part of your mind. Weighing pros and cons; coming to rational conclusions based on data or other factors. These are the voices of reason which often try to override your instincts.

What If I Don’t Hear Any Voice?

Your inner guidance and wisdom aren’t always a voice in your head. Often, it’s a feeling, a sensation, image, energy or emotion. You might notice it your body. There’s no one best or way to experience your inner voice. The important thing is to identify when and where you feel it.

Is it a feeling in your gut? This is true for many of my clients and for me, personally. You may have heard the gut being called our “second brain.” This is because of the enteric nervous system (ENS). It can operate independently of the brain and spinal cord, and the central nervous system. We really can think with our gut![1]

Celebrity therapist and pioneering hypnotherapy trainer Marisa Peer has this to say: “The stomach is the seat of all emotions and your feelings are the most real thing you have; so the trick is to listen to your feelings. If something feels wrong, your inner voice is saying it is not right for you. If you get the horrible lurch in your stomach, your inner voice is telling you ‘this is wrong’.”

Perhaps it’s in your heart. When I asked a Jessie Gardner of HeySoul.com, a friend and colleague known for her acute sense of self-awareness where her inner voice resides, she said, “My heart for sure. Always my heart.” That’s no surprise, our hearts are very intelligent organs.[2]

“Most people don’t know this, but the heart can feel, think and decide for itself. It has around 40,000 neurons and whole network of neurotransmitters with very specific functions, which make it a perfect extension of the brain. It’s automatic, almost instinctive, as if a mysterious, primal voice were telling us that the center of our true being, our conscience, is located right there.”

Maybe the voice is in your head?

When I talked to my Dad about his inner voice, he balked at the idea of feeling it in his gut or heart. Instead, he shared about the voice that comes from the back of his head that talks to him not with him.

Try this: Look, Listen, Feel.

We experience inner wisdom in different ways. Maybe you relate to one of my examples? Maybe you “see” a picture, vision or image that comes up in your head. Perhaps you feel sensations in your body – energy, emotions or feelings. As we go through examples of how to listen, pay attention to how and where yours shows up.

Advertising

Why Don’t We Listen to Our Inner Voice?

If this inner voice is so powerful and effective, why don’t we listen?

Logic or Reason Takes Over

We often have a feeling or a sense of something, just like my husband did, but very quickly, our logical mind kicks in to try to understand and comprehend what we feel. This especially happens when we don’t have data or information to back up our hunch or inner voice. We, and of course, others believe it’s not valid if we can’t justify or explain ourselves. So we push our instincts aside.

A recent client told me about how he ignored his inner voice not long ago. He dropped off his 16-year-old daughter at the mall. As she got out of the car, he thought, “I should tell her to make good choices.” But, because her friends were in the car and he didn’t want to embarrass her, he decided not to. His logic, reason and social graces took over. A few hours later he got a call from the mall police. His daughter had stolen a ring. “I knew I should have told her to make good choices.”

We often override our instincts with logic, reason, desire, and, in this case, societal pressure or social graces. But we don’t have to.

We Don’t like the Answer

Sometimes we know what we need to do, but don’t like the answer. This happens with clients all the time when I ask what they sense they should do. They answer, but then reply, “But I don’t want to do that!”

Once, a client told me the story of her wedding, and a knowing that she simply ignored. As she walked down the aisle, she knew that she should not marry the man standing in front of her. Truthfully, she knew long before that day. But she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, call off the wedding, let friends and family down. So, she went through with it. Inevitably, that marriage ended in divorce – and this story is all too common.

We Don’t Know How to Distinguish, Hear or Listen to It

That’s what the following strategies are for! Let’s dive in.

How to Tune into Your Inner Voice

Here are 9 different ways to tune into your innate wisdom and inner voice:

1. Find Quiet

“Be still. The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

There are lots of ways to find quiet in the busyness of life. Turn off the phone, shut off the TV. Get some time and space to yourself.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Yes, I’m going to recommend you meditate. I know meditation seems to have become the panacea for everything that ails you, and there a good reason for that: it works. It’s one of the fastest, easiest and most effective ways to tap into your inner voice. Meditation aides us to connecting with our true self. Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati said “If you quiet the mind, the soul will speak.” I completely agree.

Another great way to find quiet is to be in nature. Why? Because there’s a connection. It’s grounding. You’re able to tap into the “oneness” of everything. This can shift things energetically. Want the double whammy? Meditate in nature.

You might find your quiet in nature, meditation, yoga, exercise, prayer. Whatever it is, find your quiet.

    2. Push Pause

    Most of us are running a hundred miles an hour in every direction. It’s hard to hear anything at that pace. Have you ever been driving down the freeway with the windows down, listening to music, when the person next to you starts talking. Can you hear them? Of course not. It’s too loud. There’s too much going on. You need to roll up the windows, press pause on the music and stop.

    Advertising

    Our inner voice is speaking to us all the time, but sometimes it’s just too loud or we’re too busy to hear it. Pressing “pause” allows to tap into our innate wisdom.

    When I was studying Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Mike Bundrant at the iNLP Center gave me a fantastic tool that I share with almost every client. It’s called the AHA Solution.[3] It’s often used to identify patterns of self-sabotage, but in this case, we can use it to listen to our inner voice.

    Next time you have a feeling, a sense, a hunch or intuition, follow this protocol.

    A. Aware: Be aware of what you are feeling. Pay attention and notice.

    H. Halt: This is the pause button. Think about the ways you can respond to what you’re hearing or noticing. You could listen to your inner voice, ask more questions and seek to hear it further. Or, you could choose to ignore it completely and let your cognitive mind take over and convince you it’s okay.

    A. Act: Now that you have options, decide which action you will take.

    3. Invite Your Inner Wisdom to Show Up

    If you want someone to come to your house, you’ve got to invite them over, right? Try taking this approach with your inner voice. While it’s always running in the background, it may have taken a backseat because it can’t seem to get through all the noise. It’s going to speak up more often when it knows you’re open and listening. Take a moment now and invite your inner wisdom to show up. Let it know you are ready and willing to listen. Wait to see what happens.

    4. Ask Your Body

    I love this one; our bodies are so dang smart. They will tell us if we ask and listen. But too often we have disconnected from sensations in our body to push through in the interest of productivity.

    A few months back I was working with a client who came to our appointment with a massive headache. She stopped midway through our session and asked if I would mind if she went and took a couple Advil. Of course I said it was no problem, but asked if she was interested to understand the cause of her headache first. She nodded.

    I had her close her eyes, take a couple deep breaths and ask her head, “What do you need from me right now?” The answer? “I need rest.” She burst into tears. She was exhausted but felt she couldn’t stop. She was leaving for a trip in a couple days, had her son’s birthday coming up and felt completely swamped. However, when she asked the question, her inner wisdom knew what she needed.

    Try this at home. Next time you get something that’s bothering you physically, stop and be still for a moment. Ask that part: What do you need from me? What’s this about? Or What’s going on? And then wait and listen for an answer. This might sound a little out there, but trust me, it works.

    5. Put It in Your ‘Slow Cooker’

    When my Dad has a big problem he’s trying to solve or an important decision to make, he thinks about it before bed. I realize this might go against all advice regarding thinking about stressful things before bed, but that’s just the thing. He isn’t thinking about it or trying to solve it. He just puts the problem in the back of his mind for the night.

    In the shower the next morning, solutions start bubbling up. These are usually spoken to him as if someone is talking to him. “What about this? Why don’t you do this?” It’s usually a very simple answer he hadn’t yet considered. And his response back to himself is frequently, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But he did!

    This goes back to the 95% unconscious part that’s running in the background. When he stops thinking, his mind stops racing and puts the problem in the back of his mind, the unconscious part of him comes up with all sorts of great solutions. A colleague of mine used to refer to this as putting things in her ‘slow cooker’.

    6. Flip a Coin

    Have you ever flipped a coin, only to decide to do the exact opposite of what the coin said? Flipping a coin instigates our instinctive response because it gives us something to react to. When writing this article, My 7-year-old daughter was sitting at dinner one night, deciding who she wanted to put her to bed. She started doing the game, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.” Each time she finished, she landed on my husband. So, she went again. And again. Until six attempts later when she landed on me and replied, “I choose Mummy!” When a decision is taken out of our hands and happens to us, it gives us something to react to.

    Advertising

    Try this with a decision you’re trying to make. Flip a coin. Are you happy and ready to go with that answer? Or do you want to go against the decision and try again? Well then, you already know what you want, don’t you?

    7. Eat the Decision

    I just had to include this one. I know it might sound a bit odd, but bear with me. Years ago, I read about a CEO who made all his big decisions this way. Let’s say he was considering acquiring another company. He would sit down and imagine he was eating that decision. Then he would stop and wait and see how he felt. Did he feel energized and alive or sick to his stomach? I love this idea and have tried it myself. It allows you to get out of your head and go into your body to make the decision. This might not be for everyone, but maybe it’s for you!

    8. Take a Step

    Sometimes you don’t know until you’re “in it.” When you’re faced with two choices, make the best choice with the information you have and what you feel is best, and then start moving. You’ll know if that choice is really right for you as you’ll feel good as you move forward. You’ll know it’s wrong if you continue to feel heaviness or resistance. The more you move forward the clearer the signal will become.

    9. Get Some Help

    Whether it be a best friend (who knows how to listen and ask the right questions), a coach or therapist. Having scheduled time to tune in and having someone ask the right questions allows you tap in to what you already know. You already have the answers within you, sometimes you just need a little help to uncover them.

    Moving on with Your Inner Voice

    Like with anything in life, practice makes permanent. It takes time to grow and nurture your inner voice, especially if you’ve ignored it or pushed it to the side for some time now. The more you listen and hone your skills, the better and faster you will become at hearing and listening to your intuition, your gut, your innate wisdom.

    Play with the strategies above and see what works. Better yet, as you read through the ideas, identify which ones you felt or sensed would be good to try. Try those first.

    Practice on small things first, like what you want to eat, what to wear or whether you want to attend that party Saturday night. You don’t have to start with major life decisions, whether you should buy that house or if you should take that job.

    Then:

    • Notice when and where your feel your inner wisdom.
    • Notice when you feel a pull, have a hunch or instinct about something.
    • Notice when you have that sense and your mind tries to override it.
    • Notice when you start talking yourself out of something or start talking yourself into something.

    Need more evidence that this will work for you?

    Think about a time in your life when you recognized and listened to the inner voice – what was the outcome? Now, think about a time when you heard that voice, but for some reason, ignored it or pushed it aside. What was the outcome then? You, know, that time when you felt like you shouldn’t do something, but did anyway? Or had a bad feeling but kept moving forward?

    Final Thoughts

    Pay attention. Next time you have a bad feeling, a sense that something isn’t right, an inkling or a pit in your stomach, pay attention.

    Following your inner voice will lead you to the truth of what’s best for you. Tuning into your innate wisdom will help you make better and faster life decisions, solve problems with greater ease, and live a life of greater happiness, success and fulfillment.

    In the words of Madeleine L’Engle, “Don’t try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition.”

      Featured photo credit: hiva sharifi via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Scientific American: Gut Feelings
      [2] Exploring Your Mind: The Heart Has Neurons Too
      [3] Mike Bundrant: The A-H-A Solution

      More by this author

      Tracy Kennedy

      Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

      How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life 30 Self Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit How to Be More Confident: 10 Powerful Ways to Boost Confidence

      Trending in Mental Strength

      1 How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You 2 How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life) 3 50+ Best Motivational Quotes To Overcome Life’s Challenges 4 10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today 5 13 Simple Habits to Cultivate Self-Compassion

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

      How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You

      Let’s start with the problem:

      You get back from work. You’re tired. It was a long day. You know there’s things you could do, to get out of the rut you’re in.

      But, let’s be honest. You really would rather relax, sit down and chill for a bit. Grab a snack. Watch your favourite show.

      By the time you’ve done that, the day’s over. There’s just not enough time. To make this worse – you don’t have the energy or willpower to make changes in your life today.

      So where do you go from there?

      What you need are some easy to apply actions that are proven to work.

      This article is going to give you 4 steps on how to make changes in life so you can follow today and get closer to success – even when you are feeling tired and lazy.

      These steps have proven to work for me, and many of the coaching clients I work with privately.

      1. Squash Inconsistency by Giving up Motivation

      Now most people, when they want to make changes to their lives, focus on making lengthy to-do lists and plans. They think over and over again about what is going wrong, what is going well and what they want, etc.

      All in a bid to push themselves to getting more motivated.

      Guess what? This isn’t going to work.

      Willpower and motivation are feelings. Feelings are vague and unreliable.

      Instead, what you should do is focus on putting your flawed unpredictable self in the best possible environments.

      If you do one thing first from this list, it’s THIS:

      Find and go to the best possible environment for the area of your life you want to change.

      For example:

      Advertising

      • If you want to get fit, make your first goal to show up at the gym three times a week.
      • If you want to find a new relationship, show up to a meet up in your city for single people.
      • If you want to be productive and make your business idea work, don’t work at home, go to a co working space nearby.

      The reason people fail to become the best version of themselves is because they underestimate the power of environments to influence behavior.

      Accept that you are flawed, prone to distractions and your motivation and willpower will fail you.

      The best hack at your disposal? Show up to “change inducing” environments and get out of your comfort zone (physically)!

      OK. Next step.

      2. Recruit an Elite Team to Help You (For Free)

      Open up any social media platform you’re active on that contains some positive connections you have.

      Send this message to one person you already know and trust ton help you make changes to your life:

      “Hey [first name]. Can I be really frank and honest with you? I’m having one of those – ‘OMG I NEED TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY LIFE!’ moments.

      And I was browsing the internet, looking for tips and this article I came across suggested accountability. So here I am, messaging you to be part of my accountability system.

      My ask is simple.

      Can we sit together once a week at [x place] but do absolutely no socializing? I’ll buy the [coffee/food] and it will be a space to force me to do [x thing]. You literally have to do nothing other than eat the free coffee/food I pay for lol. But it will keep my accountability high, which is what I need.

      What you reckon? Can you help? Thanks!”

      Now obviously, change the language to suit you but you get the idea.

      Not only are you going to environments that will help you make changes, but by bringing a friend (or two), you make it even likelier that you will succeed. It doesn’t even have to be in person, it could be a video call.

      People fail to make changes to their lives because they try to do it all themselves.

      It doesn’t really work in long term, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

      You can recruit and “enlist” people to help you. By doing this, you’re taking care of the up and down motivation you have.

      Advertising

      Not only are people happy to help, when they see this type of behavior, they’re also inspired and motivated to change their lives. Pretty soon, you end up creating change in not just your life, but other people’s too.

      So when the next dip in willpower comes?

      You have a friend sitting right next to you, watching your every move, making sure you get things done anyway.

      3. Build Good Habits Effortlessly

      Changing your life means changing your day to day habits.

      Habits are automated behaviors you do everyday, like how a clock works, without thinking or motivating yourself to do them.

      Some habits help you to change, others can stop you. One of the best ways to replace your ‘bad’ habits with good ones is to treat them like old clothes. What happens when your t-shirt gets old, faded and out of fashion? You replace it with something new and improved.

      Do the same thing with your habits – upgrade and replace them with something better. Start small, then slowly graduate to higher levels of difficulty.

      Let me give you a clear example of what I mean:

      A few years ago (before it became mainstream), I was trying to start my own habit of meditating every single day to help boost my productivity and mindfulness. I’d done a mind blowing course called Vipassana. It involved 10 days of deeply powerful meditation combined with noble silence in a remote part of the UK.

      Now it was easy to do when I was there (#1 – environment!) with all those other meditators (#2 – people helping me). All I could do was meditate. There were ZERO distractions. I had NO CHOICE.

      When I got home however, after a few days of sticking with it, I quickly caved.

      Those extra 30 minutes of sleep were just so much easier than waking up everyday at 4am for a long one hour meditation.

      So what did I do to build this really important habit?

      Like with most things, I wanted to make changes to my life. I wanted to become my best self.

      I knew how important it was. I just couldn’t follow through consistently and kept failing over and over.

      Then, it hit me.

      Advertising

      I needed to start small. I made a tiny change, that made all the difference.

      I made a tiny change, that I could stick to – without fail – that has me meditating daily every single day now.

      What was it?

      Instead of trying to do something BIG inconsistently (1 hour of 4am morning meditation) and failing again and again. I decided to do something small consistently.

      Building any good habit really just comes down to repetition. The way the brain is built works in favour of this.

      My new habit became:

      When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will sit cross legged for 30 seconds with my eyes closed.

      Eventually, once I did this consistently for a few months. I increased difficulty.

      When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will meditate for 10 minutes.

      Why does this work?

      What’s important here is that the behavior you want (meditating) is tied to another consistent habit (folding your bedding).

      I attached my new habit to one that already is consistent.

      Making it more likely to happen.

      Secondly, I aimed for consistency, not perfection. This is where a lot of people fail. They have an idea of the change they want, but things become all or nothing.

      When you do this, you fail to realize the power of consistency. The brain you have loves patterns. In this case, I trained my brain to repeat a set pattern every morning when I fold my bed.

      There was no motivation or willpower required.

      Advertising

      This training has gone so far now that if I miss a day of meditating, I really feel uncomfortable. I’m just as conditioned to meditate as most people are to checking their phones in the morning.

      If you want to learn more about quitting bad habits, Lifehack’s CEO also has a guide on it: How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

      4. Create More Time by Quitting Social Media

      You know the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity and it took me 30 seconds to do?

      I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked them on my laptop.

      Then, to reinforce it, I told all my friends and followers on Facebook (my most used platform) I wasn’t using it for a while.

      Now, there’s nothing wrong with my social media. Social media is a tool. Tools are neutral. It’s how we use them that is “productive” or “distracting”.

      We each have to judge how healthy our usage is, especially when weighed against unlocking our best self. That said, for most people reading this, including me, I think limiting our usage is a very favorable advantage.

      One of the best ways to make changes in our lives is not to add new tools or tricks. But simply remove things that distract us.

      Social media is something I use heavily for my businesses. Technically I’m a “social media influencer” and “YouTuber”. I need to be posting constantly, right?

      Our situations are unique, so I came up with a unique solution for this. After deleting and blocking these apps from my devices, I installed a social media management software that still allows me to post my updates.

      The big difference, however, is I cannot spend any time scrolling and being distracted.

      Final Thoughts

      Change is not always about more. Sometimes it’s about doing less and getting rid of what distracts or blocks you.

      Trying to do things by yourself is a good way to fail. Share your goals and pitfalls with people, no one helps until you ask.

      Start with small changes consistently instead of big changes failed at consistently. The momentum will give you results over time.

      So what to do next to make changes in your life?

      1. Write down where you are going to GO to create the changes you want.
      2. Message 3 to 4 people on social media and ask them to help you using the message template I gave you.
      3. Choose one small habit to get started with immediately and upgrade it over time.
      4. Delete all, or at least most social media apps on your devices, and notify people you are leaving to make it stick.

      More About Making Changes in Life

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Read Next