When you’re trying to make a decision does anyone ever advise you to trust your gut?
If you're at a crossroads and unsure about what to do next, someone might suggest you listen to your internal guide. When burdened with complicated questions, we might be told: you've already got the answer inside of you.
OK. That sounds nice. Oprah has probably interviewed whoever came up with those quotes - but how does one actually access this internal voice of wisdom? Missed that part.
I recently facilitated a workshop for college student leaders. In our conversation it became clear to the group that the things they wanted to do with their lives ultimately depended on their ability cultivate internal peace and freedom. This peace and freedom would allow them to remain aligned with who they believed they were intended to be, and enable them to make their best contributions.
“So then, how do we know who we were intended to be?” I asked them.
One student mentioned they get faint whispers from an inner voice that guides them, but sometimes the voice is blocked out by distractions. It takes work to hear their voice over the noise and refocus on what matters most. A few others also contributed to this idea there’s a guiding voice, which they believed to be their authentic self, that helped them stay on course.
Then one girl raised her hand and said nervously, "I hear you talking about your inner voices and I get it. But when I'm alone, I don't hear anything. I don't know if I've ever heard my own voice.”
She was doing everything she thought she was supposed to be doing, she told us, but no voice.
“How do I hear my own voice?” she asked.
What are we to do when we want desperately to live a life in full alignment with who we were meant to be, and we're hoping our inner voice will remind us who we are, but hear only silence?
It's a lost and lonely feeling.
You feel like you were absent that day in elementary school when they taught the lesson on how to identify and listen to your own voice. You wonder, If I can't hear my own voice, who am I meant to be? What am I meant to do? Is there a destiny for me, or am I not one of those people?
It shouldn't be this tough, should it? You're here and you're ready - you ought to be able to gain clarity if you’ve shown up and asked for it. For crying out loud, why can’t you hear your own voice?
We’d do well to remember our voice won’t be heard if it isn’t compelled to be used. A voice has no reason to be used unless there’s something to say. Your voice won't have anything to say unless your life requires its insight.
Our guiding inner voice becomes audible when we’re participating in our lives with no safety net.
Wisdom is not a gift received in times of peace.
Living safely, following the rules, accepting everything at face value, and protecting your borders leads to a quiet life - both outside and inside. After all, what compelling truth does your inner voice need to tell you if you’re spending your life coloring inside the lines?
Our internal voice only begins to tell us the truth of who we are when our survival depends on it.
When this pursuit gets difficult, lonely, and it feels like I can’t hear the truth, I’m comforted by Steven Pressfield’s words:
We’re never alone. As soon as we step outside the campfire glow, our Muse lights on our shoulder like a butterfly. The act of courage calls forth infallibly that deeper part of ourselves that supports and sustains us.
The gift of receiving wisdom from your inner voice comes at the cost of fully participating in your life. I promise you, when you’re hard at work and neck deep in courageous living, there will come a time when you desperately need guidance -
and in that moment, you’ll hear it.