Why Listening to Your Heart Doesn’t Sound Smart

5 minute read


You’ve heard it a million times: follow your heart. It’s so cliché that you may dismiss it as a touchy-feely idealistic way of living your life. It sounds innocent and childish. It doesn’t sound smart because it’s not. Everything considered smart is contained, practical, and organized. It all comes from the left side of your brain where you camp out analyzing and rationalizing your thoughts, data, and actions away like a little minion.

Of course, both parts of our brain are necessary to navigate and live a healthy and successful life, but the problem lies within ignoring our heart’s signals out of being practical. That is the ultimate crime of the heart.

“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” – Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey’s 2014 commencement speech for Maharishi University of Management

Then suddenly something happens to wake you up. A divorce. A death. A natural disaster. A diagnosis. Or maybe it’s an empty house. A lay off. A birth. Something big happens, and it shifts you to your heart. Fast. You’re suddenly feeling instead of thinking, and the chances are that what happens is that you wish you had been living this way all along. How much better could your life have been if you bucked the system and slowed down enough to listen to how you felt instead of acting on what you or others were thinking or dictating?

It’s not too late.
You can start right now.
As long as you still have a pulse you still have a choice.

Because decision making comes down to two things: Love or Fear. This is not about impulsive and rash decision making. Not at all. What it is about is finding a way to pay attention to how you are feeling on a regular basis. Make it a practice. You start with being more intentional. Then you do the research. Then you collect the data. Then you check back in and make the decision. Sometimes no investigating outside will be necessary at all. You’ll just know without explanation. Now, no matter what the conclusion is that you’re making, you can be certain that you’re doing it from your best Self.

With practice, you will begin to have your thoughts in order with conviction. You’ll see boundaries and compassion surface much more natural, and frustrations and doubt dwindle away. And when uncertainty does hang around, you’ll know it’s there for a reason; not as a knee-jerk debilitation.

Whether you’re making decisions for yourself, your family, or your work, you will find yourself doing it with more comfort and peace. It doesn’t matter if you conflict with yourself, a co-worker, or a two-year-old. You will be more sure, more honest, and more deliberate in your decision making.

When you are consistently in your head, you give zero chance for your intuition to come into play.  Listening to and leading from the heart is not for sissies. It’s super courageous. Where did the groupthink of flying through life and not coming up for breath even come from? Life is way too short to choose to be blindly swept into the current with the masses. (“Choose” being the operative word here.) Let us not forget the wise woman who once said: the masses are asses. It’s not about trying to force yourself to do rebellious acts out of attention seeking diversions. It’s about being real and true to who you are by listening to your partner in crime: your intuition. It never fails you. It never judges you. It never manipulates you with empty threats. It just guides you. That’s it.

Just imagine if we all normalized slowing down as a regular practice in our culture. Picture what the world would look like if we all banned together and took the time to go inside for the answer instead of always looking outside of ourselves. What would happen to illnesses and crime rates? What would the inside of our homes, schools, and organizations look like? Would the level of conscious creation finally rise above our level of mindless consumption?

When you choose to practice listening to your intuition, you are pivoting your life down a path of least resistance and regrets. Yes, you will disappoint people along the way; it’s inevitable.  The upside is that by consistently checking in to how you feel, you shift over to wiser decision making. You are then aligning yourself with continually being true to who you are and even more with why you are in this beautiful world in the first place.

Just like anything, it takes a commitment and practice to differentiate between second-guessing and your gut feeling. It’s like a reunion of sorts. It may feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re very left-brain oriented (which is most of us). You need to trust and work through the tension with your stellar stick-with-it-ness skills. The more you practice, the easier it will be to feel the difference. Does a tingle flow through your body? Do you experience a ping in your belly? Does your heart flutter? It affects us all differently. The goal is to start checking in daily to get a lay of the land that is your body. Then you will build the intuitive signals it receives like any other muscle.

You know what else you will strengthen? Your resiliency to being wrong. Because when you start listening to your inner voice, there’s a good chance you’ll be a little off until you visit it on the reg. Then you’ll be familiar with it, and it will feel less daunting.

“Your intuition is always correct, but it takes time to learn to hear it correctly. If you are willing to risk acting on what you believe to be true, and risk making mistakes, you will learn very fast by paying attention to what works and what doesn’t. If you hold back out of fear of being wrong, learning to trust your intuition could take a lifetime.” – Shakti Gawain, Living in the Light

Have fun with it. Start small. Check inside and guess what your partner will want for dinner tonight, or who’s texting you before you check your phone or what color shirt your friend is wearing before she walks into the bar. Low stakes. Then when the higher stake decisions naturally arise, you will be ready.

Your intuition is always talking to you. It’s up to you to listen.

Here are two exercises to send you on your way*:

Exercise 1. Work with direct (literal) intuition.

Find a place to sit comfortably.
Follow your breath by counting ‘1’ on the inhale and ‘2’ on the exhale.
When you are relaxed and quiet, bring to mind an event or situation that you’d like more insight about.
Focus on the event or situation for a few minutes.
Ask for a direct intuitive experience about it with a deadline; within 48 hours or by week’s end. (Yes, you can be that assertive with your intuition.)
Then let it go.

Exercise 2. Work with indirect (symbolic) intuition.

Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.
Ask yourself, “What does my life need right now?” or “What do I need to remember right now?” three times in a row, pausing between each question.
Imagine you are going toward a more meaningful answer each time you ask.
When you’ve finished with the 3rd question, pick up your pen and draw one symbol on your paper.
Interpret this symbol. Go with your initial interpretation. This usually leads to more or less of something needed in your life.

*Exercises adapted from The University of Minnesota. For a full list of intuitive exercises, please visit their site here.

Crimes of the Heart (1986. Director: Bruce Beresford. Writer: Beth Henley)
Three sisters with quite different personalities and lives reunite when the youngest of them, Babe, has just shot her husband. The oldest sister, Lenny, takes care of their grandfather and is turning into an old maid, while Meg, who tries to make it in Hollywood as a singer/actress, has had a wild life filled with many men. Their reunion causes much joy, but also many tensions.

Chick Boyle: Uh! Well! I was just trying to warn her that she is gonna have to help herself. She just doesn’t seem to have any idea how serious this situation is, now does she? She doesn’t have the vaguest idea.

Lennora Josephine ‘Lenny’ Magrath: Well it’s true. She does seem… confused.

Chick Boyle: That is putting it mildly Lennie honey. That is putting it mighty mild.

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