Travelling the world by myself has definitely helped me learn to trust my instincts.
Travelling by yourself means that you have to make regular judgments on your safety and wellbeing – should I catch the bus or walk/should I stay in this place or that one/should I trust this person/sit next to this person/should I eat that?
Over the years I have learnt to trust my gut instinct but there is one thing that can bring me unstuck.
It’s when I worry.
Being a worrier can mess with trusting your gut instincts. We find ourselves asking – is it instinct or is it worry?
Something happened recently that had me questioning why I didn’t trust my instincts.
You might have read the earlier post about my 2 year contract ending. At the beginning of the year, I knew that my contract would be up for renewal in early November.
I turned 50 in May and planned a fabulous birthday party. I provided food and drinks at a very cool rooftop bar and had a wonderful night.
Before the party I made the decision that I would start saving money in June (straight after my birthday splurge) in case my contract wasn’t renewed. It was a fixed term contract after all, so there were no guarantees. I figured it was a good idea to have a financial buffer – just in case.
At least that is what I told myself. The real reason I started saving was –
I had a feeling.
To be honest, at the time I couldn’t even articulate in words what that feeling was. It was just there – kind of lingering.
I talked about my ‘just in case’ plan to my closest friends. They asked questions about my work situation, listened to the answers and offered their assurances. They told me that I would be fine and encouraged me to stop worrying.
A friend said I was probably being a little paranoid because of what had happened before. I couldn’t help but agree with her.
Back in 2013 I was suddenly fired without reason or warning (after 5 months of bullying which of course I knew was a problem but not something that would yield that particular result). As much as I hate to admit it that memory stayed with me. It haunted me a little (if there is such a thing as a little haunting!) I wrote about it here on the blog and while I emotionally moved on, sometimes we aren’t fully aware of the scars situations can leave behind.
Sometimes we think we have moved through a situation until a similar one raises it ugly head and we feel like we’ve jumped into a time machine and we are right back in that awful moment.
So I started saving! I started staying home more and saving money
No matter how much I tried – I couldn’t shake the feeling.
Not long after that, I had my performance review and did really well. It was at that point, I made the decision that the feeling was simply worry.
I wrote it off as worrying. The feeling was still there but I decided to ignore it.
I stopped saving as much and started going out more again.
When the day came and I was called into a meeting room at work and saw the HR lady sitting there I knew my instincts had been right all along. Once I got over the shock of being told they wanted to take the role in a different direction, all I could think was why didn’t I keep saving?
The interesting thing is that the HR lady could have easily been there to tell me that my contract was being renewed. They attend both sorts of meetings. It was my gut instinct that immediately told me that it wasn’t going to be good news. There was no ignoring it this time around.
So how do you learn to trust your instincts instead of writing them off as worry.
Listen to your instincts
At this point of the story, this one would seem pretty obvious!
So how do we do that exactly? We need to dig deeper into that feeling. It might feel uncomfortable but you are going to have to do some digging into why you are feeling the way you are.
Start with the why, what, how, when and who questions. Why do you think you are feeling this way? Is there someone in particular who is driving this feeling? What specific thoughts are adding to this feeling? When did the feeling start? Was it triggered by something in particular? How are these feelings manifesting on a physical level and is that something I should be listening to?
As you can imagine there are a lot of questions you could ask here so work on whatever ones are appropriate for you.
If you do all of this and you can’t quite shake the feeling that something is not right – just accept that feeling even if you don’t know exactly what it means.
Get your worry under control
If you are a big worrier this one is important. I have written about how to worry less in an earlier post so head over and have a look.
I have been working on reducing this whole worry thing and I am getting better confining my worry to the big-ticket items in my life and not worrying about crap that doesn’t matter.
The great news is if you are not a big worrier, you are in a fantastic position to totally trust your instincts.
Get help to heal the scars
Sometimes we need help to work through difficult situations. No shame in it. Come to think of it getting help is something we should feel incredibly proud of!
Help comes in many different shapes and forms depending on the sort of support we need. It could be seeing a qualified counselor, joining a group session or talking to your best bud (just to name a few).
Don’t be scared of your instincts
This post isn’t about trying to scare you. It’s definitely not about being scared of your instincts.
Your instincts aren’t trying to scare you – they are trying to protect you. They are trying to shield you. Trusting your instincts is more about love than fear (granted it might not feel that way at the time, so it can take a bit of getting used to).
When our instincts are indicating we need to be prepared for something coming our way we tend to jump straight to fear mode. We fear our instincts so we ignore them (and hope like hell they go away).
If we understand they are coming from a place of love and protection (not fear) we are more likely to embrace what they are trying to tell us.
Have a back up plan
I am definitely not trying to freak out anyone on a fixed term contract with my personal story.
But the truth is we need a back up plan when we are on a fixed term anything!
In particular we need a financial back up plan because let’s face it we can get ourselves out of a tough spot in lots of different situations but some of them require money.
If you have that extra money available it’s a huge burden lifted – if not we can feel extremely stressed and anxious.
I know when people are doing it tough having extra money for a back up plan can be hard work but it’s definitely worth it. Even a small amount can make a big difference.
Trust your instincts – trust yourself
When we want to believe something it can be easy to get caught up in the ‘it will be fine’ consensus. If enough people are saying it and we desperately want to believe it, we can get sucked into the okay I’ll run with this and ignore my instincts approach.
To be honest the whole wording of it will be fine doesn’t really float my boat at the best of times. Fine doesn’t really fill me with happiness and joy. I would like to be a hell of a lot better than fine.
We need to really trust ourselves on this whole – you are being paranoid thing as well. Sometimes we are feeling paranoid for a bloody good reason and sometimes we are not (which of course is the tricky part).
We have to go back to the dissecting our feelings exercise I mentioned earlier to work out if our feelings are being triggered by something genuine.
By all means listen to the opinions of the people closest to you but when it all comes down to it trust your instincts.
Trust that everything will work out okay
This is really the biggie. No matter what our instincts are telling us – no matter what happens we need to believe that it is all going to be work out okay.
There are a lot of things we can’t control. Worrying won’t change that however listening to our instincts can help us be better prepared for change or help us avoid unpleasant/harmful situations altogether.
We have to believe that it will all work out and that whatever new direction we end up taking is exactly where we are supposed to be!
Do you trust your instincts? Do you have an effective way of knowing when your instincts are telling you something?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this one. Head down to the comments section below and let me know what you think. You might have a technique that could really help someone!
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