Having it all isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
We’re all trying to figure out how to be happy, right? And we’re told the ideal recipe includes: a fulfilling career, a thriving family, a beautiful him, a cool carr…if you “just work hard enough,” right?
I recently worked with a woman who has a high-paying career as a top-level Project Manager in Chicago. To the casual observer, she has it ALL – big house, nice car, still on her first marriage, healthy (though rambunctious) kids, professional prestige and community respect.
But, she was happy.
She worked her tail off (for people she didn’t like), to get a promotion that would give her more money (to work longer hours with more people she didn’t like). Then, she goes home town equally exhausted spouse, who preferred his phone and TV to dinner and conversation with her. And her “adorable” kids were also demanding and unappreciative.
She reached a point where she was asking herself: “Is this all there is?!”
And you know what? A lot of really successful women feel exactly this way.
The issue with high-powered women is they’ve unwittingly subscribed to an achievement-oriented mindset where they measure “success” almost exclusively by what is external and measurable.
Traditional solutions, like setting healthy boundaries, managing your time well or becoming a self-advocate, aren’t the worst place to start, but they’re still an attempt to change your circumstances and rely heavily on others for them to work well.
So, what happens when others don’t respect your boundaries and flue season turns your routine on its head, or standing up for yourself in a new, unexpected way backfires?
Powerful women know in those moment that you can (and must) TRUST yourself!
Learning to trust yourself is tricky because a lot time our inner wisdom goes against conventional advice. But if you listen inward, you’ll realize that you already know that your job (or relationship, neighborhood…whatever) is sucking you dry. You know what to to do, fear is just keeping you from doing it!
Fear, because change is risky and takes effort. Si it’s easier (read: safer) to say, “But, I’ve already invest so many years,” or “This is just the way life is.”
Instead of trusting your instinct that something is off and then making a change to correct it, you just keep putting your head down, getting through the rough patches, maybe even having a mini-breakdown here and there to “get it out of your system,” and then just forging ahead, business as usual.
And why not, right? Let’s be honest, there are a lot more people there to support you when you play by the “rules.”
But the thing is – you know in your heart of hearts that you’re meant for more.
Every cell in your body is asking you to change something … and quick!!
Ladies, I’m telling you … it’s time to listen to, trust and follow your inner wisdom. The great news is – you don’t have to add one more “should” to your list to do so.
tuning and trusting your inner wisdom is as as simple as noticing. Here’s how you do it:
1. Notice what pulls on your attention (whether it makes sense or not).
The first thing I tell new clients is to tap into their curiosity. it doesn’t have to make sense. Often, it won’t make sense.
Whether it’s trying a new kumquat recipe, learning Mandarin, or just an inexplicable desire to clean the baseboards, something is piquing your interest, even as you read this. Notice what it is. Even if you don’t right out and buy kumquats, make a n to of it. Let it rise to the surface.
This is guidance from your deepest self and it wants to be heard. Often, just this first step can make you feel instantly more satisfied.
2. Notice the story that surfaces.
What immediately sprang to mind when you began to listen to yourself? Was it something playful, “I’ve always wanted to experiment with new food!” or was it something fearful, “my kids will never eat anything like that!”
Rest assured, there’s no wrong response here.
If you feel playful, it’s a little easier to take the next step.
If you feel fearful, you just got a glimpse of some of the belief that keep you stuck (despite following all of that traditional advice). You don’t even have to pause and unravel that negative belief at this point, just take stock of it and see where else it arises.
Whatever comes up for you is simply your habit, the way you think by default. Just because it’s the default, doesn’t mean it’s the truth. So here is your fork in the road moment. you get to ask yourself: Do I like this story? Does this story make me happy?
If the answer to either is “no,” let that awareness sit solidly with you. It’s here to give you the opportunity to make changes once you’re ready.
3. Take a step – any step – and notice how it makes you feel.
When you feel compelled to, go ahead and take a step. It doesn’t even matter how big or small the step is. Just pick something and get curious about tit. How does it feel to write “kumquat” on your grocery list, for instance?
The key is awareness. Use the information that rises to the surface however you see fit.
You can sty right where you are if you don’t have the energy to contemplate those hurtful stories, that’s OK. You see them now and you can begin to exercise grace and compassion with yourself. (Rather than the usual self-flagellation that leads to more anxiety and stress.)
Repeat steps 2 and 3. You’ll find that small, digestible changes will begin to happen for you.
4. Notice the surprising “Miracle Moments” that occur.
Serendipity will start to appear. You’ll meet just the right person at just the right time.
Someone will say something to you, seemingly in passing, that articulates exactly what you’re trying to make sense of. You’ll get a screaming deal on something that you’e wanted for a very long time but could never justify buying. That person you thought was so close-minded surprises you with an act of tolerance.
We build belief on evidence so notice, notice, notice!!
As you compile proof that following your instincts leads you to great outcomes, you’ll start trusting yourself on larger topics (like lifestyle changes, personal direction and even biggies like career or relationship changes).
It didn’t take long for my client to realize, to her surprise, that once she started listening to herself and trusting her instincts, she could make time of the things she enjoyed. With that extra balance, she remember that she really does like Project management (which suddenly make the people she works with more tolerable, who, in turn, changed their attitude towards her).
Also while indulging a bit of curiosity, she met a total stranger who was starting a basement yoga business and she started going. Like magic, her kids got where they needed t go, with full bellies. The world didn’t come to a screeching halt when she trusted herself and prioritized her own needs. And, with some practice, she even dropped feeling guilty about miking time of what SHE wants.
So, take a beat from time to time. Tune in. Trust yourself.
It won’t be long before you notice some pretty cool things about yourself and your life. Before you know it, all of the things you thought you had to do externally (healthy boundaries anyone?) just become an end result of following your inner instincts.
Trust yourself; you’ve got this!
This article first appeared on Your Tango.