An Intuitive Guide to Happiness
Have you ever met someone and thought: no, not for me? Did you listen? What about when it said: go for it? These thoughts are your keys to living the life you’ve always wanted. Sadly, they get ignored far too often.
There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself. — Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
My greatest strength, beyond my learned business acumen or trained martial arts skills, is my innate ability to listen to my inner self, my intuition. That voice that we all hear screaming in our heads when a suspicious person approaches or an opportunity knocks — mine is turned up to 11.
Sadly, like most, I’ve ignored this voice more often than not. When it guides me to tell someone to kick rocks for being an asshole, I justify their actions to avoid conflict and keep a friend. Guess what: they do it again and again. It’s like I gave them permission to keep going.
Instead of living my actual life, I ignored this voice, suppressed who I really am, and conformed to society. And it sucked. But when I learned how to listen, to follow Musashi and find the answers within myself, I started living my actual life. And I only get one.
What is Intuition?
Automatic thoughts can be dangerous things. They aren’t all your intuition talking, either.
In 2014, I got so caught up listening to every automatic thought that entered my head that I ended up with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I spent most of my life in great shape — eating healthy and working out all the time. So when I stopped, got fatter, and experienced common things like gas pains and acid reflux, it freaked me out. My automatic thought: this is a heart attack!
That was not my intuition talking.
During my therapy to overcome the anxiety (which I made a 100% recovery from 5 years ago), I learned not only to control my automatic thoughts but also how to listen to the right ones.
The key difference between an automatic thought and your intuition is that automatic thoughts ask what if, while your intuition imparts understanding.
Think of a time when your best friend went through a terrible break-up. They’re in front of you, crying their eyes out. The instinct to hug them because you know that’s what they need is your intuition; the thought that it might be weird or they might pull away is an automatic thought.
Automatic Thoughts Are The Enemy
Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and automatic thoughts are easy. They just pop in your head asking what if. Here’s a thought: what if you don’t listen to them?
Automatic thoughts are only as powerful as you allow them to be. It’s up to you to act on them. When I was suffering through anxiety, I acted on the thought that acid reflux was a heart attack by going to the hospital.
Here’s why automatic thoughts are the enemy: they are based on your fears. Do you know anyone living their best lives by succumbing to fear?
Unfortunately, society not only reinforces these fearful thoughts, but it also created them. It would be easy to live your best life if you didn’t have to go against the grain of common opinion.
Writer? Bah! Get a real job!
Why do you like him?
Do you really think that hat makes you look cool?
So when you think about chasing that dream career, dating the person you really like, or buying something that just speaks to you…you stop. You think what if, and you cave to societal pressure.
That’s how the enemy forces you into mundanity. That’s how you suppress your true desires and live a life filled with regrets.
Be Yourself By Listening to Yourself
Intuition operates on a higher level than automatic thoughts. Your intuition is deeper, more guttural, and often without language giving it form.
You see someone in pain, your intuition urges you to help them without forming words. It’s a feeling deep within yourself that understands the situation and knows what to do. The thoughts that spring from your intuition come from an understanding of the situation, not a fear of it.
“What if I’m in real danger?” You ask. Okay. Picture this: you’re walking on a sidewalk and a car drives by in a lane next to you. You look back and see another car approaching in the lane. Automatic thoughts of fear and anxiety think: what if that car hits me? Your intuition watches for evidence of the car swerving or jumping the curb before warning you to get out of the way.
You know your intuition is talking when there is evidence to back up what it’s saying.
Intuition also creates a need to think things through a bit, often because it means going against the grain of what others think. Smooth sailing doesn’t trigger the need for intuitive thoughts. It’s when you need to make a decision and potentially suffer consequences that your intuition acts as a guide.
When you get stuck and don’t know which way is forward. That’s when you need to stop and listen. The one that feels right is often the one leading you toward your best life, especially if there’s evidence that it’s possible.
What Happens When You Get It Wrong?
Listening to your intuition, like most things, takes practice to get it right.
Even discounting the courage it often takes to set off in a direction that might seem foolhardy to some, there’s a bit of trial and error in the beginning.
When I took my last job, I knew it wasn’t for me. I’m a writer, dammit! That was my intuition talking. However, I needed money and writing wasn’t providing at the moment. So I took the job.
Taking that job wasn’t the problem. It was the type of job I took. The need for money triggered my intuitive thoughts to say: get a job. I should have kept listening when it said: …but not that job.
Failing to listen to your intuition isn’t a death-knell in your pursuit of happiness. One miss and consequences will teach you that you went the wrong way. The trick is stopping to think about the decision that led to those consequences. Did you follow your intuition or did you ignore it?
Sometimes, following your intuition comes with consequences because the world doesn’t always agree with you.
And you know what? Fuck ’em. You’re never going to live your best life while listening to the fears of others. If you succumb to that thinking and fail to listen to your intuition, it will lead you down a spiral of despair.
It’s not going to be easy — the best things in life never are. But it will be worth it. If you get it wrong, stop and think about the path that brought you here. Ask yourself which way to go forward, listen to the intuitive guide that is based on an understanding of the situation, not the urging toward the easy or safe path, and drum up the courage to get moving.
You are capable. You know you are.
You Know What You Need
Looking outside yourself is agreeing to be lead by the fears and trepidations of the world. Looking within accesses the only guide that can lead you toward a life of freedom and happiness.
This is your actual life, and you only get one. Everything you need to make it a life of fullness and happiness is already within you.