Empowering Changemakers to Become the Mapmakers of their Visions

Intuition as Key-Step in Decision-Making

Chances are you’ve been presented with situations that have evoked an automatic, gut-level response: “No, I can’t….” or “Yes, I’d love to…”. This kind of response comes from a level much deeper than our analytical minds. We just “know” what is the “right” choice. 

Yet in our busy lives where there are a million decisions to make for work, family and ourselves, it’s easy to get bogged down in a mental debate “Should I… or shouldn’t I…”, “What are the pros and cons?”. All too often the wheels in my head are running at high-speed (Ms. Gemini here!), but at other times I’ve been guilty of rushing a decision, but later regretted that I didn’t slow down. 

One of the biggest skills that my Journey Mapping methodology emphasizes, is how to move with change. Life is emergent in nature; events, situations and conditions in our micro and macro, local and global environments, are constantly in motion; how do we respond? 

Each choice results in creating new conditions, an unfolding of events or karma (action-reaction), sometimes influential enough to set a chain-of-events in motion that might open or close doors of opportunity. Sometimes small and subtle enough that we might choose to nip it in the bud, and shift that trajectory. It is in our choices that we unfold our personal and professional lives one-step-at-a-time.Thus, learning the art of making wise decisions is essential to skillful and proactive leadership, both for ourselves and others. 

When it comes to decision making, I have come to embrace a three-step process; an Intuition Sandwich with System’s Understanding as the filling!

  1. Intuition:What is your first impression/gut-level response to the situation?
  2. Systems Understanding: Facts, Research, Dynamics, Direct Experience
  3. Intuition: What does your heart (or gut) tell you about your final choice?

I believe that our intuition is a powerful and magical tool that either naturally, or with training, can be easily tapped into. It is my sense that intuition connectsour inner faculties of perception to our outer environments, enabling us to bypass the mind. Click-click-click we tap into our embodied knowing, based on what feels right and congruent. Our intuition is capable of sensing when something is off, facts are wrong, we’re missing important information or an adverse event is about to happen.For this reason, I would not make any major decision that I didn’t get a solid “yes” on, from the inside. 

Intuition may be a powerful tool, but it’s not a perfect one. It does not replace doing research to get all the hard facts!Would you buy a home you like without first doing a home inspection? How wise is it to jump into romantic relationship with someone you had a great first date with, without getting to know that person better? 

My sense is that our intuition is not always pure. It can easily be skewed based on our mental beliefs, biases, desires and emotions. I would never make any influential decision based solely on my intuition, unless I was in a crisis, in which case I absolutely would. My guess it that sometimes I can cut through to clear guidance, but not always, and I’m likely to not know the difference.

In my opinion, accurate intuitive guidance first needs to know the facts. Once you know the results of the home inspection, you can incorporate that knowledge, as you tune into your intuitive guidance. Thus, any important decision for our personal or professional lives deserves the time and care it takes to do research and understand our circumstances, challenges and options from a system’s perspective.

As a coach, consultant and yogi, I am trained in System’s Theory. I view each person, plant, animal or object as part of the greater web-of-life in an interconnected, interdependent world. I look at events, not as isolated phenomena, but from a broader view that considers how the collective dynamics of a system culminate in a specific event.

For example, if I’m feeling fogging and sluggish in my body, I consider the parts of my life that come together to create a system that supports well-being; What has my diet been like? Have a gotten enough sleep? Is this a pattern or just a bad day?  What kind of exercise am I getting? How is my emotional well-being?  Is there something, or someone, that is causing me stress or anxiety? etc. 

I also view each individual from a holistic, system’s perspective; Each person a universe, encompassing both gross and subtle. Our nervous system an intricate network that enables us to perceive on a physical, and even an energetic level, if we are sensitive. 

System’s theory applied to decision-making means getting a big picture understanding, unpacking all the individual parts, stakeholders, facts, figures, leverage points and systems dynamics; such as where there is connection or breakdown in relationships, communications or procedures. System’s Understanding is the “meat” of our sandwich! 

Unfortunately, systems thinking, does not come naturally to most people.For this reason, one important role I play as a Life Coach is to support clients in getting system’s understanding and clarity on whatever life-choice is crossing their path, whether that be: relationship dynamics, career evolution, home, wellness, retirement, healing, creative pursuits or spiritual and personal growth. How much you put into your research is likely proportional to the impact of your decision, or the size of the investment.

Just like intuition, System’s Understanding is not a perfect tool.It’s easy to over research and overthink things. There is endless data and a multitude of forums on the internet, often with conflicting information. I’m an excellent researcher, but I need to admit that often I am motivated by fear and an attempt to control-my-future, in my pursuit to get as much information as I can.On top of this, no matter how much research I do, I am engaging with “known” data. 

Yet clients come to me because they have a yearning to find more meaning, direction and balance in their lives and relationships. Ultimately I believe this gift of life, and the meaning of life-purpose, are a deep and personal exploration we each need to inquire into for ourselves.Intuition is an effective tool to help us with big questions like this. It is the perfect complement to system’s understanding, since it is capable of tapping into more levels of informationthan we can ever place our fingers on, or completely understand. 

So, let’s take a walk-through of our Decision-Making Intuition Sandwich:

  1. Our first step isIntuition; a pure, first-impression, felt-sense of the situation at hand. Simply rest your mind, and trust your instincts at this phase.The stakes aren’t high, but you want to stay alert to whatever situation you are evaluating. First impressions that are intuitively based, reveal a lot!
  2. Next is System’s Understanding which we’ve already discussed. “Direct Experience” is the one new addition, which refers to getting first-hand experience that might influence your choices; such as shadowing someone in a career track you are interested in, visiting a city you are considering moving to, interviewing stakeholders in a collective you are helping, etc.
  3. Finally, we return to Intuition. Once we have consciously considered all the facts to the best of our ability, we go back to the feeling. Rest your mind, hold your analysis lightly, and trust your intuition before you make your final decision. Even if something makes sense based on your research, if it doesn’t sit right in your belly, trust that

It takes courage to trust your instincts over your mind, or what others think. Yet, on some known, or unknown level, your intuition is sensing something that is off, or simply isn’t right for you.Although significant life choices are often complex, and rarely black or white, it is possible to find your way to making wise and congruent decisions by balancing the complementary tools of Intuition and Systems Understanding.

Building Resilience when we Inevitably Slip-up in 2019!

I chuckled earlier this week when “swoosh”, an email went out to a client wrapping up a communication about a situation that had her spiraling down. It said, “That’s the spirit! Find your shoes and pick up the kids!”

“Shoes” were mostly a metaphor to put her attention back into her own life rather than comparing it to a hotshot relative, decades younger, who seemed to have it all: career, relationship and international travel. You know, the unsettling feelings that come when comparing ourselves to others.
And “Picking up the kids “wasn’t even her own kids, but a favor for a friend. It meant taking action; shifting her energy from going down the drain of a self-critical spiral and doing something concrete and tangible. She was very clear she was doing it for herself! Good for her! I thought this was a great turnaround to the inevitable new year’s plummet!
New year’s tends to bring to mind; a clean slate, new beginnings, intentions, resolutions, vision boards, hopes and dreams. However, it occurred to me that building resilience when we slip up, could be one of the most valuable tools to stay on our path in 2019. It’s simply inevitable we will make mistakes, not live up to our expectations, disappoint someone or go into a downward spiral for some reason or other. What is your ability to turn this around?
Whether at work, or in our personal lives, the more we show-up for others or ourselves, the more opportunity there is to slip-up! If you’re on a path of growth and positive change, you will inevitably face obstacles, some inner, some outer. Regardless, do you have a bag-of-tricks that enable you to be resilient in the face of triggers, disappointments and even f’ing up on occasion?
Personally, I made a big shift in 2018, and it’s part of what had me end the year feeling like it was a good one. Finally, after over 50 years, I am learning to be more gentle and kind to myself.
In the past, my self-critical voice controlled the show. Somewhere very young I learned that blaming myself when something went wrong, was the only acceptable option. It was not okay to get angry at others, so I learned to turn this inward on myself. I developed an inner aspect that resembled a strict schoolmaster with a whipping stick, ready to beat me into shape, so I’d perform better, or be a better person.

However, in truth, being anything but kind to myself is often the beginning of a downward spiral that can lead to a bummed-out evening, negative self-talk or numbing myself in one way or another. 

My personal ability to be more resilient has enabled a huge increase in productivity. I have less down or recovery time because I’m not going to such low places inside myself. I’m able to take more risks to reach out or show up and more confident and able to learn-by-doing, which means not wasting so much time trying to make things perfect. 
I think we each need to find our own way and likely it involves a variety of tools that can help us to “put on our shoes” so we can be resilient and move forward in the face of adversity.
The point here is: 
Are you able to notice when you are upset and when it might be time for a turnaround? The first step is awareness; to notice that you are triggered. (Our human default is to go into reaction without even knowing we are doing it!)
Once you notice, can you be gentle and kind to yourself before doing anything else?
Have you experimented to find the actions, such as practicing kindness with yourself, that enable you to be resilient?
Do you use your bag-of-tools in the moment you are reacting? 

Here are some tools in my Resilience Tool Bag:

  • Don’t immediately respond to a text (email, interaction) that is triggering! I give it a few hours or even days, so I can cool off, identify my triggers and get clarity on how to respond (or not).
  • Notice where I shut down in my body such as: holding my breath, tightening or collapsing my shoulders or numbing. I take some deep breaths into the tight areas and imagine the tension releasing as I exhale.
  • Notice when I am triggered and do my best to label the emotion and the physical sensations that go with it. For example: “I feel really upset and out-of-control right now. I feel anxiety in my belly and anger in my arms.”.
  • Put a soothing hand onto the body part where the tender or tight emotion lives (such as my belly or heart). I take a few breaths in and out, and send soothing energy to these body parts.
  • Say simple self-soothing statements: “It’s gonna to be okay”, “I’m here with you for as long as you need”, “You did your best…” etc. I do not try and fix or change the part that is upset. I am simply there with her.
  • Move my body! Exercise can shift my experience profoundly.
  • “Pick up the kids”, clean the house, take a shower, see a client, help a friend, do something very tangible.
  • Be especially kind to myself when I am not feeling well, tired, hungry or stressed.
  • Call a friend to talk with when I’m unusually triggered and ask for their listening or help.

 What are some of your tricks and tools that enable you to be resilient in the face of adversity?