Let’s continue exploring what it means to tap into your inner truth and follow your own path through listening, discernment, trusting, and choosing. We’ve explored what “listening” means—really tuning in to all the information you get during the day, from the “voices in your head” to the feelings in your body. When you start doing this, you’ll be amazed by how much information you get, and you’ll begin wondering…now what?
And you’re right: it’s one thing to sense something and another to interpret it correctly. But figuring out which voices and information to believe is the step that empowers you to make the changes you seek.
Let me give you an example: one of my clients was continuously being gaslit by a coworker that wanted a position she was in line for. While she knew this was happening deep down, she wasn’t really thinking about it and would continuously let it slide. Eventually, after we had been talking about setting boundaries and standing up for herself, she was in a meeting where that same coworker said something dismissive. While she felt unprepared at the moment, she was able to recognize the pattern and put a stop to it. She stood up for herself and asked (out loud), “really, is that true?” From that moment, the dynamics of their relationship changed, and so did her coworker’s behavior. She discerned what was going on, recognized the opportunity to stand up for herself in front of others, and was very effective.
Discernment in Real Life
You practice discernment all the time without realizing you’re doing it. If you’ve ever heard a “voice in your head” and recognized exactly whose voice it sounds like or where it came from, that’s discernment. I’ve also helped many women use discernment to change patterns in their dating lives, develop better parenting styles, or move on after divorce or separating from a partner. What you’re discerning is whether a thought or a feeling is true for you.
One common way we practice discernment is when people give us advice. How do you decide to accept or reject it? Do you follow the advice because someone told you to? Because it came from someone you know and trust and who has more experience? Or do you reject it because it doesn’t seem to be a good answer for you, and it’s off the mark? How do you know? The process you go through is discernment.
Become a Discerning Leader
Just like listening, discernment is both a process and a spiritual muscle that I help my clients develop through coaching. Once an unsure, conflicting, or confusing situation is identified, I guide my clients to see it as clearly as possible without judgment. This is the opportunity to dive in and explore a situation from various angles and aspects, using your own experience and values as your rudder to make your best choices. This allows you to grow in wisdom and to see both the larger picture and the point of discernment in this situation.
I guide, train and encourage my clients to use the meditative process as a tool to help quiet the mind so you can discern among pieces of information to find the simple truth—especially when you have multiple voices or conflicting information.
Every step in The Art of Following Your Own Path is new territory. You have to try different things to get different results, which is how you stretch yourself. You get one insight and then another, and then the insights start accumulating and so does your confidence. As you keep listening and discerning, you build the micro-skills necessary to make bigger shifts in your life that reflect your maturity and wisdom.
Discernment and The Art of Following Your Own Path
Even when you have a lot of information and feel confident that you’re listening to the right voices, making a decision can still be very difficult. Often there are conflicting values or beliefs. The next level is still discernment but more subtle and granular. This is where I guide my clients to delve deeper into underlying values and priorities. I am a neutral, experienced guide to keep you focused on diving deeper and discerning until you get to the bottom of the layers and the underlying insight.
Taking many women through this process has revealed some larger patterns: often, we hold assumptions that don’t align with our real truth, or we may carry several conflicting voices in our heads. Doing this work regularly reveals points of truth or awareness that will keep you grounded and help you grow your discernment muscle. Sometimes we learn that our actions don’t align with their intentions. Discernment means recognizing this and opening up to new choices that might be uncomfortable. You’ll start to recognize opportunities and challenges where you can test out your discernment and try different techniques to move forward.
As a solution-focused life coach, I always guide my clients to choose an expanding, inspiring, loving, and compassionate path. The more we learn to love ourselves, the more capacity we have to love and treat others with compassion. We learn to love ourselves by hearing and listening to the inner voices that guide us with kindness, caring, integrity, and love.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin to discern which inner voice is the “real one” that belongs to you and your deeper wisdom.
- Is this truth mine or someone else’s? If it originated with someone else, is it mine too?
- Is this voice coming from a place of scarcity or fear? Unfortunately, making choices from those places tends to lead to more of the same.
- Is this voice harsh or judgmental? You don’t have to comply with or listen to unkind judgment and criticism.
- Is this voice telling me what I “should” do or revealing what I want to do? When I think about doing what I want rather than just what I should do, how does that feel different?
- Does the voice feel loving, expanding, or inspiring? These voices represent the truest wisdom to follow. Making choices from these places ultimately gets you where you want to go.
- Does the voice seem “right,” freeing, and good? Again, this is the truest wisdom to follow.
- How do I discern the difference between what is truly good and what just makes me feel good (addiction, impulsive actions, temporary soothing) in the moment? Ask yourself, “Will this cause harm?” or What are the long-term consequences of these actions? Being honest with yourself is part of the process.
Make Discernment Part of Your Leadership Practice
The tricky thing about discernment is that you can’t just stop there: once you discern something, you must take a leap of trust to change it. In coaching, we can try to minimize the risk as much as possible and prepare for it. I’m here to help you before and after, but you must muster the courage to leap.
Listening and discernment will get you only so far unless you can take action—and trust is fundamental to being able to choose what to do. So trusting, in all its aspects, is what we’ll look at next.
If you’re ready to dive into the process with some personal guidance, get in touch with me for a free 15-minute consultation. Subscribe to my newsletter to ensure you don’t miss the next few blogs in this series!