“To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”―Mark Nepo
Nothing gives you more personal power than knowing yourself – truly, deeply, from the inside. But self-knowledge isn’t a static thing that you obtain and then you just know it all. It’s a continuous connection to self that we need to make throughout life.
When you become good at connecting with your inner truth, you can use it as your compass to make choices and take actions that are right for you. If you’re disconnected from yourself you navigate blindly, often led by other people’s needs and desires.
In bigger life decisions, I’ve been pretty good at listening to my inner voice since I was young. When I decided to take a gap year between middle school and high school, even though I was a model student and my teachers urged me to follow the common path, I went to drama school instead. When my family moved to Mexico, I decided to stay in Denmark and finish high school because it just felt right. When I went backpacking to Thailand, I just knew I had to come back and live in Chiang Mai – which I did for five years.
However, in many other aspects of my life I haven’t been that connected. Especially in relation to other people and to my work life. I’ve had a tendency to drift more and be driven by the offers I received. I almost always said “Yes” to any job or project offer I got – partly because I was terrible at saying “No” and partly because I listened more to other people’s excitement than my own truth.
In recent years I’ve really made an effort to listen to myself – to be curious and open up, and to act on what feels right. This has led me to make much bolder decisions (for example turning down several generous job offers and recently moving back to Europe). I feel much more confident now. I’m confident knowing that I can trust myself to be my own guide and trust myself to have the answers if I’m only willing to listen. All it takes is curiosity and the courage to go inwards.
It’s like with any other skill – the more we do it, the better we become at it.
Here’s an exercise that can help you get in touch with yourself.
Exercise: Get Curious Now
You will need a pen, paper and a quiet, uninterrupted place to sit.
Read through the guidelines below and do the exercise as best as you can from memory.
Don’t worry – there’s no wrong way to do it.
Sit down and make yourself comfortable.
Close your eyes.
Take three deep breaths, filling the lungs and exhaling deeply.
Sense your body in this moment; notice how it feels.
Now direct your attention inwards.
Ask yourself these three questions:
What do I want?
What do I need?
What does my inner-self desire?
Listen with curiosity to what comes up. It can be words, images, sensations or maybe nothing specific. Don’t get fixated on getting a clear answer. The practice is to start getting familiar with listening.
After a while, open your eyes and start writing about what came up.
Let yourself write freely, even the stuff that doesn’t make sense. Just let it flow.
Once you feel complete – that you’ve expressed all you needed in that moment – you can end the exercise.
You can use this exercise in relation to a specific issue or situation you are contemplating, or you can use it as a general way to connect to yourself. Often we don’t take the time to listen even when there’s nothing major going on so we are not aware of what is actually happening around us. Most importantly – make sure to approach yourself with openness and curiosity.
I’d love to hear about your experiences. In the comments below, please share how this exercise worked for you.