Never Second-Guess Yourself

“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.”

David Bowie

How do you know if you are making a decision for the right reason?

Intuition? It’s almost always the best decision to go with in the moment. (That’s easier said than done of course.) Think of it like a hunch that’s backed by experience—who we are, our values, our culture, our beliefs, our sense of what’s right and wrong, and our likes and dislikes, all rolled up into one “feeling”.

We usually know when we’ve made a bad decision (and certainly know afterward).

“I knew I should have said no to the project, but the money was too good to pass up…”

“I thought he was the one, but my gut was telling me otherwise…”

“I knew college wasn’t right for me, but my family convinced me otherwise.”

Intuition is something that we know is true (personal truth), and yet somehow second-guess and let fear, worry, and vices drive us to ignore it. But intuition isn’t perfect.

In the fascinating book, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk M.D. explains how our intuition is normally great, but when we experience trauma, we can shut ourselves off from reality: “Our gut feelings signal what is safe, life-sustaining, or threatening, even if we cannot quite explain why we feel a particular way. Our sensory interiority continuously sends us subtle messages about the needs of our organism. Gut feelings also help us to evaluate what is going on around us. They warn us that the guy who is approaching feels creepy, but they also convey that a room with western exposure surrounded by daylilies makes us feel serene. If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations—if you can trust them to give you accurate information—you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self. However, traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become experts at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”

Bad decisions are hard to recover from. Intuition is our first line of defense for blocking bad decisions and making smart ones. But we need to stack it with second and third defenses.

First, we must never second-guess ourselves. Second, we verify. 

We must surround ourselves with people who have our back and want to see us succeed. The majority of my past mistakes could have likely been avoided if I had someone advising my decision and ideas, telling me “Hey, that’s probably not a great idea, here’s why…”. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking on my part. Perhaps my past self wouldn’t have listened. But that’s why it’s massively important to have a group of “life advisors” (I picked this phrase up from my conversation with Alex Lavidge on The Renaissance Life Podcast) who can help guide you in the right direction.

The third defense is self-examination. Periodically take stock of your life as if it wasn’t your own. If your sister or friend were going through the problem(s) you are facing, what advice would you give to them? When we are dealing with something—like lack of motivation or health problems— it’s hard to come up with solutions because we are so close to the issue (Plus the stress it’s causing us.) When we take ourselves out of the equation it’s much easier to come up with ideas for our problems. 

Have the courage to believe in yourself. But be intentional.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #911

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