Learning to Hesitate and Tuning Your Intuition
‘I’m not ready’ seems like an unpopular thing to say these days.
Over the last few years, while I’ve been laying the foundations for my coaching practice, I’ve said ‘I’m not ready’ quite a lot. The ‘I’m not ready’ has mostly been related to certain activities about selling my coaching services and all that entails in the modern online world.
And countless times I’ve had well-meaning friends (and even a therapist) tell me that I’m holding myself back. I’ve been given the advice to just get myself out there, push on through anyway, and told stop being a perfectionist.
Now I’m at a stage in my life where I can look back and I know, deep within my heart, that all those times I didn’t feel ready, it was really O.K. to be where I was.
Now my question is, why is it in popular culture so much more natural to follow the path of pushing through, rather than a path of gentle unfolding?
If you’re not holding yourself back, what are you doing?
I wasn’t holding myself back at all, far from it. I was tuning in with my intuition and letting it be my gentle guide.
After all, I was stepping into the unknown and into a challenge that felt so much bigger than myself, and so wouldn’t it be natural that I would need some time to grow?
As it turned out, the biggest part of this challenge has been developing trust in listening to myself and tuning in with my intuition over taking action because it meant learning to rest in the great uncertainty of not knowing what I was doing and how it was going to work out.
In many ways, it would have been easier to ‘just push on through and get out there’. After all, I was familiar with that approach to life and I usually managed to make something work out. I only needed to set myself enough targets and goals to measure myself against. The trouble with that approach is that I found it exhausting and when I did manage to force these outcomes, they usually felt empty and meaningless.
But somewhere within me, a deep inner knowing, was guiding me to follow the unfolding nature of life rather than try to force these outcomes. A small voice was saying that I didn’t need to worry and that it was all going to work out. I knew that I wanted to tune into that small voice and learn how to approach life gently and lightly.
Not being ready doesn’t mean you’re not taking action
Whilst my actions might not have been obvious, it didn’t mean I wasn’t doing anything. In fact, I was laying the foundations for some deeply important work.
When you’re building a house, so much work goes into the foundations and all the parts that you’re not going to see at the end of it. But this is the most important part, isn’t it? Any structure that is built without proper foundation is going to be flimsy.
And sometimes I still took actions I wasn’t ready for! I’ve created online groups that I wasn’t ready for, I’ve built websites that I wasn’t ready for, I’ve delivered talks and workshops that I wasn’t ready for…
And you know what, it was okay. It was fine, in fact. It was even a good experience and great learning. But the energy wasn’t right, and I ended up feeling exhausted! That’s how I knew I wasn’t ready, because my actions took more away from me that they brought back. It was not a fair exchange of energy.
This is not the energy I want to bring when I take my work into the world. I don’t want it to be okay, and fine. I don’t want it to take more energy from me than I’m able to create. I want to bring my work to the world from a place of deeply knowing and authentically believing in the value I am offering.
Learning to Hesitate
In a world that supremely values forward momentum, progress, and efficiency, it feels counter-intuitive to hesitate.
Perhaps that’s because when we hesitate and tune into our intuition, we don’t always like what we are faced with. Because, amongst other things, this is where that powerful force of self-doubt resides.
The etymology of the word ‘doubt’ is to hesitate or be in two minds. But this moment of hesitation can become overwhelming, even crippling, when it is filled with negativity and judgement; when those critical voices are accusing you of holding yourself back, being a perfectionist and telling you to just get on with it.
So, the challenge for hesitation, is learning how to be in that space and tune into the other messages that reside there, beyond the negativity and judgement.
It’s recognising the purpose of this space of hesitation and the deep value that can be cultivated there.
So, how do you do this?
Well, this is precisely the work I have been developing during my own space of hesitation and learning to be not ready. I have been exploring the idea that self-doubt has a valuable purpose.
Let’s look at some of the messages that arise in this space and how they can be transformed into a purposeful and useful way of making progress.
There is no such thing as failure
If you’re not feeling ready, maybe it’s because you’re frightened of failure. So many of us are, after all. Wouldn’t it be awful to invest everything you have into something you believe in, only to have it fail? Imagine the shame and what people would say about you?
Being driven by a fear of failure can cause you to approach life in a forceful manner by ‘just getting out there’ and confronting your fears. And there’s nothing wrong with this, it can work. But it is also be exhausting! And the fear of failure doesn’t really go away, it just lingers in the background until you come across another challenge and need to force through it again.
Alternatively, you could use this opportunity to check in with your intuition and your heart, to check out that fear of failure and get to the bottom of it. You may be surprised to find it’s a fear of success disguised as a fear of failure! Or a fear of what other people might say about you, or think of you. These are the fears that really keep you stuck.
Failure and success are two ends of an illusory spectrum, they don’t really exist apart from our own definition that we assign to these polarised positions and the expectations that go along with that. And in the rare occurrence that you reach these positions, you inevitably find it’s not all it’s cracked up to be!
In life there is an upside and a downside to everything. The position of failure comes with disappointment and shame as well as valuable life lessons, humility and even connection with other human beings. The position of success comes with riches and comfort as well as a sense of isolation and fear of being able to sustain the position.
It all depends upon your personal definition of failure and success. When you hesitate, you have an opportunity to examine these meaning and consider your own definitions.
The famous line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, says;
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…”
The imposters of triumph and disaster (or failure and success) means they wear cunning masks and that they may not be everything they seem to be. Being able to treat them just the same would be knowing that, like anything else in life, they are learning experiences that can help us to grow.
There is no such thing as procrastination
If you’re not feeling ready, then perhaps you think you’re procrastinating!
Procrastination is a state that arrives with judgement and expectation and, like self-doubt, it is never welcome!
But what if there were no such thing as procrastination? What would come in its place?
I explored this question with Lebanese Artist Michael Karsouny in my private online community, The Doubters. And it turned into an inspiring, energising, and moving conversation about trusting ourselves, living from the heart, and acting out of love.
Here’s a clip:
Watch the full episode here:
The Way of Gentleness
So, my challenge has been to learn to listen to this small voice that told me it was okay to be not ready. The challenge was not to expect too much of myself and force myself into positions where I thought I should be. The challenge was to know that I was exactly where I was meant to be and that when the time was right, I would know precisely how to act.
The challenge was to go against the path I had become so used to of ‘just getting out there and pushing through’ (whilst ignoring the messages from my heart).
But how does anything get done? You may be asking…
As I continued on this path, developing this way of gentleness over force, I found myself adopting a process:
BEING – being present, tuning into my intuition, getting familiar with the gentle voice of my heart.
ALLOWING – allowing these gentle messages to be my guide
UNFOLDING – following the path as it unfolded and taking the necessary actions
REFLECTING – acknowledging myself for progress made, reflecting, learning, and being rather than forcing
Ironically, this counterintuitive approach to life has led me to doing the most amazing work I could never have even imagined. Without trying to force progress, I’ve made more progress than I could have ever manufactured if I’d set out to do that.
I never wanted to publish a book. I published my first book in January 2018: Your Whole Life Economy
I never imagined recording videos of myself. During 2019 I did a whole year of YouTube content: Answering The Call (to do more with your life)
I never imagined having the courage to go out live to an audience, now I’m doing this each week in my online private community: The Doubters
I never imagined that one of my greatest challenges, self-doubt, could become a magnificent asset that has not only helped me to create value but is doing the same for others: The Purpose of Self-Doubt
I never imagined that my work would become a vehicle for making rich and meaningful connections across the world.
I never imagined I could have discovered a source of boundless creative energy that I know will keep me occupied for a lifetime…
The best thing about creating work from such a deep and meaningful place is that even when it doesn’t meet the classic metric measures of success defined by society, I can still look back with a deep sense of pride and think, I can’t believe I did that…