My teenager is highly skilled at playing innocent (just as we all used to be). Her main defense when she gets in trouble is, “But mom, I didn’t KNOW I wasn’t supposed to do that!” I can’t see your face right now, but I think you are smiling in agreement that, in fact, deep down she KNEW the right thing to do. 

When I’ve made the wrong decision for me, I also a deeper sense of knowing that it was wrong. When I was getting into debt, I had that icky feeling. When I was staying in the wrong relationships, I tried to numb the icky. When I took the promotions for the money, not for the work, I told that ick to go away.  I came to be a professional “icky-feeling” ignorer because I wanted to do what I wanted, go with the trend. Even worse – I was scared to upset someone.  

Ignoring the icky never led to peace, it only created more chaos. Instead of slowing down and listening to the signals my body was sending me, I often deferred to what worked on paper, or what was socially acceptable, which didn’t lead to the ideal results I was hoping for. In our culture, it’s not always rewarded to go with a gut decision. We often value data and facts, our logical ways of coming to a conclusion.  Even today, social media can powerfully influence what “should be right.” 

Even though my gut, my intuition, was powerful, I ignored it for a very long time. Mostly because I was scared of what it was telling me. It was sometimes telling me that I was going to have to make a hard choice, face a difficult truth, or even risk upsetting someone. Sometimes, I was scared because I knew my intuition was nudging me to leave behind things that used to make me happy as I grew in a different direction. 

How To Read (and Trust) Your Gut 

One day, I learned something so radical it changed everything. Enrolled in Martha Beck’s Wayfinder Coaching program, she revealed that one of the most useful sources of information we get about navigating the best choices for our life is our bodies, not our minds. I’ll be honest – as a person who used to avoid anything that felt too “touchy-feely” or “woo-woo,” I initially resisted. But there I was, working for this amazing company with a dream team of colleagues. The job required a lot of travel, but I tried to stuff that away as something I had to do. And suddenly, the girl who avoided anything touchy-feely couldn’t ignore my body’s new signals. I noticed that every time I’d get booked for a trip, my heart would drop and my stomach would have this burning sensation, and now I was too wise to ignore it. Essentially, it was my body acting as a wiser compass than my mind, telling me that even though I loved my work, the travel may no longer right for me. 

Here’s the research, expanded upon by Martha Beck.The verbal cognitive processes in your brain process information at about 40 bits of information per second. But your entire nervous system, which is not only your brain but a cluster of nerves in your heart and then another brain-like cluster in your gut and the nerves going all over your body, those are actually processing signals at the rate of 11 million bits per second. So, it’s first the body that sends wise signals to the mind, not vice versa. Even one of my favorite Proverbs (4:23) illustrates this in ancient biblical wisdom, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

Learning this turned my perspective on decision making inside out, and as this new process came a reality for me, it’s yet to fail. Opening my heart, my gut, and my mind up to this wisdom helped me peacefully and confidently redirect my career toward another part of my job I loved – coaching.   How can this empowering wisdom guide you into making decisions that lead to more joy and fewer decisions that feel conflicted and icky? First, you have to become learn the way YOUR body responds to choices that are right for you and wrong for you.

The Body Scan

Learn Your “No”

Think of a time, or decision, that you made that just went all out terribly. Looking back, you knew that you shouldn’t have made that choice, and it’s perhaps one that you wish you could do over, or carries regret. Notice how your body is feeling. Name that sensation – don’t just say angry or sad. Notice how your body is responding. Is it heavy, burning, tingling, etc?

I profoundly named this my, “hard no.” 

Remember this feeling – this is powerful information that informs you that certain choices or situations are not contributing to your purpose or well-being.

Shake it off. That’s in the past. 

Learn Your Yes

Now, think of a time, or decision, that you made that you were just in absolute bliss or “flow.” It was absolutely a brilliant choice for your time, your talents, your purpose and your desires. You would do this thing every day if you could! Notice how your body is feeling. Name that sensation – don’t just say happy or excited. Those can be temporary states. Notice how your body is responding. Is it peaceful, open, light, fluttering, fizzing, etc? 

I named this my, “Heck, yes!”

Remember that sensation. That feeling is your body saying, “Heck yes – THIS is the right choice for me.” This sensation is your green light to say yes to something that is carrying you closer to the joyful, peaceful life you want to live.

The right yes will feel of peace, not of chaos.

-Kelli Thompson

Running a daily with a body scan can help you get to know your heart and gut. It did for me. What sensations are you carrying? Are they trying to say something is a “hard no,” or a “heck yes!” to? This practice will prove helpful the next time you’re faced with making a big decision. 

When a client (or even me) says, “I just don’t know what to do.” That’s likely your ego and all your social attachments working overtime to convince your brain to disagree with what your heart knows is right for your purpose.  

Logic persuades, but our heart knows the way.

-Kelli Thompson

Tapping that 11 million bits per second of your body connection can give you the answers your looking for. Now, telling those answers to someone you may disappoint is another topic, stay tuned. 

Honor Your Yes and No

Here are some helpful phrases you can try to help you leave the chaos and move confidently toward the right choices for you:

  • “I happy to do… and no longer do….”
  • “I am choosing to try something else this time…”
  • “No, thank you.”
  • “Yes, Please!”
  • “Here’s what I can accommodate….”
  • “This was right for me at one time, and I’m ready to move forward….”

One of my coaching clients summed all of this powerful knowledge up best. She says,

I think we’re in an age of information overload. Option paralysis. So learning to listen to your gut is an incredible tool to narrow it all down or we could float along forever trying to find truth. Everyone wants to tell you the “best way” to do something. When you learn to use the intelligence of your body, everything you need to know is already within you.

-Life & Leadership Coaching Client

Is there a decision you’re wrestling with today? Relax your mind and try a body scan. Get to know the signals and honor what they tell you. How can knowing your body this help you move away from chaos and into confidence?

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  • Kelli Thompson

    Leadership Coach | Writer | Speaker

    Kelli spent years climbing ladders and leading teams in Corporate America before taking the leap into entrepreneurship, starting her own business as a leadership coach, writer, and speaker. She helps women unlock their potential and lead more confidently to achieve their career goals and ideal lifestyle (hustle free). She is the founder of the Rise Confidently Leadership Masterclass series for women leaders. Her two favorite roles are wife and mom.