In 2005 I bought a Subaru outback. It took me 5 months to find the right one! Strangely enough, various friends came out of the woodwork and spontaneously loaned me their vehicles while I searched and searched and searched for the perfect car. When I saw the navy blue station wagon, I finally knew it was the right one! I had been tempted to settle many times in the 5 months preceding my final decision but I continued to search because I knew the perfect car was still out there. What made me wait so long?
After 14 years of trusted and valued service, I recently replaced that car and bought another one. This time it took me only one day to make the decision. How was I able to make such a quick decision this go-round?
When I decided to train as an Energy Medicine Practitioner, there were those that let me know that I was doing something crazy. Even some family members shook their heads at my “hare-brained” scheme. I was risking “financial stability at an age when I should be retiring” and shrinking into older age. No way! Somehow I knew that this was the path I needed to follow even if it led to failure. I would deeply regret it if I didn’t go for it. As it turns out, it has led to great personal fulfillment and growth and become a new career. Rather than shrinking, I have expanded. The naysayers have become some of my biggest fans. What made me take that leap of faith?
A good friend of mine, A, was a single mother raising 2 boys in her late 40’s while she worked full time. One of her boys had life threatening health issues. She had already been to graduate school. Nevertheless, A had a dream of doing something that would improve the quality of life for those living in poverty in her urban area. When a small newspaper notice caught her eye, she decided to investigate. Despite having no idea how she would manage the additional financial burden and the resultant work/life balance, my friend went for it. It took a total of 9 years, but A completed her Doctorate of Public Health. She told me the “minute I learned something new, I put it to use”. Her gamble paid off in a big way not only for her but for the many people who benefited from her newfound knowledge and expertise. With all that had been on her plate, how did A make the decision to undertake an almost impossible task?
Our leaps of faith are not only about beginning something new but can also take the form of leaving behind what is working extremely well in our lives. B had a hugely successful business that attracted many clients, employed skilled teachers and service providers, and garnered much praise in social media. Yet B felt like it was time to do something else; create a new model for her offerings. Jumping into a new proposition had no guarantees it would match her previous success. Moving to a new location with a different model while exploring unproven methods was a big risk. She could lose it all. Still B felt she wanted, in fact, needed to try a new path. Despite all of the potential setbacks, B chose to move forward and let go of her past.
These urges to do something are not found only in mature individuals. All ages experience a sudden and often urgent impulse to act. Consider C. He was out riding his bicycle with his childhood friends, none of whom were older than 10. Each was daring the others to more and more daring tricks on their bikes. Finally one of C’s chums suggested riding down a long unused road that ended in a bridge spanning a small river. The quest was to jump from the bridge into the water from the still moving bike and swim to the other side of the river and retrieve the bike before anyone else completed the task. The venture was enthusiastically received. But C suddenly had a wave of cold fear move through his body and he knew that he had to convince his friends to not accept this challenge. He had no idea why but it was of paramount importance that he stop his chums in their tracks.
The others called him a wimp and began laughing at him. C stuck to his guns and finally managed to convince his friends to turn around and go for ice cream instead. Later the boys learned that the bridge had collapsed into the river creating a mound of rumble. Had the boys continued on their mad venture, one or more would have had serious injuries as they went headlong towards the bridge and crashed into the river into the fragments of the bridge. Where did C’s premonition come from?
Intuition; the ability to sense something ahead of time; the sense of knowing what the next step is; a strong hunch – what are these signals that suddenly appear that we know we can totally trust? It is as if we understand something clearly and immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. We can call this knowing an instinct, a gut feeling, a sixth sense, or a message. Whatever we call it, we have all had instances of it. The phone rings and we know who it at the other end. We meet a friend and his new date and somehow we know they will end up married. We make plans and, at the last moment, decide we shouldn’t go, to later find out we just missed being in an accident. We turn right instead of our routine left and suddenly find ourselves passing the perfect house we’ve been looking for.
Many experts posit that our leaps of faith are really the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, instantaneously bridging the gap between the conscious and nonconscious parts of our mind. We absorb clues to what might happen by processing tiny but telling facts through observation of non-verbal communication such as body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. But this doesn’t completely explain all of what our “inner voice” tells us. There are those that believe we are receiving information from a source outside of our physical bodies and brains, perhaps from a higher self or the collective unconscious.
Regardless of our belief about where such messages come from, we may have discomfort with the idea of relying on our instincts. In our society, we have learned to believe that rationality prevails when making decisions. Yet most of us have, at some time or other, trusted an intuition and realized the benefit of having done so. Perhaps we need to revisit our belief around intuition. When that niggling in the back of your brain, funny feeling in the pit of your stomach, or sudden urge to change your plan next comes up, pay some attention to it and possibly act on it. It may be one of the best decisions of your life!