Listening to Your Internal Voice
When it comes to living intentionally, I believe the foundation is living with integrity. There are so many things in our lives that fight for our attention, which can make prioritizing complicated. A short list of the things we could potentially make priorities include family relationships, faith and religion, education and career, health and fitness, friends, communities, hobbies, and travels.
Each one of us has an internal voice telling us what we want most out of life. Its the same voice that has been speaking to us since we were young. It tells us who we are and what we want. This voice speaks our language and makes sense to us on a very personal and individual level.
For some this voice tells us how great it would be to finally write that novel and get published. For others, it paints the picture of what life could be like if we actually traveled to the country of our family’s heritage instead of just talking about it. For others, including myself, its the voice that clearly explains how much happier we would be if we spent more time outside and less time staring at a screen.
Often times we lose track of that internal voice. Or maybe we shut it down for a period of our lives. We tell ourselves that for the time being, a different voice is more important. This impostor voice tells us how great it would be to make a ton of money, own a big house, and wear the nicest clothing. It tells us that we need more things, more status, and more followers.
This impostor voice tells us that our internal voice is not worth listening to. Or, at least for the time being, its not worth listening to that voice. It tells us that one day when we’re rich, when the kids have moved out, when we’ve finally achieved some obscure thing – then at that point, we can turn back to the internal voice.
The sad thing is that what our internal voice is telling us, is often the key to our happiness. If you find yourself day dreaming about coaching soccer, you should probably find a way to coach soccer. If you find yourself constantly thinking about how great it would be to launch a company of your own, you should probably find a way to launch a company of your own.
When we listen to the voice inside that is telling us who we really are, we live with integrity. Living with integrity is the foundation of living and intentional life, and living an intentional life is the foundation of peace of mind and happiness.
This post contains some very poignant examples of how we can find our true selves by listening to our own internal voice.
Discovering Your Internal Voice
Discovering what our internal voice is saying about us is actually not that hard. After all you’ve probably heard its quiet whispers all of your life. The objective then is to reconnect with that voice by the way you live your life.
Here are some examples of how we often ignore our inner voice and in so doing begin to live without integrity. The purpose of these examples is not to shame anyone. After all, most of these examples come from my own personal experiences and nobody is perfect.
You say that you’re family is the most important thing in your life. Nothing could come between your relationship with your spouse or your children. You’re ideal picture of your family is strong bonds that withstand the test of time and any trial that comes your way.
But you spend far too much time at the office. You find yourself having drinks or attending work related events even in the evening. You can’t remember the last time you had a date night. You feel shame for not spending enough time with your kids doing the things that they want to do.
Your’re clearly acting against your inner voice and living without the integrity that would give you everything you want. The idealistic picture of your family if fading like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. What are you waiting for? These misalignments are not going to correct themselves.
Deep down we all know that money and status do not bring lasting happiness. In reality, deep interpersonal relationships, especially with a spouse and children, have been shown to produce the most happiness.
And what if you don’t have a spouse or children? Does that mean that you can subdue your voice and the dream of an ideal family life? No! Of course not. You can still set a precedence for your life by choosing to not let work interfere with your relationships with your existing family – siblings, parents, cousins, nephews, and nieces. Also, you can make sure to set aside time in your schedule to meet new people and find someone who also caress deeply about family relationships.
Dreams & Passions
Maybe you’ve always dreamed of writing a book or screen play. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of hiking Mount Whitney or the Pacific Crest Trail. Maybe you’re dream has always been to act on stage or on screen.
Whatever your dream is, I’m sure that you think if you really did it would be amazing, fulfilling, and memorable. Maybe even life changing. But its so easy to make excuses. I’m too busy. I’m too tired. I have too many Netflix or Hulu shows that I need to binge watch (this is the one I struggle with).
Finances are an interesting thing. They can be complicated. They can be confusing. Are you saving enough? Are you paying down debt quick enough? To complicate the matter, credit cards are so simple to use that they can actually make it a challenge stay aware of how much you’re spending.
But even when it comes to money, or perhaps especially when it comes to money, we all have dreams. Or maybe we should call them fantasies. We all want financial security. We all want to be debt free. We all want to have the best things and know that our future is secure.
The questions is, do our actions align with our behaviors? Are we cognizant of how much we spend, save, and waste? Have we set our mind right about finances – meaning do we understand that the less we want the more wealthy we will feel?
When we have a cash event such as the sale of a home, a tax refund, or the receipt of an inheritance do we put that money to good use to secure our future? Or do we spend it on things that satisfy us in the short term but leave us empty handed in the long term?
As I mentioned above, finances can be complicated and they can also be intimidating. However, planning and discipline can allow any one to win the financial game.
What is your ideal picture of your health – mental, physical, and emotional? We all want to be healthy and we all want to appear beautiful and attractive. For some people they simply want to lose weight or avoid the illnesses that plagued their parents. For others they want to be able to play basketball every week, hike a mountain, life a certain amount of weight, or run a marathon.
Fitness is a challenge. It involves a lot of moving parts and requires disciplined choices every day. And the challenges are different for everyone. If you were to put a piece of chocolate on the table in front of me, I would most certainly eat it. I love chocolate. For others it may be salty foods, fast foods, a disdain for exercise, or even an addiction that is holding them back.
Whatever it is that makes us live in an unhealthy way, it holds us back from living with integrity and being who we truly are. I believe that a little indulgence is perfectly fine, but the important thing to really consider what we want to be when it comes to our health. Figure that out and then we you can move on to the next phase – living with integrity.
Do Something Now
We all have instances in our lives where we’ve chosen to live against our internal voice and thus live without integrity. Don’t let it get you down – thus is the nature of being human. These choices are greatly influenced by so many things – our families and friends, coworkers and mentors, the media, and the constant flood of commercial advertising we see every day. When you recognize a disconnection, use the emotions you feel to fuel your change efforts.
Here are some simple pieces of advice that you can use to realign your behaviors with your internal voice and live with integrity.
- Change doesn’t have to be drastic or sweeping. Choose one aspect of your life to focus on and start there. For example, you might speak with your boss and let them know how important your family is to you. You may let them know that you would prefer to be more disconnected from work during the evenings and weekends. If they push back, let them know that this will allow you to focus even more when you are at work. If they still don’t like that, maybe your job doesn’t align with your core values and its time to make a change.
- Use experiments to see how changes make you feel. For example, you might decide that you want to incorporate healthier eating habits into your life. For a set time frame (say 3 months) try reading the ingredients for each item you purchase when you go grocery shopping. If you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize the ingredients for that particular product, choose a brand that ha more natural ingredients. My wife and I tried this, and I am now 20 pounds lighter than when we started. We’ve continued to practice this type of shopping and the weight has stayed off.
- Schedule a specific time to practice or work on something. For example, I’ve always wanted to write a novel but have just never done it. My days are pretty busy so its easy to make excuses not to write. To make it easier on myself, I set a time each day when I would write for one hour. For me the only time that really worked was 6:00 am – before my kids woke up and demanded my full attention. I haven’t finished that novel, but I’m making progress. I’m not always able to get up and work on my book, but when I do I feel really good. It makes me feel like myself. It’s invigorating.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
One of the most important things to remember is that living intentionally and with integrity is a journey. Even if you decide to make a change now the actual change, along with its benefits, can take a long time to reach fruition. And that’s alright.
Also, the purpose of intentional living is not to set rigid boundaries and shame yourself every time you step outside of those boundaries. What I mean by this is don’t Get discouraged and don’t beat yourself up. Be patient with yourself and expect to have road bumps and short comings.
There are days when I turn off the alarm and go back to bed. The important thing is to start again the next day. I hope this was helpful in your pursuit to live with purpose and integrity. Enjoy the journey!
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Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
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