You’ve been told to follow your intuition. So, you evaluate every choice through the lens of spiritual guidance. And then you wonder why you aren’t making progress toward your goals. After all, taking a spiritual approach to decision-making is supposed to put you in the flow and move you forward faster and more efficiently.
Could your spiritual guidance steer you wrong, or are you misinterpreting intuitive messages?
I’d argue for a third option.
Sometimes, your brain makes you think you are receiving spiritual guidance when, in fact, it is sending you messages to avoid something scary or hard. You could say you misinterpret its messages as intuition; actually, you interpret them precisely as your brain intends.
Your Brain Keeps You Safe
The oldest part of your brain, often called the reptilian part, keeps you safe at all costs. That’s its job; it sees anything new or different as a threat to your life. Even good changes, like starting an exercise program or leaving an abusive relationship, are perceived as life-threatening.
So, if something seems scary to your brain, it does everything possible to make you avoid change. That includes making you believe your intuition tells you to do something the brain sees as safe.
Following Your Intuitive Hits
Let’s say you are a spiritual person who wants to make decisions based on intuition. You pay close attention to the things you feel excited or passionate about—attractive and interesting opportunities—because you understand these experiences, thoughts, or feelings as spiritual guidance. You often follow such perceived intuitive hits and take action in alignment with your excitement, passion, attraction, and interests.
Yet, you also are someone with a goal to become an author. Intellectually, you know what actions move you toward achieving this goal. However, some of the steps feel uncomfortable or scary. If you are honest, you’d admit that becoming an author seems challenging and overwhelming, and you are afraid to put your work—and yourself—out into the world.
To help you feel more secure and confident about undertaking this endeavor, you seek ways to advance your knowledge of the publishing industry and writing craft. This means you often sign up for how-to-write-a-book or how-to-get-published programs—especially if you feel as if your intuition is guiding you toward one.
On one hand, you sincerely believe you need to know or learn more before you can successfully write and publish a book. And you think your increased knowledge and skill will make authorship easier and less scary and give you more confidence.
On the other hand, you get excited about such programs and feel pulled to enroll in them. To you, this indicates that you are being spiritually guided toward these programs. You want to follow your intuition and believe it will help you achieve your goal more efficiently and effectively. Therefore, it makes sense that you enroll, right?
As a result of following your so-called intuition, you end up too busy taking the courses to write your book. And you effectively avoid the aspects of becoming an author that seem difficult or frightening.
Making Intuitive Decisions…or Not
Were you following your intuition or succumbing to your brain’s strategy to keep you safe when you signed up for those courses? The latter.
If you believe something is difficult or scary, you have aligned your thoughts and beliefs with your brain’s fear. Basically, your brain convinces you there is something to fear. As a result, you do exactly what your brain wants you to do. You find ways to avoid changing or doing things your brain believes might harm you.
Being too busy to write your book is a strategy for keeping you safe, is it not? It effectively keeps you from publishing and becoming an author. And it stops you from playing big, becoming visible, and allowing people potentially to judge you and your ideas.
So, suppose your so-called intuitive hits lead you to decisions that keep you safe or help you avoid scary, difficult, or uncomfortable experiences. In that case, those hits are not coming from spiritual guidance.
Spiritual Guidance Doesn’t Avoid Things that Seem Hard or Scary
Your spiritual guidance system cares little about safety. In fact, on a spiritual level, you know you are always safe, and your soul never dies.
It makes sense, therefore, that your intuition guides you toward whatever is for your highest good—even if accomplishing that goal seems hard or scary. In fact, sometimes the most difficult and frightening things—the actions or goals that make you most uncomfortable—are the ones your soul chooses for growth and contribution.
So, if you are avoiding something because it’s hard or scary, it’s likely that your intuition is leading you toward that. At the same time, your brain trying to stop you from doing just that.
By now, you probably realize that your brain disguises your fear or discomfort as spiritual guidance. It wants you to believe you are being spiritually guided away from what your intuition has directed you to pursue.
How to Discern Spiritual vs. Brain Guidance
You can see that learning to discern what is genuinely spiritual guidance is essential. If you don’t, you’ll do everything possible to avoid following your intuition.
So, how do you know when you are receiving spiritual versus brain guidance? Here are five ways:
1. Identify what you are avoiding.
Identify what you are avoiding or, said another way, what feels scary, overwhelming, challenging, or uncomfortable. For instance, if you want to become an author but aren’t writing consistently, you are avoiding writing.
2. Identify why you are avoiding it.
What’s the reason you are avoiding taking action? Obviously, the answer is that the activity makes you feel scared, overwhelmed, and like it’s too difficult or uncomfortable. (That’s your brain talking, by the way.) And you don’t want to experience any of those things.
3. Identify how you are avoiding it.
What activities are taking up your time or causing you to focus on something other than your goal? In the example above, too many courses got in the way of writing and publishing.
4. Determine if you are avoiding what you were intuitively guided toward.
Why do you aspire to achieve this goal? Maybe you chose to write a book because you felt becoming an author would allow you to fulfill your purpose by being of service.
Your soul pushed you in the direction of this goal. And you followed your intuition with little hesitation initially.
Only after making the decision did this aspiration start feeling too big and risky. That’s a sure sign you were on a spiritually guided path at the start.
5. Realize excitement, passion, interest, and attraction are not necessarily signs of spiritual guidance.
Review your past. Identify times when you jumped right into something. You knew it was right for you and followed your intuition. It worked out—even if it didn’t. You grew, learned, and expanded your consciousness.
Notice that such decisions had a different quality. You weren’t just excited, passionate, interested, or attracted to the aspiration. You just knew it was the next step for your highest good. And you probably didn’t hesitate to take that step.
5. Realize that overthinking is a brain trick.
Overthinking provides a sure sign your brain is operating in high gear to stop you from pursuing a spiritually guided opportunity. Too many thoughts about whether you should or shouldn’t do something equate to your brain trying to steer you away from something—not toward it.
Intuition usually involves little thought. You just know.
Notice your mental chatter. If it’s in high gear—telling you things like, “You might miss out if you don’t do this” or “When are you going to learn to follow your intuition? Just do it!”—you can rest assured you are not being spiritually guided. Instead, your brain is doing what it can to keep you safe. It wants to stop you from doing something else.
With this in mind, you can more easily discern when your intuition is guiding you forward, or your brain is trying to keep you stuck where you are.
Can you tell the difference between brain and spiritual guidance? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post with a friend or on social media.
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Photo courtesy of Vladimir Efimov.