I remember reading the book ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell about 10 years ago now, and having it challenge quite a few of my beliefs. I’ve always found decisions difficult to make without agonising over the rights and wrongs, possible outcomes and different scenarios that could play out. My mind whirring, for days sometimes about what to decide and then questioning whether I’d made the right decision. Blink was a refreshing antidote to this thinking with its assertion that the subconscious brain can often analyse data more effectively than we ever can consciously and that relying on our ‘gut’ decision is therefore the wise thing to do.
“Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way…We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that – sometimes – we’re better off that way.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Now, whilst I took in and appreciated this sentiment, I’m not sure that I actually acted upon it to a great extent. I probably did allow myself to make some (less important) decisions this way, but I largely stuck to my tried and tested (and exhausting) means of making decisions. Unable to trust myself to rely upon my gut instinct, despite having read a whole book about why I should. It’s only in the past few years with the practice of mindfulness that I have allowed myself to trust my instinctive decision making more.
Mindfulness build trust in a number of ways. Overtly through being one of the key attitudinal foundations of mindfulness (i.e. we consciously strive to include it in our practice) and covertly through developing a greater sense of self awareness that cuts through all of our critical self-talk. Some of the ways we think about trust in our mindfulness practice are as follows.
- Trust in the process of mindfulness. We all find it difficult in the beginning to start practicing mindfulness and establish a meditation routine. We may find it boring or be unable to settle in to the practice. When we trust the process, we accept these difficulties and continue anyway in the knowledge that we will get where we need to be with patience.
- Trusting yourself and your own wisdom. We can only be fully ourselves; not anybody else, however much we may strive to imitate them.
- Developing awareness of our thoughts and emotions and allowing them to be there. Trusting that there is a true self beneath all of this momentary disturbance that can make good decisions.
- That regardless of the outcome from the decision we make, we have the strength and wisdom to continue and thrive.
“In practicing mindfulness, you are practicing taking responsibility for being yourself and learning to listen to and trust your own being.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living
Looking back, I think one of the reasons I struggled to follow the advice in Blink originally was because my inner voice was drowned out by all the thinking and data analysis that was going on. It’s hard to rely on ‘gut feel’ when you don’t actually know what your gut is feeling. Mindfulness has allowed me to see past all of these thoughts and access my instinctive thinking more readily. I notice the thoughts and the temptation to run away with them, but I also have the ability to let them go and allow the ‘gut feel’ to rise. Tuning into our awareness in this way is one of the skills we build in meditation.
Building trust in myself has also allowed me to be braver when listening to my inner voice. I trust myself to preserve. I trust myself to adapt. I trust myself not to make the ‘right’ decision but to make a ‘good enough’ decision. I will make it work whatever happens, but actually, most of the decisions I have made since then have been good. They may have been uncomfortable at the time, but in the fullness of time, I’m grateful to have made them.
Trusting yourself is one of the most liberating things you can do and better decisions are only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and trust, I am currently setting up classes to begin this October. Please do subscribe to my mailing list as I will be releasing the details on there soon.