When walking my retriever, Bailey, she likes to set the pace. As she confidently trots toward whatever we may encounter, she rarely falters.
Except when we come to a fork in the path.
When a direction must be chosen, left or right, she hesitates often.
Roughly 10 percent of the time, though, she knows what she wants.
A stick in her mouth.
When she is trotting while carrying a stick, she is on a mission. She is a retriever, after all. The stick gives her a job. She has retrieved it and it’s now hers to carry.
In short, with a stick in her mouth, she stops thinking and goes on instinct.
She masters a skill I am still honing. And it’s not holding a stick in my mouth.
I follow my gut, my instinct, most of the time. But there have been times in my life when my gut seemed to make no sense to those around me, and their doubt caused me to doubt myself.
Thank God, most of the time, I risked following my inner voice and looking foolish to those around me. I’ve not regretted any of those choices, as temporarily rough as they may have been.
When my mother was set on me going to law school, when I scored well on the LSAT, I didn’t go. I told her I wanted to be a journalist instead. In her head, this didn’t equate. $15,000 per year starting salary versus, at the time, $60,000 and up. But my gut told me that while I would make a good attorney, I’d make a miserable attorney. Arguing does not make me happy. And yes, if going to law school, I was cut out to be a litigator whose primary job was to argue cases.
When in the corporate world and readying for a promotion, I decided to stay at home with my oldest son so as not to miss some precious days. It made no sense to my boss, my mother or many of my career-minded friends. But it was one of the best choices I ever made for our family.
When given the choice to go about my merry way, protecting my privacy, or put my thoughts and feelings out there in the world, I choose the latter, via my blog. Doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. People who only seem confident because of their big inner walls. People who don’t have the strength to put it out there and instead hide behind those walls.
But that’s ok. Because my instinct tells me a blog is just something I am meant to do at the moment.
I think of all the stories of 9/11, particularly the ones where people who never took breaks went outside to smoke a cigarette—and oddly, smoking saved their lives. The guy on his way to work who switched back to the local train because the one he normally took was making him feel claustrophobic. The local train made him five minutes late and saved his life.
I don’t know if any of these people were consciously listening to their gut, their inner voice—but thank God it won out, whether they were aware of it or not.
In short, we’re brought up to think. At least I was. Emotions are not always to be trusted, as they can change with the breeze. But thoughts are not much better. Intellectualizing anything is rarely hailed after the fact as a wise decision.
My gut tends to be a whisper of the divine. A strong feeling or sense usually leads me to a better outcome than all the pro/con lists and girlfriend gab sessions I could put together. You can call it whatever you want—a hunch, an inkling, a gut feeling—but recognize the wisdom in it. For many of us, on a typical Monday morning, wisdom is in short supply. Tap into the mother lode. And for you science-minded skeptics, research, study after study, back me up on this one.
Let’s start small. For this week, I’m going to stop overthinking. When tempted, I will remember Bailey and her sticks—and follow her lead.
Which will probably be the smartest thing I do all week. Or so my instinct tells me.