I was recently talking to a friend who was laboring over whether or not to move in with her boyfriend. She had previously lived with a partner and it didn’t go well. She had much apprehension at the thought of doing it again—especially after less than a year of dating.
After listening to all her nervousness, I said, “then don’t do it”.
“But he’s so wonderful”, she said, “we have such an amazing connection… and, logistically, it just makes a lot of sense”.
“Well, then do it,” I said.
“But I told myself I wouldn’t do this again unless I was 100% sure he was the one—and I guess I’m not totally sure yet”.
Sound familiar? Maybe for you it’s not a relationship decision, maybe it’s related to your career, a big journey, what kind of communication to maintain with old friends or perhaps something as simple as where to eat for dinner.
At some point or another, we all have an inner conflict similar to my friend. Some situation where voices inside us are pointing two opposing directions. What to do?
I thought about her situation for a moment and I said, “imagine you were on a game show, like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and the question was whether or not to live with your boyfriend. The general advice is that the first answer that instinctively comes into your mind is the best one—but, there’s such a strong tendency to second guess ourselves that people often reject their instinctive response, overthink it, rationalize it, justify it and end up deciding against their instincts, only to get it wrong! In other words, when that question comes up, what’s your gut response?”
Ripe with vulnerability, she replied softly, “I should go for it”.
One of my working definitions of sincerity is embodying your inner voice. Initially, the major task is just learning the difference between the inner voice and its greatest imposter—the ego.
The game show thought experiment is good way to figure it out. So is labeling. At a decision point, whether small or life-changing, silently say or write to yourself, “my inner voice says…”. Then notice all the stories the ego will tell, and likewise say or write, “my ego says…” Note the difference between the two, but keep grounding yourself in the inner voice.
Alongside those tactics, it’s helpful to have some information on the difference between the two:
The inner voice doesn’t justify itself. It doesn’t speak in stories. It doesn’t try to convince you of anything. It’s just a felt sense of knowing. Deep inside you feel that voice. You intuit it. You know it like you know how important friendship is.
The ego rationalizes, analyzes, justifies, comes up with reason after reason—in short, it thinks about things. It’s cognitive. Often, the ego speaks from a place of fear or craving. It might try to tell you that you can do it alone, that friendship doesn’t matter much, that vulnerability should be avoided—stories!
Once you have a pretty solid understanding of the the difference between these two—not intellectually, but being able to know the difference in real time—then, the next major task is daring to actually enact what the inner voice is saying. Of course, this can be terrifying, but it’s the work that must be done if we’re to walk the Path of Sincerity.
A couple weeks after that initial conversation, I checked back in with my friend, “so what did you decide?” I asked.
“We just signed a lease,” she said brightly.
Well done! Well done!