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How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

Do you listen to your gut? Not the rumbling that says, “I would like more fried chicken, please,” or “oh no, there really is such a thing as too many leafy greens.” We’re talking about your gut feelings: that inner knowing that makes you say yes or no to a situation without needing additional facts.

It happens all the time. People think, “I shouldn’t step outside yet today,” without knowing why. Moments later, a giant tree crashes where they would have been standing. Are they psychic? Are they paranoid and just got lucky? Or, perhaps, their inner voice was telling them something too strong to ignore.

Sometimes you get that feeling about people. You might just know that you’ve met your new best friend, or the new guy in the office is going to be a jerk. In other cases, it could seem more like a premonition. Your inner voice might be telling you something important, and it behooves you to listen.

What is the inner voice, and why should you listen?

Our brains are powerful. Even on our most decaffeinated days, our brains are constantly operating on an unconscious level, putting together patterns and making snap decisions without us even knowing. If you pride yourself on being a logical and facts-based person, you might be surprised to know that your brain has probably already made your choices long before you Googled your fiftieth review of that hot new restaurant. In fact, 95 percent of our brain activity is unconscious.

We’re constantly taking in information with all of our senses. Your brain is processing it while you’re trying to write that report or corral your screaming toddler. Even if you don’t consciously hear that weird sound that makes you think the dishwasher is about to break, you might still get the intense sense that the dishwasher is about to break. And when it does, you might wonder if you can do a side hustle as a psychic. That repair isn’t going to pay for itself.

In most cases, that’s just your brain alerting you to the fact that there’s something going on. If you get a strong “feeling,” don’t disregard it.

What if you listen and there’s nothing?

Most people do not have a Voice of God-style internal alert system that says, “Don’t go in the basement.” For most of us, it can be anything from an uneasy feeling to an all-out urge to run, throw up or other coping mechanisms. If you have that sudden urge, consider that your nervous system’s Voice of God. It’s trying to tell you something.

You can actually think with your gut—your literal gut. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is made up of thousands of nerve endings that operate independently of your central nervous system, which is the brain and spine. That “gut feeling” may actually be your stomach and intestines signaling that something is wrong.

However, it’s different for everyone. You might also feel it in your heart—which has over 40,000 neurons that also operate semi-independently—or you might hear a voice in your head saying, “Hey, Joe, maybe you don’t want to do that.” Everyone is different.

The best way to figure out what your inner voice is saying is to just take notes, whether that’s in a smartphone app or a regular journal. If you have a weird, strong feeling (or hear voices), write it down. Eventually, you’ll identify a pattern—and when you really pay attention, you’ll realize what internal guidance is real versus what’s logic, reason or anxiety.

How do you differentiate between the inner voice and anxiety?

Speaking of anxiety, differentiating between an inner voice or a gut feeling, and actual anxiety, can be difficult. How do you know which is trying to protect you—and which is trying to “protect” you, by not exposing you to anything uncomfortable?

As always, once you start paying attention to things, you’ll start to get a sense of what’s anxiety and what’s real. Some people say that intuition, inner monologues and gut feelings always come with a neutral feeling. “Don’t go outside” feels more like an inner knowing, whereas “don’t go outside or else” might come with a sensation of fear in your gut. The first is intuition and the second is anxiety—usually.

If you do struggle with anxiety, seeing a good therapist or psychologist can help. But if you’re one of those folks who believes in logic and reason above all, consider that your brain—and those gut feelings—might be even more advanced than you think.

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

Okay, but what if crickets is all you hear? How do you actually hear that inner voice? To help us answer that question, we sat down with Los Angeles-based life coach and breathwork teacher Gwen Dittmar to ask for her tips on how to hear your inner voice.

1. Create space for your inner voice to come through

“ One of the reasons why people aren’t hearing their intuition or trusting it or following through on it is because there is no space for it to come in,” Dittmar says. The solution? More quiet time.

“Prayer is actually asking [for guidance] and then meditation is the space that you create to be able to hear the answer,” she explains. Whether you sneak away for a brisk nature walk or meditate in your car before work, incorporating more quiet time into your day to just be present and listen to what’s coming up for you will make all the difference.

And you don’t even have to go out of your way to carve out the quiet time, just squeeze it in alongside mindless activities you’re already doing like washing dishes, showering, or exercising. You’d be amazed at the wisdom that can come through when you’re elbow deep in dish soap.

2. Pay attention to your emotions

Although we refer to it as an “inner voice,” your intuition might not manifest itself as a voice at all. It might just be a feeling. “Intuition often comes through your emotions,” Dittmar says. “Your emotions are simply feedback. It’s a part of you attempting to get your attention.”

So, when emotions bubble up, Dittmar advises that you not shrug them off or feel guilty for having them. Instead, try to decipher what the emotion is really trying to tell you. You can even have a conversation with the emotion.

Also, pay attention to any bodily sensations like digestive issues, a lingering cough, a headache, or fatigue. All of these can also be ways that your inner guidance system is trying to tell you something.

3. Look for your inner voice patterns

Whether you realize it or not, your inner voice has a pattern. It will usually speak to you in similar ways so that you can learn to tune into it. “It’s about cultivating a new relationship with that intuitive voice,” Dittmar says. “Similar to any other relationship, you have to get to know it. You have to understand how it sounds and the things that it says.”

To strengthen your intuitive muscle, she recommends a simple exercise. It involves taking a look back at your life and collecting some intuition data, if you will. Notice how your intuition has popped up for you in the past by remembering a time where you felt pulled to do something for no logical reason. Maybe you had an inner knowing that you shouldn’t attend a party and later found out some drama went down. Or, maybe you had a gut feeling to not work with a certain person and didn’t listen to it and it turned into a big headache. Make a note of how it felt to receive that intuitive hit and whether or not you followed through with it and what the outcome was.

Your notes are literal proof of how intelligent and all-knowing your inner voice is. For some people, it’s really helpful to see the data right to really believe in the power of intuition.

4. Set the intention to tune into your inner voice

Learning how to listen to your inner voice can be as simple as setting the intention every day to tap into it, Dittmar says. “It’s like you plant a seed in the garden and it will start to naturally grow,” she says. That willingness to listen to it is sometimes all you need to awaken your awareness of your inner voice.

5. Don’t let your mind take over

Many of us are so conditioned to go straight to our heads when we’re looking for answers. In our minds, it makes more sense to make a decision or choose our life path from a logical perspective instead of going with our gut and what feels right.

The problem is there are so many voices swirling around in our head, which makes it difficult to know which one is actually our intuition. Your mind, your fear, and your intuition are all battling for your attention, Dittmar says. It’s this noise that creates confusion and prevents us from following through on what our inner voice tells us to do.

Pro tip: Dittmar suggests paying attention to the first answer that comes through when you’re making a decision. That’s usually your inner voice talking before your mind has had time to actually process it.

6. Take a moment to pause and breathe into it

If you need to make a decision in the moment but can’t figure out what to do, Dittmar suggests doing an easy breathwork exercise. You simply breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for seven counts, and then exhale out of your mouth for eight counts. You can take three of these breaths and then just sit in that space.

“It brings some clarity and washes out the cobwebs and the fog in the mind,” Dittmar says of the technique. “When you exhale out of your mouth, it connects you to your heart and your lower energy centers. That’s really where you want to connect to when you’re in a state of confusion, not the mind.”

You can also use your hands to help you connect even deeper. Just put your left hand on your stomach and your right hand on your heart. “The left side is the feminine side,” she says, so it allows you to connect to your gut and intuition. “Your right hand is associated with logic and the mind. So when you bring the right hand to the heart, it connects you to what is the truth.”

7. Talk to your confusion

Can’t hear your inner voice? Ask it to speak up. Start by pinpointing where you feel the confusion in your body; this helps separate yourself from the feeling. Maybe it’s tension in your shoulders or pressure in your head. “This starts to create that space between your higher self and the confusion,” Dittmar says. “The confusion is not who you are.”

Imagine you’re talking to your confusion as if it were a person in front of you and ask it, essentially, what’s up. Listen to what it tells you. The response might be that you’re just too tired to go to that event or you don’t feel like that decision supports your highest evolution. By giving yourself the time and space to just have the conversation, you’re giving your inner voice more power.

In short, just like building a muscle, learning how to listen to your intuition takes work. But as Dittmar says: “The rewards are going to be huge.”

The Secret Wisdom of the Inner Voice

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How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

You can build great wisdom and genius by spending time each day in grateful communion with your inner voice.

Definition of Inner Voice: listening to your inner voice, known as clairaudience is a form of intuiting inspirational information. Inner voice messages can come from a variety of sources including angels, your soul or higher self, spirit guides, plant devas, and animal totems.

What better way of creating a more fulfilling life than by mastering the art of tuning into your most inspired and ingenious self, your inner voice? This voice is your guide of all guides to a life of greatness. You cannot attune to this inspiring voice without living a more inspiring life. Genius, creativity, and a silent power emerge from your heart and mind the moment you do. The secret of tuning in to its magnificent messages is having a heart filled with gratitude. When your heart is opened wide with gratitude your inner voice becomes loud and clear, and your most life expanding messages enter into your mind with ease. If your heart is filled with gratitude, it is almost impossible to stop your inner voice from speaking clearly and profoundly. Many great spiritual revelations and mental attributes are suddenly birthed from within you when your voice on the inside becomes louder than the many voices or opinions on the outside.

The immortal masters of life have been those who have mastered the ability to attune to their great inner voices. Those great beings that mastered this talent left their marks in history. From Christ, who listened to his heavenly Father, to Dante, who listened to Beatrice, to Walt Whitman and many others who listened to their guiding whisper, all have impacted humanity with the resultant immortal expressions of their inner voice.

Expanding Your Wisdom

As your voice on the inside grows in clarity and strength so will your inspiration when you listen. Begin to attune to that inspiring station from within. Listen as it guides you to new levels of creativity and operation. Your inner voice will put few or no limits on your life. Only the many outer voices of others who allow them selves to live a life of mediocrity will do so. Decide now to expand your wisdom and fulfillment through such careful listening. Follow the steps below and commune with this wise inner guide. It will help you create a greater contribution to others and possibly even a legacy.

Steps for Communing with Your Inner Guidance

  1. Stand relaxed with your hands loosely at your side.
  2. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale and exhale through the nose slowly.
  3. Tilt your head up 30 degrees.
  4. Turn your eyes up another 30 degrees, until you are looking forward and upward.
  5. Close your eyelids and let them become relaxed.
  6. Think about something or someone you are truly and deeply grateful for.
  7. Keep thinking and thanking until you feel your heart has truly opened up and you have even experienced a tear of inspiration.
  8. Upon attaining a grateful state, now ask your inner voice for any guiding message. Ask, “Inner voice do you have a message for me at this moment?”
  9. When you are grateful enough and you ask for a message a message will clearly come.
  10. Write this message down.

If your message does not become immediately and clearly revealed, repeat steps 6 through 10 until it does.

When you are truly grateful you will receive amazing and inspiring inner messages. These messages will be more powerful than might at first be apparent. The master, the genius, is the one who listens carefully. When you are grateful and your heart becomes opened, you will have revealed before your mind, the inner message you would love to fulfill. These priceless gems of guiding revelation will assist you in living a life of greatness.

Following Your Inspirations and Intuitions

Be sure to act on your inspirations as soon as possible. When you don’t follow the inspirations and intuitions of your inner voice promptly you can begin to emotionally beat your self up. This is not terrible though for it is simply part of the grand and magnificent design of conscious evolution. It is a blessing for it assures that no matter what happens, you will eventually learn and gradually or immediately unfold your inner spiritual mission, talent, and destiny. Life events will at times force you to listen to that wise voice within. The inspired beings throughout history learned to follow it. Those who have ignored it have passed by many opportunities it could have provided.

Listening to Your Inner Voice is Not Insanity

For decades many psychologist have considered individuals who have heard their inner voices as bordering on the edge of sanity. But, if you look carefully at the many great spiritual leaders, scientists, artists, musicians and social leaders, they regularly listened to their inner voices. They gratefully awakened this special inner communion regularly. The great philosophers have stated that they would rather have the whole world against them than their own inner soul.

Today, you have an opportunity for expanding your greatness. When your wise and masterful voice on the inside becomes greater than the many little voices on the outside a life of great fulfillment, wisdom and genius can become yours.

How many times, when faced with a decision or dilemma, have you been told to just follow your gut? Go with your intuition? All the time! That’s because it’s truly awesome advice. Problem is — it’s easier said than done.

Here’s why: Your intuition isn’t the only voice talking to you. The other speaker in your mind is your ego and it’s quite disruptive. If it were in your classroom, you’d have to move its desk right up front next to yours. And because your ego has such a dominant monologue running, your intuition can easily get lost in the noise.

The good news

It’s absolutely possible to learn how to distinguish the two. Once you know what to look for, you can begin to identify if you’re listening to the agenda of the ego or the spiritual purity of intuition. And once you master this, you’re well on your way to achieving the confidence and peace of mind that can only come from truly letting intuition guide your choices and your actions.

Your ego

Ok. So first things first: get quiet and just listen. Soon a voice will start in. It will be familiar. It’s probably what you’ve been thinking is your intuition all along. It’s not. That bold rambling in your head is ego. You can tell because it started talking first.

Your ego’s main job is to protect you — mentally and physically. It’s a powerful job. But because ego is largely influenced by the world in which we live — our past experiences, our hurts, and our fears feed our ego until it becomes too powerful.

When so much of your thoughts are governed by this overfed bully, it’s not serving to set you on the right path. In fact, it’s doing everything in its power to hold you back. The ego is afraid. It tries to keep you safe by shutting down anything new or different. It spins a web of “what ifs.” It’s controlling and bossy and manipulative.

Your intuition

Intuition, on the other hand, is everything your ego is not. It is quiet. Often silent. It may come to you in a strong physical sensation in your stomach (hence the term “go with your gut”) or may feel like tingly energy in your hands or at the nape of your neck.

Your intuition is loving. It’s a gentle and kind nudge toward peacefulness and positivity and warmth. With intuition, you just “know” something. It doesn’t need to make sense. It doesn’t need a logical explanation. It’s just a confidence that you feel, backed by the wisdom of the universe.

And the interesting thing about intuition is that it is always there and available to guide you back to your highest self’s greatest purpose. You just need to know how to quiet your ego long enough to hear its message.

The reallocation of power

While ego is never going to go away completely, recognizing it for what it is will automatically take its power away.

Here are a few sure-tell signs that your ego is at work.

  • Fear – If your inner voice is speaking in a fearful or anxious way, you can bet it’s ego. Intuition does not come from a place of fear.
  • Scarcity – When you feel insecure, lacking, and have a scarcity mindset, it’s driven by ego. Intuition is about abundance, confidence, and fulfillment.
  • Change – Fluctuating ideas, changing viewpoints, inconsistent self-talk — these are characteristics of ego. Intuition is steady.
  • External – Your ego tries to boost itself up by amassing more on an external level. Intuition needs nothing more — it’s divine.
  • Justification – Ego backs up its decisions with a laundry list of reasons. Intuition gives you just one simple answer. No explanation needed.
  • Judgment – If your inner voice speaks in judgment or comparison, it’s definitely ego. Intuition knows only love.

Once you grow accustomed to deciphering the source of that inner voice, you’ll notice that your intuition becomes more noticeable. Louder. And it is in this volume that you’ll find a clear-cut path to your ultimate purpose, your greatest fulfillment, and a profound sense of peace.

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

Spiritual awakening is a lifelong process. I feel a mixture of laughter and sadness when I hear someone talking about becoming “enlightened” as if there is a stopping point on the spiritual path. Is the game of life ever finished? And then there are others who talk about getting a “wake-up call” from a brush with death, or coming face to face with some other hardship. Can inner awareness be turned on or off so readily? The phrasing spiritual awakening (with an “ing”) implies an ongoing progression – like slowly wakening from a sleepy weekend morning where there are no agendas that call you to spring out of bed.

Spiritual Awakening is awakening from the dream of thought. -Eckhart Tolle

Uh let’s see, does that mean if I go back to sleep right now, my thoughts will stop and I’ll be spiritually awake? Maybe it would be easier if I became a monk and could meditate 24/7? That would surely propel me along this process of spiritual awakening. What I really want is something a little more attainable within my everyday reality. I also want a path of spiritual awakening that includes things like schedules and family life and making a living.

Spiritual Awakening: Road to Inner Peace and Spiritual Fulfillment

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

First of all, I don’t believe in spiritual agendas or prescriptions. Of course, I can still intend to be more loving, peaceful, joyful, or compassionate since I am always in the process of expanding my consciousness. But trying to analyze and control the process of awakening to these things is like taming wild lions. Let the lions of love or joyfulness roar. Let the lions roam freely to devour all that isn’t the lion of wakefulness.

Secondly, if you have the persistent desire to be more at peace, for example, you will (eventually) find your inner peace. There is nothing that can stop the inevitable unfolding of your self-improvement. We are all moving toward growth and expansion into something greater that is the Source and Heart of all. Your “self” may sometimes step in the way, but that merely slows the pace of your spiritual growth. You must have confidence that you will become exactly who you came to this earth to be.

The main requirement for spiritual growth: A yearning to know who you really are. – Adyashanti

Sometimes your spiritual journey may seem to bring you more trouble instead of enlightenment – described by some mystics as the “dark night of the soul.” Many spiritual masters have experienced this dark before the dawn on their spiritual path. In my experience, these difficult times have much to say about my perceptions of dark vs. light. It shows me my limiting beliefs which tend to blind my eyes to the many gifts held within the dark of the unknown. Feeling the insecurity or abandonment in the darkness is directly connected to my desire and expectation that my spiritual awakening “should” look or feel better than it does. This shows me my reliance on something other than myself to provide me with better feelings. If what you want from your spiritual quest is to simply feel better right now, then it is entirely up to your own choosing.

4 Ways to Nurture your Spiritual Awakening

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

Practicing these can reduce your attraction to life-altering “wake-up calls” and ease the “dark night of the soul.” There are no complicated or rigorous steps here that can’t be experienced within the regular routines of life. There are no pre-requisites to your spiritual awakening.

  • Practice letting goes of the need to control or to think your way through your awakening process. It is nearly impossible to THINK your way out of your problems. The urge to control is a sign of resistance. Letting go of your attachments allows room for increased awareness to develop at a relaxed yet compelling pace.
  • Take a persistent and inspired approach to your spiritual development. Persistency simply means that you are willing to pick up again wherever you left off. This helps you to feel a wave of inner peace and calm, knowing that your spiritual awakening will happen at its own perfect pace. Trust your process because you are never truly “asleep.”
  • Be open to all the gentle abrasions and nudges that naturally come your way. Everyday life is the perfect teacher. Use the everyday bumps as signs of your resistance, and reminders for you to listen and respond to the quiet voice of the Spirit within.
  • Meditate to free your mind from the endless cycle of thoughts that only seek the end result. Meditation is not just sitting silently in the lotus position waiting for inner peace and enlightenment. Take advantage of the numerous moments of potential quiet throughout the day. The majority of thoughts that circle through my head on a daily basis are not necessary to my functioning or well-being. Excessive thinking is a habit, not a requirement. Spiritual awakening to greater levels of conscious awareness is a process to enjoy, not an item on a “to-do” list.

Conclusion

There is nothing you can force to happen on the spiritual path. Rather it is a persistent but often subtle intention to direct your attention towards greater consciousness in all that you do throughout your day. The path of spiritual awakening is full of opportunities to experience greater love, joy, and peace; but those things are not the end of the path. I’ll let you know when I get there if I can, but for now, I’ll simply practice enjoying the journey, letting go of my ego, and seeing “that of God” in all.

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

We all have a basic desire to feel love and cultivate relationships of all kinds, but above all, we hunger for a committed romantic relationship.

Feeling deeply in love with another person is an immediate, heart-opening experience. I believe Synchronicity is timed so perfectly that two people who are born at a certain time, from certain parents end up making choices that lead them together. At the start of your relationship you feel deeply in love, however, even in the best circumstances, over time you may find it hard to sustain high energy levels because you’ve got to live life; you’ve got to raise the children and survive economically in a challenging economic climate.

Consequently, at this time in history, we are experiencing a sense of being grounded in our experiences. Those who are seeking a higher spiritual connection are being led to follow their destiny. The problem is, relationships are taking it on the chin. People are divorcing at the drop of a hat. You have relationships that are like ongoing wars. It’s a mess.

So, the question remains, “How do we find lasting fulfillment in our relationships?”

  • Connect With Your Inner-Truth

One of the greatest secrets to long-term happiness in your relationship is feeling secure within yourself. As we have authentic spiritual experiences, we recognize an inner security that comes from a deep place inside. It feels like a never-ending flow of love and support. When you lose yourself in your relationship, you lose your inner connection to God’s presence. I’m talking about losing the center of your being, the peaceful, loving essence that is the main measure of spirituality.

Your relationship is the joining of two hearts and two minds, but one of the stumbling blocks we face is we want to project this need for security onto another person. No other person can give us that much love, that much attention, that much anything, so we know that we have to put God first. It begins with a prayerful visualization, an affirmation that each of us can have a higher spiritual awareness and have our needs met by connecting with our truest self.

  • Work Towards a Deeper Spiritual Connection Together

When you join the experience of spirituality with the experience of loving another person, your relationship will grow in a way unimaginable. Praying together, following your Intuitions, etc.. will naturally change your point of view from self-involved to giving. To achieve real fulfillment in your relationship, ask yourself, what is the best way to enrich your partner’s experience? As this becomes the pattern, you will see how the loving, giving energy being returned to you.

With that being said, you may find yourself in a relationship where you are growing your spirituality but your partner doesn’t desire this path; an atheists, maybe. People have written me explaining this is a large problem: “I’m pursuing spirituality while my partner is watching football. What do I do?”

The answer is, if you have a loving relationship with your partner, you CAN bridge this gap. My best advice is to listen to your partner. Do this without an agenda and see how they return the courtesy. If the heart is there, it will help make up for the problem because everyone must come to their spiritual connection in their own time. Pray that your partner will break through and find personal evidence that there is something larger guiding us. Often, we find people are most influenced by watching how we live and seeing the joy and security we feel.

  • Work to overcome your Control Dramas

Particularly when we are under stress and disconnected spiritually, we tend to seek the energy we need from others by force. We pursue gaining control over someone else because of the security it brings us.

When humans join minds, there becomes an issue of who’s going to be smartest and control the larger mind. However, we can take the steps to transcend and interpret control drama’s on a much deeper level, both spiritually and psychologically by being realistic about what is going on in the relationship.

You may both be playing out a control drama. One person could be the Interrogator, while the other person is running from the control of that energy by playing the Poor Me drama or acting Aloof.

There is a resolution here: Name the game and work toward authentic conversations. When you recognize a controlling behavior, say how you feel. “I’m being intimidated.” Don’t worry if the other person denies what’s going on. You set yourself free.

  • Be Honest When You Communicate

As you communicate, make sure that you’re clearing the air by moving into an authentic discussion. Out of this honesty, you will both naturally self-correct and work towards sharing the leadership, moment to moment. The “head of the household stuff,” that’s all wrong! The ideal alternative is to share the power as you both receive intuitive guidance on how to be giving and lead the relationship.

“Our relationships are the spice of life; a training area for us to hold our connection with God.”

Love is the main measure of spirituality working in your life. The ultimate change exists in the quality of your emotions; an inner security and love that will naturally lead you out of the pain in your life. It’s always a matter of coming back to love.

Opening your heart and having honest conversations, allows you to transcend your control dramas and find lasting happiness and fulfillment in your relationships.

Learn from the pros how to use constructive, not dysfunctional, self-talk

We all hold internal conversations as we go through our days, and sometimes our nights. Psychologists have identified one important type of these inner monologues as “self-talk,” in which you provide opinions and evaluations on what you’re doing as you’re doing it. You can think of self-talk as the inner voice equivalent of sports announcers commenting on a player’s successes or failures on the playing field.

Unlike that sports commentary, which athletes never hear while they’re competing, you can actually “hear” what your own self-talk is saying. When this is upbeat and self-validating, the results can boost your productivity. However, when the voice is critical and harsh, the effect can be emotionally crippling.

Consider what happens after you’ve done something embarrassing. Does your inner voice say “that was sure stupid”? How about if you haven’t even done anything wrong or stupid at all, but your self-talk is just as critical? This destructive type of self-talk causes you to question yourself so constantly that you can soon become paralyzed with doubt and uncertainty.

As an example of how destructive self-talk works, consider the following scenario. You’re at a small party hosted by one of your family members when the conversation turns into a debate about the latest episode of a popular TV show. You express an opinion that the others disagree with, and although there’s no facts involved, you feel that you’ve just made a huge faux pas. You hated the episode and everyone else thought it was among the best of all time. The self-talk chatter starts to build in your head: “You should’ve kept your mouth shut. Why can’t you just keep quiet when you disagree with someone? You came across as completely ignorant. They looked at you like you were nuts, etc. etc.” The more you listen to your own self-criticism, the more you retreat from the actual conversation going on around you. Within a few minutes, you feel so horrible that you just leave the party, running through the whole episode in your mind over and over until you wish you had never even gone to the party in the first place.

Let’s turn the situation around now, and imagine the scene but instead, you respond with constructive self-talk. Nothing has changed—you’ve still expressed views that differed from everyone else’s. You thought it was the worst episode of all time, and they thought it was the best. Your self-talk, though, takes the following form: “I’m glad I stuck to my guns.” “I think I expressed myself very clearly.” “It’s just a TV show; so what if I didn’t like it!” In constructive self-talk, you cheer yourself on, focus on the positive aspects of a situation, and allow yourself to feel good about what you’ve done.

Researchers studying the thinking patterns of people with clinical levels of depression find that their self-talk tends toward frequently and relentless form of destructive self-talk. However, there were few studies actually examining different outcomes of constructive and dysfunctional self-talk. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Steven Rogelberg and colleagues decided to investigate the nature of self-talk among effective and ineffective managers. They defined effective managers as those who showed strong leadership skills and creativity. The experimental task involved having participants write letters to themselves about their plans and accomplishments. The data from this study thus consisted of written examples of self-talk that could then be rated.

189 senior executive managers completed the task, and raters evaluated the extent to which they language they used exemplified constructive or dysfunctional self-talk. Raters also evaluated the extent to which the letters reflected creativity, originality, and leadership skills.

Letters rated high in constructive self-talk included statements that fit the criteria of being insightful, thoughtfully constructed, self-reflective, and motivational in nature. The constructive self-talkers, in other words, saw themselves as capable of achieving their desired goals.

Here’s one example of constructive self-talk: “You are good at what you do, so you are going to start giving yourself credit—publicly. And the next time someone compliments you on something, do not brush them off before they finish with a quick ‘thank-you’—take it all in.”

Raters judged the language used in dysfunctional self-talk as indicating that the manager tended to shy away from challenges instead of facing them, focused on the negative aspects of challenging situations rather than on their positive aspects, and had a pessimistic attitude toward change of any kind.

This was an example of dysfunctional self talk: “And how’s the mess at the office? Still cancelling appointments or showing up in wrong meetings? Hope you can handle your schedule a little better now…”

Also telling were the ways that the managers ended their letters to themselves. The constructive self-talkers concluded on a positive and encouraging note, expressing confidence in their ability to succeed. Letters ending with dysfunctional self-talk concluded with doom and gloom predictions that the manager would never be able to achieve his goals.

On average, scores were higher on the constructive self-talk scale, quite likely reflecting the fact that these were managers who had achieved a degree of success in their careers. The question of interest was then how these scores related to measures of their effectiveness. In correlating the scores on their self-talk measure with indices tapping leadership, creativity/originality, and perceptions of job strain, Rogelberg and his team found that, as they expected, the constructive self-talkers were in fact higher in the desirable qualities on these scales. As the authors concluded: “When it comes to work-related outcomes, what a leader says to him/herself does indeed seem relevant.”

Even if you’re not in charge of leading throngs of subordinates in a high-pressure managerial job, there’s an important take-away message from the Rogelberg study. The more you talk yourself down, second-guess yourself, and see changes as calamitous, the less free your mind will be to roam through creative solutions of the problems that you face. Others will question you too, wondering whether you’re really up to the challenges in your life. These outcomes will only further cause you to doubt yourself, leading to a negative, downward spiral.

You may have already developed such strongly ingrained dysfunctional self-talk patterns that turning them around seem impossible. Here’s a great way to start on the road to constructive self-talk. Tell yourself that you can in fact see yourself in a more positive light. Nip the dysfunctional self-talk in the bud. Once you get in the habit of observing your self-talk, noting whether or not it’s constructive, you’ll find it that much easier not only to inspire others, but also yourself.

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, “Fulfillment at Any Age,” to discuss today’s blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.

Rogelberg, S. G., Justice, L., Braddy, P. W., Paustian-Underdahl, S. C., Heggestad, E., Shanock, L., . . . Fleenor, J. W. (2013). The executive mind: Leader self-talk, effectiveness and strain. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28, 183-201. doi: 10.1108/02683941311300702

Everyone has their own path to happiness. What’s yours?

We all want to feel happy, and each one of us has different ways of getting there. Here are 10 steps that you can take to increase your joie de vivre and bring more happiness into your life.

1. Be with others who make you smile. Studies show that we are happiest when we are around those who are also happy. Stick with those who are joyful and let them rub off on you.

2. Hold on to your values. What you find true, what you know is fair, and what you believe in are all values. Over time, the more you honor them, the better you will feel about yourself and those you love.

3. Accept the good. Look at your life and take stock of what’s working, and don’t push away something just because it isn’t perfect. When good things happen, even the very little ones, let them in.

4. Imagine the best. Don’t be afraid to look at what you really want and see yourself getting it. Many people avoid this process because they don’t want to be disappointed if things don’t work out. The truth is that imagining getting what you want is a big part of achieving it.

5. Do things you love. Maybe you can’t skydive every day or take vacations every season, but as long as you get to do the things you love every once in a while, you will feel greater happiness.

6. Find purpose. Those who believe they are contributing to the well-being of humanity tend to feel better about their lives. Most people want to be part of something greater than they are, simply because it’s fulfilling.

7. Listen to your heart. You are the only one who knows what fills you up. Your family and friends may think you’d be great at something that really doesn’t float your boat. It can be complicated following your bliss. Just be smart, and keep your day job for the time being.

8. Push yourself, not others. It’s easy to feel that someone else is responsible for your fulfillment, but the reality is that it is really your charge. Once you realize that, you have the power to get where you want to go. Stop blaming others or the world, and you’ll find your answers much sooner.

9. Be open to change. Even if it doesn’t feel good, change is the one thing you can count on. Change will happen, so make contingency plans and emotionally shore yourself up for the experience.

10. Bask in the simple pleasures. Those who love you, treasured memories, silly jokes, warm days, and starry nights: these are the ties that bind and the gifts that keep on giving.

Happiness and fulfillment are within your grasp, but sometimes just out of reach. Understanding what works best for you is the first step in finding more of it.

How to listen to your inner voice for greater fulfillment

“Intention is the key method by which we motivate and move our self on this planet. It always has been.”

If your formal eduction was anything like mine, it may have been directed mainly into gaining qualifications so that you could get a sound job, reliable income and the material benefits to enjoy a rewarding life. So far, so good, But only up to a point.

School education in my experience does not generally equip us to relate well with each other, or we would not witness social breakdown in schools and colleges. Nor does it always assist us to recognize and realize our individual aptitudes, natural motivations, heartfelt aspirations or least of all, our innate value and worth as a human being. This self-understanding leads to personal fulfillment.

What if you could create an intention for greater fulfillment? Setting an intention involves choosing a direction, a positive focus that may be fulfilled in many ways over time. It is not finite and it is expansive.

These 3 keys offer a foundation for your intention, and for the fulfillment that will unfold from it.

1. VALUE YOURSELF

“Our intention creates our reality.”

What if you were to fully know your value and express it into the world through your work, your relationships with others and your presence of well-being? You could transform your world – not necessarily the world as a whole, but the world immediately around you – of your family, work colleagues and friends.

I would like to suggest that appreciating your value is an important key to finding greater fulfillment. Appreciate has the sense both of gratitude and of increase. What you appreciate grows in value for you.

Think of a garden you enjoy cultivating, giving your time, care and attention to produce flowers, maybe fruit or vegetables. It gives back to you. As you appreciate yourself, your value grows. As your value grows, you have more to give. As you give more, you may receive more. It is a virtuous cycle that spirals upwards.

HOW?

A simple and yet powerful exercise I have used in partnership, and in corporate training, is that of acknowledgment (of tasks accomplished) and appreciation (for qualities expressed). Acknowledging and appreciating others is a great exercise for developing intimacy in a close relationship, and strength in a team,

At the end of a day, experiment by acknowledging and appreciating yourself. It could look something like this:

I acknowledge myself for.
. taking the kids to school
. going to the gym
. giving constructive feedback to my assistant

I appreciate myself for
.
. being patient, kind, thoughtful, fun, a good listener

2. ENJOY YOURSELF

“Never underestimate the ability of the Divine powers that be to work out what is coming from clear intention.”

The intention that works for me is written in my heart of hearts. It is not a sentimental thing but something solid that resonates within me. It is not an idea, a belief, a passing wish or a vain hope. It has the deep quality of knowing. Clear intention in me is profound, unshakable. The energy of intention fuels the aspirations I envisage. A clear workable intention has a quality of joy with it.

We each have a recognizable Personal Motivational Trend, defined as that which we are good at, enjoy doing and gives us the experience of success. If you are at a career turning point, knowing your Personal Motivational Trend will guide towards your next best choice of vocation. Your Personal Motivational Trend stays with you through your lifetime, although it may be experienced through many different avenues of expression.

HOW?

Reflect for a moment.

What do you most enjoy doing – at work or otherwise?
What are your natural skills, talents and gifts – things that come easily to you?
Recall a moment of fulfillment in your life so far
– notice what was special about that experience for you; feel, see, hear anything about it, as if it were happening right now. Be aware of the joy within you.

3. CELEBRATE YOURSELF

“I’m delirious with joy. It proves that if you confront the universe with good intentions in your heart, it will reflect that and reward your intent. Usually. It just doesn’t always do it in the way you expect.”

J. Michael Straczynski

Why celebrate? Because you are worth it, as the advertisement goes In every person I have ever met, when I have looked beyond the smokescreen of disappointment, hurt feelings, frustration, self-doubt, I have never failed to find the precious gift of life, which is also the gift of loving, that sustains them. You, your life, is a precious gift.

HOW?

Start with giving yourself your most precious gift – the gift of your time. You might like to review this post. (Insert link to How To Celebrate A Lily Day article)

Give yourself a Lily Day, Afternoon or even an Hour; time to breathe and just be yourself; no commitments, no pressures; time to listen to, and follow your heart, as you are inspired. Celebrate the love that you are.

Be prepared – life may find a way of delivering some wonderful surprises for you!

“A good intention clothes itself with power.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What does fulfillment mean for you? What are some of the ways you find fulfillment in everyday life? How would you like 2009 to be a fulfilling year for you? Please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

August 2, 2016 12:00 AM EST | 7 min read

“Following your dreams” is easier said than done. Knowing who you want to be, or what you want to do in life, is not always a clear or easy path. Most importantly, if you really want to achieve your dreams, it is up to you to actively work towards making them happen.

“Wishful thinking” might strengthen your desire, but will not get you closer to fulfilling those dreams, unless you are also examining and evaluating options to make them happen.

Here is a list of 15 ways to help zero in your goals, and fulfill your dreams:

1. Clearly define what your dream is.

It is not the same to say, “I want to be rich”, than to think “I want to own my own house, a car, and have enough money left to live comfortably every month”. When we dissect our dream and think of it in a realistic way, it becomes less a “wish”, and a more tangible goal. Thus, having a clear idea of what you want usually means you have already won half the battle.

2. Listen to your “calling”. Explore and identify your abilities and capabilities.

Make a list of your strengths and think of ways on how they might help you achieve your goal. If you have a talent, or truly enjoy doing something specific, use that gift to fulfill your dream. There are amazing stories of people being successful at what they do, even for the most surprising reasons, because they are passionate about it, and that is something others will recognize and value.

3. Write down a few ways that would work for you to achieve that dream.

Jot down any idea that comes to mind, even if it sounds absurd, as it will help open your mind and perspective to what you might be capable of achieving. Even if it isn’t something useful at the moment, it might serve as an inspiration for something that could be.

4. If you don’t know where to start, or don’t have a rough plan on how you will make it happen, do a little research on what others did to successfully achieve a similar dream.

Once you have a few ideas, tweak them to make them your own – think how they would work for you and your circumstances.

5. Start with small goals that are easy to achieve.

There are always small steps you can take to achieve a bigger end-goal. Starting with something that is easily achieved will boost your confidence while getting you closer to your main objective.

6. Enjoy your “small victories”.

When you do achieve a small goal you had established, take time to acknowledge the feeling of accomplishment. Appreciate how you set up an objective, put a plan in motion, and ultimately conquered it. This will keep you motivated, and will increase your self-assurance to keep working on achieving a new target…. Plus, you deserve it!

7. Take every misstep as a lesson.

There is always something you can learn from a situation that didn’t go as planned… Even if the lesson is that you are still ok, or that you have to change your game plan entirely. Changing your perspective and acknowledging your journey as a necessary component, and as valuable as the end result, will help you fight against discouragement and frustration. When you embrace every decision you are making, or every step you are taking, as part of your end goal, it makes the entire journey satisfying and worthwhile.

8. Be flexible.

Albert Einstein has been credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It could be argued that this definition could also be applied to unproductivity. When you keep doing the same thing over and over, and it doesn’t work, be open to trying a new approach. There is usually more than one way that would work for achieving the same end goal.

9. Be a learner

You never know what new information, material, or situations, will give you an idea that might work for your end goal. Inspiration can come from the least expected places. Be curious, expand your general knowledge, and pursue new hobbies. These will improve your chances of finding new innovative and creative ways to reach your desired goal.

10. Take risks

Staying within your comfort zone might not always help you reach a desired outcome – especially if you tried and can’t see any progress being made. Settling with the status quo is less frightening and comforting, but also costly if it is consuming time that could be better utilized doing something more rewarding. On the other hand, making a bold move can have a greater impact on your success. Taking a risk might pay off by opening new doors, or pathways towards your outcome… But also be ready and cognizant that it might not, and have a plan B in case you need it.

11. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people for help… and, when you can, pay it forward.

“Making it on our own” does not mean that you are completely isolated working towards your goal. On the contrary, most successful individuals achieve their dreams by playing their strengths and also by knowing when to delegate, or ask for help. If you reach out, you will be surprised at how frequently someone is willing to lend a hand, support, and encourage you to achieve your objectives. Therefore, asking for advice and networking will empower and increase the chances of being successful.

And if you have the opportunity, help somebody else. It will not only have a positive effect on the person you are helping, it will also increase your self-esteem and self-worth, further boosting your confidence toward your own goals.

12. Trust your instincts.

You can receive great advice, or come across and excellent opportunity, but if it doesn’t feel right, listen to your inner voice and evaluate if it is something that would be right for you. Nobody knows what works for you better than you do.

13. Be patient and don’t give up when things don’t go as planned.

Most goals take time, effort, and hard work. Even when you have a perfect plan in mind, it is very likely you will still encounter unforeseen obstacles or situations. Don’t let these discourage you from consistently working toward your goals. Trial and error can be discouraging but will get you closer to your objective. Plus, you never know how close you are from achieving the dream, or when an opportunity will be life changing.

14. It is ok to adjust your dream, or even change it entirely.

Life is not static, it is in constant motion, and who you were five years ago might not accurately represent who you are now. It is okay to realize that the goal you had previously set for yourself is no longer something that you want, and you should feel comfortable adapting goals to something that fulfills you now.

15. Believe in yourself

Be sincere and analyze your traits, strengths, resources, and all the pros and cons that could work for or against you. This will give you more confidence in your capabilities, and will help you not run the risk of overestimating or underestimating yourself. Your mindset will be a key component in achieving your goals. If you are negative about the outcome, it will deter you and make achieving the goal more difficult. On the other hand, if you think you can do it, you probably will not stop until you find a way to make your dreams come true.

Everyday Power ► 15 Ways to Fulfill Your Dreams and Zero in on Your Goals