Take down your blind spots: the unconscious patterns of behavior that are fueled by emotions and beliefs — that misguide us from acting upon our truest intuitive senses
A friend of mine, the founder and president of a well-known leadership consultancy startup in San Francisco with a promising ‘runway’ for success, recently faced a pivotal life decision. Just as his company was getting off the ground, landing big contracts, and wading waist deep into highly creative and well-funded projects, he was offered another job as CEO of a competing company. The offer forced him to choose between the company he had poured his heart and soul into and heading up another, more established organization with a team twice the size.
From the outside it looked like a clear choice: stay with his own creation and see it through to the next stage. This would enable him to launch his own voice and work into the world and write the book he’d been longing to create, among other things. He had a great staff working for him and the vision was his — they needed him. His company was the new sexy consultancy on the block and its story was just starting to be written. Still, the offer pulled at him, and he found himself considering it.
One day while I was walking at the lake in my neighborhood, he called me and relayed his dilemma to me, saying with a mixture of curiosity and lighthearted angst, “Kelly, I don’t know what to do. I was offered this position and even though I have so many reasons not to take it, I feel an intuitive pull toward it. I want to explore it if you have a few minutes to do so.” He continued, listing out all the pros and cons of taking the offer and turning it down.
Gut intuition is a mysterious thing. It has its own life and its own currents, even when it flies in the face of our most rational ideas.
As he spoke, I could hear that there was a sense of alignment or ‘yes’ when he spoke about leaving his company to take the new job — even though it fundamentally contradicted his ideas about who he was and what he should do. The clarity behind all of his questions and analytic processing was shining through: it felt right to him to take it. My job as a sounding board was simply to point that out and support his continued inquiry.
He took some long walks alone in nature, quietly reflecting, and consulted with other trusted friends and colleagues. He eventually made his decision: he left his own brainchild for the CEO position. He has since said it was without a doubt the best choice he could have made, with positive ripple effects in many directions. The act took courage, because he had to be willing to let others down and possibly be perceived in a negative light. And it was a personal risk; he had a family to consider and was in a hard-earned position of security that was largely under his own control. Yet even with those elements factored in, his commitment to his own personal integrity and to listening to his intuition kept the perceived risk from getting in the way of acting on his inner knowing.
Shortly before taking the job, he described to me that he just had a felt sense that it was ‘right’. While he could give logical reasons for the move, the primary motivator was his gut feeling. When he realized he was leaning that way, he had checked it out with friends, asking if he had a ‘blind spot’ — an unconscious impulse, fueled by emotions and beliefs, that create habit-building patterns in relationship to ourselves and others.At some point it became a ‘choiceless choice’ for my friend: the answer revealed itself, and he had to heed the call.
When something feels ‘right’ it doesn’t mean the situation is bull’s eye perfect and will provide unending happiness and bliss. Rather, it means the situation is aligned and we are on track with taking the next step in the unfolding (choose your own adventure) story of our lives. When we act in alignment with our inner knowing and intuitive sense, there is a feeling of ‘rightness’ that carries signature qualities: alignment, ease, flow, and a natural ‘yes’. A lack of resistance. It’s a form of knowing that doesn’t assert itself, yet it is clear as day. I call this the ‘100 percent yes’.
I have discovered for myself — in my work and relationships — that anything less than a ‘100 percent yes’ is a ‘no’.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t make decisions that involve sacrifice or compromise — I do. Or that I never change course after making one of those decisions; I do that, too. But when I say yes to something that has, say, a 75 percent feeling of ‘yes’, I usually get exactly what I signed up for: it turns out there’s a 25 percent ‘no’ in the mix.
Waking Up to Intuition
Blind spots are tricky because we can’t see them; their nature is to hide in plain sight. Because it frees you to see more clearly, illuminating your blind spots helps you access this natural intuition and life wisdom and keeps you from getting bogged down in other fixed ways of seeing. And as a result, you make better decisions. Who doesn’t want that? Your intellect and reason are still involved, but you aren’t a slave to your ideas any longer. And let’s face it, how can you objectively know how things should go anyway?
The thing about trusting your intuition and acting from it is that the next moment always comes, carrying with it a new opportunity to listen and respond spontaneously to each new possibility. And when this becomes a habit, even when you are faced with the biggest challenges of your life, you can still navigate from a place of openness, curiosity, and listening for the next best step. When your blind spots drop away, you can welcome feelings of loss, heartache, and fear of change and step into the next wild, unknown moment — feeling your way in.
The Power of the Felt Sense
We waste precious energetic resources when we defend against what is right in front of us and see what’s not really there.In contrast, seeing clearly allows us to gain access to our body’s natural wisdom in the form of signals that come through the felt sense of the body. These signals are often outside of our conscious awareness or rational processes, and require space, time, and reflection to be heard (they are like the still, small voice that whispers instead of whacking us on the head).
If we are checked out from our bodies and the messages they transmit in the form of sensations and emotions, we block access to what is right in front of us: valuable information that supports us in finding our true north. But as we mindfully meet, greet, and welcome all of who we are, we are better able to clear the noise (the false beliefs, unconscious biases, and suppressed emotions) in the signal and listen to what is clear, simple, and most true for us in any given moment. Our defenses against the world are softened, and that makes all the difference in the world.
How do we practically use our newfound connection to what is right in front of us, what we no longer miss, along with the power of our gut and heart’s intuitional navigation system? The next practice can be applied to just about any life situation, in real time, using present-sight.
8 Steps for Opening to Your Blind Spots and Navigating from Your Intuition
To begin this exercise, as you’re getting used to it, I suggest you select a particular issue you’d like greater insight on. Then work through the steps using that as the situation at hand. Soon enough, answering the questions related to these steps and taking the suggested stances will become second nature, and as a result, your inner knowing will assume an ever greater role in all of your choices.
- Listen to what’s real, using mindful awareness — the tools of insight and practice
What do you feel in your body as you consider a decision? Do you feel a strong ‘no’ or ‘yes’ that you are ignoring? Chances are that’s relevant information to listen to. If you can’t tell whether what you’re experiencing is fear or not, take time and sit with it. Notice the emotions, the thoughts, the feelings. Your clarity will emerge as you give everything in your experience the space to be here and to deliver its messages to you.
- Tell yourself the truth as you listen — the tools of honesty and vulnerability
As you acknowledge what you feel and all that is in your experience, can you tell yourself any truth of the moment? For example: I feel hurt and angry. My sense is that this marriage has reached a pivot point and we need help trying to save it. I feel scared and I don’t want to do anything right now except hide. The truth of the moment, unveiled and unhidden from yourself, has the power to work wonders. The naming of it will deeply relieve you from the tension and struggle of holding it in.
- Act from your inner knowing as you tell yourself the truth — the tools of discriminative wisdom and empowered responsiveness
As you listen and tell yourself the truth, what do you most know about this situation or about what you’re learning? What action is being called for in your life? Acting from your inner knowing may mean taking no action at all, but it’s what you know to do, or not do. It could mean having a conversation with someone, or saying no where you’re sure there is a ‘no’. Remember the idea that anything that isn’t a 100 percent ‘yes’ is a ‘no’. That can help clarify when you aren’t listening to your inner knowing. Acting comes from a place of empowerment and strength, but it also comes through vulnerability. If it comes from fear, it may not reflect your deepest knowing.
- Be comfortable with not needing a reason for your actions and decisions — the tool of surfing the unknown with self-confidence and trust
People will ask you to explain yourself. You can give them a reason if you want to, or you can give yourself permission to say, “I don’t know. I have a sense that this is what I need to do.” Watch for times when you know strongly and without a reason that you need to do something and then make up a reason for the choice so that you (or others) can feel comfortable with your decision. Let yourself not know why you do what you do. Of course, sometimes you’ll be utterly clear about why you’re making a given choice, but that won’t always be the case. Give yourself permission to not know, yet to still act. What a relief!
- Be comfortable with failure if your actions lead you astray — the tools of self-compassion and curiosity
Understand that part of the learning journey means you will fail, you will mess up, you will not say the right thing, and you will hurt others and yourself. When you understand that, you are far more willing to take responsibility for and learn from your actions than when you resist your mistakes. When you are in resistance, you will try to hide what you did wrong, try to push things through that don’t need pushing anymore, and try to prove that you’re right. Failure just means you are learning, and the more comfortable you are with the process, the better you will surf the waves.
- Let yourself off the hook from your ‘shoulds’, your self-blame, the prison of your own mind — the tools of emotional intelligence and inquiry
Retire your loyal soldiers: your inner critic — the voice of ‘shoulds’. Letting yourself off the hook from those harsh, judgmental voices allows you to let in where you betray yourself or another, or where you are blind and not listening. In not needing to be a certain way, you become who you are: a full-spectrum human being.
- Laugh at yourself and let go of taking yourself so seriously — the tools of awareness and humor
Place yourself in the context of history and think of all the love and war and birth and death that have come before you. See what a tiny point you are in the grand array of the world. Laugh at how you make such meaning of everything and feel that so much is at stake. Find the humor in the way you hold on, and in doing so, let go.
- Love what comes — the tools of compassion and welcoming
It’s so easy to forget to love what comes. It’s so easy to resist and refuse what life hands you. It’s doing the simple thing of loving, with a welcoming presence, what arises in your life that changes everything. Love is the chief blind spot unlocker. It undoes our hatred, the way we blame and judge, and the way we don’t listen well. Let love reside inside you and speak from your most profound depths. When we trust that we can take an aligned action in the world — any action that is spontaneous and relevant to the moment — it is easier to love because viewing through the lens of love doesn’t threaten. We can love while we experience everything else under the sun. It seems to hold this whole thing together, doesn’t it?
The blind spot outing will set you free. May the journey to your intuitive self begin. Bon Voyage.