Often we don’t know what to do. And often there is no one to ask, or, no one else who knows what to do. How do we decide?
There are some good rules of thumb- list pros and cons, weight them for long and short term, try and arrive at your core requirements and write them down so you don’t forget them.
One of my favourites- if you can’t decide between two courses of action then it doesn’t matter- toss a coin.
But these are just rules of thumb- what you’re ultimately aiming for is an inner voice you can rely on.
There is one inner voice we know all too well- the nag, the guilt-voice, the non-stop inner driveller. This voice comes on when we haven't enough to do, or when the stakes are too low. How do you distinguish this voice from the real one that is of some use?
You have to start by learning to ignore all guilt, all inner nagging, all uncontrolled verbiage, all worry. You can allow yourself an hour a day as 'worry hour' if you start getting withdrawl symptoms. Use your 'impartial spectator' to merely note the verbal flow and then let it go. Stuff like: "another thought about money", "another regret about time passing by", "another guilt twinge about not sending a birthday card to your best friend". After five minutes of such noting you'll find this inner voice loses confidence. You're not taking it as seriously as it wants to be taken. It starts to disappear, fade away. Needs practise though.
Eventually its quiet enough for the real inner voice to emerge. This speaks to you in feelings, inclinations, rarely in words. It's the voice of hunches, sudden ideas that come from nowhere.
Stuntmen, extreme sportsmen and even lowly car drivers rely on hunches, feelings, a little voice- telling them whether something is risky or not.
It works particulary well in extreme areas because any kind of self-obfuscation or conning is punished very heavily. If you lie to yourself about how good you are at climbing you’ll fall.
In an extreme area a lot of the shit of everyday life: being in a rush, greed, routine- are banished- or should be. When I fell off a rock face aged 19 and fractured my back in two places it was because I had ignored my inner voice and let gross competitiveness silence it. It was at the end of the day and I wanted to get off the crags and have a cup of tea. My climbing partner wanted to do one more climb. It got competitive and I pushed myself too hard showing off- and fell 35 feet without a rope.
Later when I drove vans for a living while living in London I found that it was all too easy to lose concentration and have an accident. After several minor crashes I realised that these accidents always happened when I was ‘not really there, distracted or a bit dopey’. So before each journey I’d self check- if I felt a bit out of it I would make a routine of putting on my seat belt which worked to make me pay extra attention, be unusually vigilant. If I felt cool I drove without the seatbelt (legal in a van I might add!). This simple method meant I had no more crashes while working everyday in a hectic city.
So, the inner voice, hunch, call it what you like does work- and is all too easily silenced. But how do you tune into in everyday life as well as during extreme sports?
Back to polishing the mirror- the impartial spectator. When we get better at noting what is really going on and then leaving it we get better at silencing noise. Less noise and we hear the voice. But even then you can wilfully ignore it- which is what is meant by leaving the path.
Addiction will cause you to gatecrash your way past the inner voice even if it’s screaming. Minor addictions to food or major ones to nicotine or booze- all of them will provide ‘good reasons’ to ignore the inner hunch or message.
Unreasoning fear, too, can drown it out. Even fear for a loved one’s life.
Guilt will, too. In fact the ‘inner voice’ of guilt is often confused with the real one. How do you tell them apart? Not easy. Needs practise.
Then, once you’ve used the inner voice a few times- and going on a walk through unfamiliar terrain is a great way to test it. Simply trust your instincts when there is something you are not sure about or doesn’t seem obvious. Because greed and fear should be absent (no one route or course of action is obviously loaded in such circumstances) then you can get used to relying on hunches.
By working on improving the impartial spectator and running more and more of the day through following the inclinations of the inner voice you’ll find you are progressing.
I’ve tried it on gambling and the lottery but, not surprisingly it doesn’t work. Too much greed involved.