Have you ever thought about the reasons why you buy something? Be it a piece of clothing or even a car. Ever wonder what your motivation is behind your choices? What about where you go on holiday or even where you choose to live and the kind of home you end up either renting or owning? Or the kind of foods you like and the music you choose to listen to? How about the career you're in? Is it what you have always wanted to do/be? Is any or all of this for you?
Validation. Recognition. Acknowledgement. Resolution. Acceptance. I’ve been thinking a lot about the forces that drive us. Think about it. Every choice we make comes from somewhere. In any given situation, be it a job/career, a partner, a lifestyle, our achievements, we may think we are the ones in full control over the decisions we make. Yet, somewhere deep within us is a more urgent force that ultimately pushes us in one direction. This deeper influence effectively is our 'why'.
On any given day, we are faced with a multitude of choices, decisions we need to make about when to wake up, what to wear, what to eat, and then the more advanced decisions like when we get to work, dealing with our children and partners. Throw in the more complicated questions about our life in the grand scheme of things and who we are and want to be, then we really start to see where our heads are at.
So much of who we are is tied to who we have been shaped to be. All of us hear a voice, or two, or three that influence us (even that of an entire community). Some are positive, like cheerleaders pushing us to be our best self. Others are negative, draining us, sometimes forcing us to hide back in our own shadows. Those voices can have a personality—it could be a family member whose approval we have spent our lives so desperately trying to win. Or it could be a former partner/boss/teacher who told us we wouldn’t amount to anything. The latter could be a voice that spurs us on to prove them wrong or it could be one that takes us back to how we felt when we first heard that negative comment. Even the habits we practice on a daily basis, those behaviour patterns come from somewhere. The writer Aliyah Marr writes in Parallel Mind, “Many of the thoughts and beliefs that we hold and practice are not even ours. The thoughts of our parents, siblings, teachers, society, nation, and race inhabit our heads. A crowd of judgements lives inside each of us. It’s an incessant chattering of different voices and personalities, each with their own history and agendas.”
In my coaching I spend time getting to know who is in my client's life. Those people whether they are friends, partners, colleagues, family members, all have influence over the way my clients make decisions, how they see the world, and how they see themselves. After all, we are who we spend our time with. Theirs are the voices we hear and influence we feel whenever we have to make a choice or a decision whether it is what we wear, how we vote, what kind of a partner we should have, what kind of a home we live in, what we buy, whether we keep striving at a job that may look successful on paper but makes us miserable on a deep level. This influence can either cheer us on or hold us back.
Getting to know those influential voices shines a light on the control they have over us. By studying who they actually are, why they have so much power over us allows us to hear them for what they are: assistance or hindrance. Either way, by taking the perspective of an observer rather than participant, we become more in control of the direction we take upon hearing those voices. Essentially, we are in the driver's seat. As author and motivational speaker Agapi Stassinopoulos says, “We have both an anxious, critical, downspiraling voice, and a trusting, optimistic, calming one. Every day, every moment, we have a choice. It has to be a conscious choice of feeding the voice that will support us, while ignoring the other one.”
Caroline Myss, author and speaker who specialises in human consciousness, spirituality, health, and so much more, said in her interview with Oprah, “(We) should see everything about (our) life as a lesson. Ask 'Am I empowering myself?'" The same goes for the voices that swirl around us whenever we are faced with a decision that needs to be made, whether it is accepting a job, a promotion, a project, staying in a relationship, a friendship, or knowing what to actually do that would be best for us. Here's the key--feeling what those voices are saying is so important because that is how we know which voices to listen to and which to brush off. It is equivalent to listening to and feeling our gut instincts.
Our gut never lies to us even when we often choose with our heads. Strong gut feelings don't go away no matter how much we try to ignore them. If a voice empowers us as Myss says, lifts us up and energises us, if a voice eases that weight off our chest and we feel we can breathe easier and we feel we want to keep moving in that direction, that is the voice we listen to. It is that simple. If a voice is telling us not to do something because we’re not good enough or not deserving enough, we need to notice how that makes us feel. If we feel the blood draining from us, if we feel all that energy and excitement we had initially felt about something is gone and all we then want to do is just hang our head low then no, that is not a voice we listen to. I found this table (below) to illustrate our thoughts perfectly. It also works if you substitute thoughts for voices.
The table is from the Proctor Gallagher Institute, an organisation that works with individuals and companies to educate and empower them to expand their mindset in order to maximise their potential.
We aren't meant to be miserable. We aren't meant to live a life of suffering. We are meant to feel free, unburdened by the weight of others' expectations and perceptions. Those expectations and perceptions carrying with them that person's or community's own stories, stories that have nothing to do with us evolving into the person we are meant to be. When we hear the voices of others and we give in to them we are giving them control over our own life, of our own happiness and that is no way to live. But knowing what and who is actually behind our feelings helps us gain agency over our own lives.
We are made up of generations of thought processes, habits, patterns, lessons, hopes, dreams and desires. Within us are layers of history and memories. Our emotions are the energy forces that have been influenced by all that we have been taught, all that we have seen and heard, all that we have decided we want in our life. What we should also remember is that we really are smarter than we think we are. And our minds are complex. Our bodies are intelligent beings and they will guide us to our optimal self. If we listen. Finding out what or who is the motivation behind the choices you make and acknowledging why they have such power can result in a massive shift in how you go forward in life. It can also break patterns that don't serve you anymore. the sooner you get to know your own voice, the more empowered you will feel to make choices and decisions that are truly right for you.