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Pssst: Your Inner Voice is Talking to You

Handing out advice is easy, and you probably do it all day long without even thinking about it. You may offer co-workers helpful tips throughout the day; you may help a family member navigate a tough problem; and you probably help your friends work through their choices.

You also probably give yourself advice throughout the day as well, in the form of your inner voice. But odds are, you probably take very little of that advice.

Even King Solomon Didn't Follow His Own Advice

If you have trouble following your own inner voice, know you aren't alone. Most people have a much easier time doling out wisdom and advice than they do following that advice for themselves. The Biblical King Solomon, lauded for his unmatched intelligence and sage wisdom, failed to apply that wisdom to himself. If you are familiar with the story, it is this lack of self-awareness that led to the downfall of his kingdom. In fact, psychologists use the term "Solomon's Paradox" to define this all-too-common human tendency to ignore our own intuition.

Through researching this paradox, scientists have come to the conclusion that we make better decisions and see solutions more clearly the more we distance ourselves from a problem. In other words, when it comes to your own problems, it can be tough to "see the forest for the trees."

Why We Get in Our Own Way

Solomon's Paradox confirms that most of us get in our own way when it comes to solving personal problems, changing habits or making decisions -- but it doesn't really explain why we do it.

If we advise someone who is experiencing a situation under the exact same circumstances we do ourselves, we should be able to listen to our inner voice and take our own advice, right?

Wrong. Many things stand in our way, even when we can see a clear path before us. We know we should just ask for the raise, apply for the job, or put more money into our 401(k). Yet we don't. And there are a number of reasons why:

  • Fear: Even if you say to yourself, "what's the worst that could happen," it's very easy to get hung up on that disaster scenario, and fear is an effective paralyzer.

  • Laziness: Change is hard. The status quo is easy. That's why so many New Year's resolutions are abandoned long before the end of January.

  • Self-Doubt: We are often our own biggest critic. Self-doubt can be an extremely demotivating factor.

  • Intellect vs. Feeling: Intellectually you may know that you "should" do something, but emotionally, you can instantly come up with 800 "great reasons" not to do it.

Our inner voice can be a source of sound advice. But our emotions can be a much louder source of interference.

How to Listen to Your Own Advice

Tuning in to your inner voice and following your own advice isn't easy. But you can get better at hearing yourself by:

  • Staying in the present: "What if" scenarios of a bleak future can quickly derail you. If you find yourself creating future disaster scenarios in your head, stop and get back into the moment.

  • Trusting your gut: If a situation makes you feel uneasy, if you feel drawn towards a particular choice, etc., trust that feeling.

  • Embracing a bit of discomfort: In order to take your own advice, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and test the waters.

  • Taking baby steps: If you get paralyzed at the thought of too much discomfort, take baby steps. If you aren't ready to max out your 401(k), start by saving just one percent more, for example.

Remember that you are your own best advocate. Your inner voice would not lead you down a dark path. So listen to yourself and don't be afraid to take your own excellent advice.

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