A Coaching Power Tool By Tiffany Purn, Career Coach, UNITED STATES
I embrace my own truth. Dahi Tamara Koch
That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something. Meredith Monk
Today I trust me. I trust in my perceptions. Today I will live my own truth that glows within, a life of no deceptions. Patricia Robin Woodruff
The answers to life’s questions remain within. Anonymous
Explanation of Inner Wisdom vs. External Noise
We each have an inner truth that connects us with our authentic values, what feels aligned, and what feels “right.” This could be called intuition, personal truth, or inner wisdom. It’s something that when we tap into it, we feel aligned with our deepest values, self, and our wholeness. Sometimes the inner truth that we tap into feels like tapping into a breath of fresh air – something that we already knew and felt but perhaps needed to clarify for ourselves or to remember. It feels expansive and freeing. And sometimes our inner truth contains something hard for us to realize and/or to look at. Seeing and accepting an inner truth might mean we have to look at something difficult or we have a tough choice to make. But our inner wisdom is always connected to something that we value, and something that is ultimately life-serving. Feeling this (heart, mind, body) alignment, this connection to what is life-serving is how we know we’ve landed on inner truth. Brene Brown uses the term inner wisdom interchangeably with intuition. She defines intuition as, “not a single way of knowing. We can hold space for uncertainty and to trust the many ways in which we have developed knowledge and insight, including instinct, experience, faith, and reason.” For this tool, this is the definition we’ll use, and inner voice and inner wisdom also are interchangeable.
Intuition and Inner Wisdom Are Distinct From:
Instinct: an innate, typically fixed pattern of behavior in response to certain stimuli.
Logic: a particular way of thinking about or understanding something
Our lives are inundated with external noise. This could be from pressures from our family of origin, our culture, the media we consume, our colleagues, our friends, others who are intimates in our lives, or our internal dialog. It could be the noise of values and stories that we’ve picked up, that isn’t our own. When we know ourselves well and we are supported, we can stay connected to ourselves and our inner truth amidst external noise and demands. But as the world becomes increasingly complex, and we experience stressors that we may not have experienced in the past, there are times when we might easily lose our internal compass.
What might we look for to know if we’ve lost connection with our internal wisdom? It could manifest as a sense of overwhelm, confusion, looking to others for answers that only we can know for ourselves, or extended indecision. Or we might feel temporarily disoriented as we realize that something our family or community values is not something that we value. We might realize that we are trying to play out a story that someone else wrote. For example, a strong narrative within our culture that we grew up believing to be true, but we learn that living this story is not bringing meaning, fulfillment, and/or purpose. We might have a lot of should’s that are coming from the outside, not our sense of what is most meaningful and important. Our body might feel contracted rather than expansive. We might feel disconnected – from what makes us feel most alive. You can imagine when we make decisions and take actions that come from external noise rather than our inner wisdom. This might work well for some time and certainly, no one can be self-connected all of the time. But if we are continually disconnected from our internal wisdom, ultimately we won’t experience the personal fulfillment or purpose that we as humans long for.
Alternatively, when we take action from a place that is aware of and connected to our inner truth, these actions – while not always easy – will bring a sense of peace, purpose, clarity, and calm.
External noise comes from a story we have come to believe from someone or somewhere outside of us, and it is not consistent with our inner wisdom. While we might feel tempted to assign blame for this external noise to a person in our life (a partner, family member, boss at work, etc), we would rarely be in a situation that someone could force us to think or behave in a certain way. The noise of certain experiences is very real, however, including advertising and media, which can be quite difficult to remove from our lives realistically. Awareness gives agency and choice. We can start to see and understand that we’ve come to believe something – for example – based on adopting someone else’s truth, a value that is important to someone else, but not perhaps as important to us. Or we’ve internalized a story portrayed by the media, but that is inconsistent with our values. We could also be hanging on to a dream that we created when we were younger, but that is no longer relevant.
Example: I feel pressure to become highly regarded in my career field because my parents highly value achievement. I work hard to gain recognition, but the harder I work, the more exhausted I feel. When I take time to go inwards and to connect with what I value, I realize that I value health and balance in my life more than achievement. I find that I have to make some important adjustments in my life to realign with balance and redefine achievement for myself. Trying to meet external pressures around achievement would have continued to create stress and unhappiness.
External noise might therefore show up as misaligned values, shoulds, guilt, contraction, disconnection, fear. It can also show up, at times, as “bigger” emotions that might mask more subtle emotions, insights and truths.
Our inner wisdom is always present if we take the time to connect and to listen to it. Our inner wisdom is at work, for example, when our gut, heart, and head all are aligned. Some of us will naturally feel more connected to our inner wisdom. Perhaps our upbringing helped us to listen to and to trust this wisdom. Perhaps we have cultivated this connection to our wisdom through consistent intention and effort. Perhaps the environment we live in supports this connection. Others of us will have to take more effort to learn how to listen to, notice, and trust our inner truth.
When we access our wisdom, we access our strengths, as well. To date, five strengths fall beneath the wisdom umbrella in positive psychology research: creativity, curiosity, judgment (in this context open-mindedness or critical thinking), love of learning, and perspective (Peterson & Seligman, 2004, p. 39). Peterson and Seligman define wisdom as “knowledge hard fought for, and then used for good.”
Example: I find that I am feeling a level of heightened anxiety and stress at work, which is abnormal for me. When I slow down to check in on what is causing this stress, I realize that my team of colleagues at work is moving in a direction that feels out of alignment with my values of honesty and integrity. My inner wisdom tells me that there are some conversations that I want to have directly with my supervisor, and based on our team dynamics, it’s important to do this one-on-one with her. Realizing that it’s important for me to connect with my supervisor directly to share my perceptions, I can now step forward with integrity, ask for a meeting, and make a recommendation of how we move forward as a team. After I make this decision, I feel more at ease, a sense of expansion in my body, and I notice I am breathing more deeply.
Inner wisdom therefore might show up as: our core values, alignment with gut, head and heart, expansion, sense of “rightness”, connection, and/or increased creativity. It can also show up as space, joy, confidence, a deep sense of knowing.
Your inner wisdom is the wisdom that you access during a coaching session when there is flow and/or transformation. Your inner wisdom is part of your presence, your intuition, your sense of when to ask a question, versus to communicate directly. It is the part of you that tells you that a client is a right fit or not the right fit for you. It is the part of you that suggests you take a risk – and the risk leads to a moment of magic.
As a coach, how do you know you’re connected to your inner wisdom while you’re coaching? How does it speak to you, or through you? Knowing how it feels when you are connected to your inner truth, is important.
It’s also helpful to know what signs might be that you are disconnected from your inner truth. For example, you might experience it as constricted feeling in your body. Feeling overwhelmed by the feelings of your client and disconnected from how you are personally feeling. Or hearing a loud critical voice in your head, which is never our inner wisdom (our inner wisdom is always ultimately compassionate, even if we might have to do hard work or face hard truths as a result of listening to our wisdom).
If you find that you are disconnected from your inner wisdom during a coaching session you can explore: what can I do to relax at this moment and to reconnect with what is important to me, what I know, and what I trust? What can I do to refocus on my inner wisdom?
As a coach, staying connected to your inner wisdom while coaching does not mean disconnecting from the client. It means periodically checking in with yourself throughout a session. We can still be just as present for someone else’s experience, perceptions, and journey. We are in conversation with one another.
When we are connected to our inner wisdom we access calm, confidence, trust, and our internal alignment. We also access creative ideas and questions that we wouldn’t otherwise.
Coach Help Clients Connect With Their Inner Wisdom
As a coach, one of our opportunities is to help someone either connect with their inner wisdom and/or stay connected as they navigate change, create new goals, and or experience transition (or the many other ways that we might support our clients). One of the beautiful things that we do as a coach is to help connect someone with their wisdom. They may come to us hoping that we will give them their answers and/or be the expert, but we are creating the conditions where they can connect with their expertise, inner truth, and wisdom. Only then will the ideas and solutions that they come up with truly work. As a coach, we can never really know what someone else needs to experience or what is right for them. But we can certainly create a container for a client to connect themselves to what feels aligned and right for them. We might guess where someone is by watching their body language, expressions, their language and we can ask powerful questions to help someone connect to their inner voice. But the client alone hears their inner truth and knows this truth. If we can help a client connect to this truth often, we empower them.
For example, a client comes to me and tells me that they are ready to leave their corporate job and to become a yoga teacher. How will they ultimately know if becoming a yoga teacher is the next step in their life’s calling, or whether they might just need to get a lot more rest? They will need to connect to their inner wisdom to ultimately make a decision that feels like the best decision to make at the moment, with the information that they have.
We can help someone discern whether a critical thought is coming from a healthy desire to do something better, or whether it’s coming from an old family story, an old story they have of themselves, and what is important.
Some specific examples of what we might notice if someone is feeling external pressures and is disconnected from their inner truth is:
- Lots of “shoulds”, potentially with guilt and shame attached
- Feelings of needing to conform for the sake of others, but not in self-interest
- Confusion, overwhelm
- Unease in the body
To help us connect someone to their inner wisdom, as coaches we can:
- Create space for someone’s inner voice to come through
- Pay attention to emotions, bodily sensations
- Look for inner voice patterns
- Set the intention to tune into our inner wisdom
- Don’t let our minds take over
- Take a moment to pause and breathe
- Create distance from any confusion
- Mindfulness practices
- Get curious
We can ask questions that help someone notice and connect with their inner truth.
Examples: is this thought one you’re proud to own? What is the source of this thought/this voice? How can you connect to what is authentic for you? How do you know you’ve landed on a truth? How do you know when your gut, heart, and head are aligned? What reflective practices help your re-connect with your inner wisdom? What situations/people help you stay connected to your inner wisdom? What might help pull you away from your inner wisdom? What supports might you need to stay connected to your inner wisdom, especially while navigating a situation where you know they will be faced with external pressures that will challenge you? What kind of action do you want to take once you’ve connected with your inner wisdom?
- How do I know I’m connected to my inner wisdom?
- How do I know I’m disconnected?
- How do I reconnect?
- How might I connect with my inner truth before a session starts?
- What tools help me stay connected to my inner wisdom during a session?
- How do I personally notice/hear my inner wisdom?
- How do I recognize when something might be coming from an external source that doesn’t resonate with me?
Brown, B. Gifts of imperfection, the: Hazelden Information & Educational Services.
Connolly, M. (n.d.) Neways Somatic Psychotherapy & Coaching. How to find YOUR Inner Voice and Quiet the Noise
Collard, G. thecoachspace.com. 4 ways to turn your inner voice into a life-changing mentor
Lufityanto, G., Donkin, C., & Pearson, J. Measuring Intuition: Nonconscious Emotional Information Boosts Decision Accuracy and Confidence. Psychological Science
Miller, Kori D. positivepsychology.com. The 5 Character Strengths of Wisdom in Positive Psychology
Nierenberg, C. LiveScience. The Science of Intuition: How to Measure ‘Hunches’ and ‘Gut Feelings
Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. Character Strengths and Virtues. Oxford University Press. p.39
Sutton, J, Ph.D. (n.d.). PositivePsychology.com. What Is Intuition and Why Is It Important? 5 Examples