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Who is in the room with you when you're making big life decisions?

There’s a question I often ask my clients, especially those who are in a transition period –

Who is in the room with you when you're making big life decisions?

(not in the actual physical room, but the figurative room. The room in their heads. And in their hearts)

It’s a question I believe we all need to ask ourselves from time to time, particularly if we want to consciously create and live a life that feels like an expression of who we are.

In his theory of consciousness, neuroscientist and neurologist Antonio Damasio, talks about two selves that are layered on top of what he calls – the ‘Proto-Self’ (the most basic level of awareness shared by many species) – the ‘Autobiographical Self’ and the ‘Core Self’.

The autobiographical self is the story we tell to ourselves (and others) about ourselves and our relationship with the world. ​​It is heavily dependent on memories, along with the projections it makes for the future.

For us as adults, it might sound like: I’m a good daughter. I’m a loyal person. I’m really disorganised. I’m a professional singer. I’m attractive. I’m not attractive.

It’s our narrative. It’s our ego-self that’s interested in – What’s my bio? What’s my story? What do I sound like?

The core self is the experiencing self. Rather than What’s my bio? It’s more interested in – What am I feeling at this moment? What’s lingering inside? What’s arising from within? What’s my body telling me right now?

The core self is rooted in the present, rather than reflecting on past experiences or projecting into the future.

An example:One of my past clients wanted to start a business but she had a lucrative and prestigious job. It was a good-on-paper-job, but not one that gave her a sense of meaning and purpose. One of the things we were working on were the voices she internalised telling her that quitting her job would look irresponsible or irrational. We helped her shift from focusing on how she imagined this step would be perceived (her autobiographical self) to connecting with what she was truly longing for (her core self).

Quite often, when we get stuck, it’s because there is a conflict between what we actually want — and the picture we see when we look at ourselves through the eyes of others or through the eyes of society at large.

Instead of directing our life from inside out, from our lived experience, from how things feel on the inside, we base our decision on how we imagine things would be received from the outside, which is a big source of so much of our suffering.

The more we can move into the core self, the more our life unfolds in the most interesting, magical, expanding ways.

So, how do we direct our lives and make choices from inside?

  1. When making decisions – instead of outsourcing our decisions, we learn to listen to our inner world. We pay attention to what we feel, what's happening inside. We notice what sensations arise in our body when we contemplate which direction to turn. Ask yourself questions like — What feels expansive? What feels off? What feels inspiring? Where do I feel restricted? What’s my energy pulling me toward?

  2. Identify your core values – your core values are particular qualities that bring you the most fulfilment and meaning. The things that matter to you the most. They also reflect the very essence of you, the qualities you are expressing when you feel most at home within yourself. An easy way to get started is to look through this list of values and choose 3-5 words that call out to you. Then get into the habit of asking yourself: Is this behaviour/situation/decision bringing me closer to my values or further away?

  3. Redefine what ‘success’ feels like for you – separate the stories other people/society told you about success from your own point of view. For some of us, success is about the freedom to do the things we love. For others, it is the chance to solve interesting problems or to keep growing while contributing to others. Grab a pen and paper and spend a few minutes writing down what success means to you.

  4. Worry less about what others think – we all go through life carrying other people’s voices around in our heads – our parents' expectations, our cultures’ definition for success, our teachers and mentors' hopes, our partners' desires for us – so much that it’s often hard to hear our own. It’s so important to develop the awareness of how much others’ opinions are holding you back in life and to practice coming back to your core self. You can read more about it here.

  5. Sharpen your inner-sensor abilities – the more body awareness we develop and the more we get to know our body from the inside, the easier it becomes to notice the sensations. Knowing what we feel is a skill, one that you’ll be learning and practising for a lifetime. Meditation, yoga and guided body scans meditations are great ways to strengthen our ability to find our inner guidance, because they are all about tuning in to what is happening within.

And when you aren't sure whether you're leading your life from the inside or outside, ask yourself this simple question: Who am I trying to please? Am I trying to please my inner self or my outer self? Leading your life from within is a lifetime practice. You’ll experience the magic that happens when you listen to your intuition and then, there will be times when you’ll feel disconnected from yourself. Because you are human and life is ebb and flow. Soon enough you’ll find your way back in again and you’ll be back a little wiser and a little more expanded. May you ​​allow your life to be carried by the current of truth. The truth that only you can know, from inside. Love, Naama


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