Stop following the rules.

Sometimes I meet with clients or talk with friends who are decidedly angry that they have “done everything right,” and yet they still don’t have what they really want. They finished college (and a “good” one, at that). They exercise and eat right and have done things responsibly. They are good to their parents and loyal to their friends.

So, what, they almost yell, is the problem? Where is my dream job or my perfect mate or the finances for the trip around the world I’ve been planning since I was eight?

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed in sessions and in life: no one is getting any prizes for doing what someone else said is the right thing, unless that thing is following your intuition.

A lot of us use what I call the “good girl rationale” in order to justify not taking action. Be patient, we say. Good things come to those who wait, we say.

Well, sure. Maybe.

But great things come to those who put their money where their mouths are. Great things happen to those who demand that great things happen to them.

Stop using whatever rules have been imposed upon you as a child or a student or an adult living in modern society to justify doing anything other than what you know in your heart is right – for you.

The world spins better and brighter when we toss the rulebook to the side and get about the business of making what we want to happen, happen. Maybe you’ll be thwarted or ridiculed or your friends may raise and eyebrow or two. But what is that compared to knowing that you demanded your own happiness? That you took a stand for yourself? That you, perhaps against all odds, became the heroine of your own life.

Stop asking for permission.

Sometimes I meet with clients, and I can see that they are doing exactly what I used to do (and still want to do sometimes – we’re all human, after all). They are seeking permission to do what it is they know, in their hearts, they need to do.

They ask their friends if it’s okay to quit their jobs. They ask their parents what they think of them moving across country. They regularly do surveys of those near and dear to them to figure out what it is they should do.

Sometimes our intuition tells us to do something scary, like quit our job or move away or leave our spouse. “I don’t like this message!” your brain says. “Too scary.” So you begin polling the peanut gallery to see if you can come up with a better option.

Listen up, friends. There is no better option than what your intuition is telling you to do. Your intuition really is your divinity speaking through you. It’s the part of you that is one with God/Spirit/the Universe.

It’s a real smartypants.

When we poll our friends, either asking them their opinions or telling them what we are thinking of doing, we are often either a) asking them for permission to follow our own hearts or b) wanting someone to convince us that what we know is true, actually, isn’t.

And, because you’re a smart cookie, you may be approaching particular people because you know what they are going to tell you. You already know they are going to nay say or tell you to be logical or guilt you into doing something that makes them feel comfortable.

Because you might actually want to stop yourself.

Instead of continuing to take polls, consider keeping your lid shut for a while. Consider your intuition to be your best friend, as it is never going to lie to you because of its own fears or personal agenda, and it promotes the truth simply because it’s, well, the truth.

Everyone else has their own agenda. We love other people, and we try to love other people, but if someone is telling you not to follow your intuition, they are telling you to choose fear. They are using you to support their version of how the world works or is supposed to work.

That isn’t love.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to do what is right for you. You may need someone’s input or advice, because we all have some blind spots, but in fundamental ways, we know who we are. We know our truth.

When you start making intuitive decisions, you empower yourself. In fact, you may notice that a funny thing starts happening: you may find that you have given others permission to do the same.

Before you leave, learn.

I talk to a lot of people who are at a crosswords, and usually, crosswords involve choices to leave things behind that aren’t working. Marriages. Jobs. Friendships. 

There is so much effort in the leaving. There is so much courage that must be summoned. So much energy.

Given that these things can be so difficult, let me humbly offer you some advice. Make sure that you mine whatever you’re leaving behind for the lesson it offers. Because, as much as we’d like to believe that things are random, things aren’t random. We don’t end up with particular friends by accident. We don’t land in jobs just by chance. We are absolutely creating our realities on a daily basis, which is a concurrently humbling and empowering concept.

Look at your patterns. Look at how you do things. If you want something different, you’re going to have to do something different. And perhaps, you’re not only going to have to do something different, but the way you do that different thing has to be different.

You may have to stop wearing a catcher’s mitt all the time. You make also have to throw a few balls.

For a long time, I found that I kept attracting a particular kind of boss. They were women, and they were angry. Passive aggressive. Not bad people, but people who would throw you under the bus on occasion to get their needs met. Admittedly, it took me almost a decade to stare down this particular trend, because as good as it often felt to have a drink on Friday, complain about these bosses, and pity myself a little, it was no random act that brought them into my life.

I had to look long and hard to realize exactly where this trend originated and why it kept persisting. A lot of people like to say that life keeps presenting us with the same lessons until we learn them. Well, I think that’s true, but I think an equally good way of putting it is that we keep putting our wounds in our way. Whoever told you that you are in any way “less than,” well, a version of that person will keep appearing in your life until you grab them by the shoulders, turn them around, and give them their marching orders.

You’ll keep meeting that person, that situation, that problem, over and over. You may think, like I did, that because you haven’t seen them for awhile that they’re gone, but sure enough, just when you’re least expecting it, there they’ll be, ruining your party.

Let’s remember that it is, indeed, your party. So, when you start to address an invite to an old situation or pattern, remember that you’re the one holding the pen. You can also put it down.

But before you do, try to figure out why you wanted to invite that person in the first place.

What am I doing wrong?

Sometimes people tell me that they have been trying to honor their intuition, doing what feels true to them, and yet nothing seems to be working. The money isn’t flowing. The contacts aren’t being made. Everything seems hard.

So, they are understandably upset. I totally get this. I’ve been there. Multiple times.

Of course, I don’t know for sure what is going on for you, but I have a few guesses. One is that sometimes you jump at the wrong time. Sometimes you’re pretty sure that you’ve figured out your purpose, and you’re going for it. But then a funny thing happens. In the doing of it, you realize that whatever it is you’ve decided isn’t quite right. You’re not at the end of your journey – yet. And if you don’t realize it yourself, sometimes, in order to help you understand that you’re not in the right place, the Universe (or you) starts dismantling your current situation. You get laid off. Your business tanks. You get the picture.

That’s theory number one. Now here’s theory number two, which I think applies more broadly.

Sometimes you figure out your purpose or honestly follow your intuition and take a risk, but it just doesn’t work. And it’s not that you’re not on the right track or are perhaps exactly where you need to be. It might be that you are the one who is orchestrating your own failure.

It seems fairly undeniable to me that we are operating on a few levels. There is your conscious self, your unconscious self, and, if you buy it, your soul level. The stinker of the thing is that sometimes all of these levels don’t have the same agenda. We may consciously say we want something to happen, our soul may be rooting for us, but our unconscious has other ideas.

Our unconscious is host to all of the messages that we have received from the beginning of, well, us. Everything our parents every said to us. Every commercial. Every comment every teacher we ever had made on every paper we ever wrote or drew. If you have ever felt bad about yourself or guilty about something you’ve done, it’s in there. Now your personality plays a big part in how you process all of these things, and hopefully for every negative thing you’ve ever experienced, you’ve also experienced two positive things.

But some of us haven’t.

If you are genuinely following your heart and your intuition and you keep falling short, consider that another part of you may have a conflicting agenda. This is a stinker of a problem, but it is one that you can reverse. You were born into certain circumstances, at a particular time and place, and that world of yours told you what to believe about the world and how about you should work and who you are.

Your world wrote the introduction to your story, but you do get to decide how it ends. You do get to decide what you believe about how the world is going to work – for you. Everyone else is engaged in their own stories; don’t let them distract you from being the hero of your own.

The rewiring of your brain is a process, of course, but you can challenge your thinking every day. Every time you have a defeatist thought, you simply remind yourself that that is part of an old story that was written for you by people who were probably having trouble loving themselves. Every time you say the old standby “It works out for everyone but me” you counter that thought with “But that’s ridiculous. I did not come here to fail.”

It’s absolutely your right to succeed. It’s absolutely your right to pen a new story for yourself. And it’s absolutely your destiny to follow your intuition to whatever glorious conclusion you can imagine.

It isn’t selfish.

When I start talking to anyone about intuition and living intuitively, I inevitably bump up against  a few of our primary societal beliefs, namely that logic is responsible and suffering is noble.

I’m so tired of this conversation. I really am. And it’s not because I’ve mastered the art of intuitive living; it’s hard, especially when, well, logic tells you that you’re being silly. Your parents disapprove. Your friends raise their eyebrows. You’re pretty sure you weren’t raised to be following a program that isn’t written in a book somewhere.

First, let me tell you, following your intuition, wherever it may lead, is not selfish. I’ve always liked the expression “God is your gut,” and if you buy the truth of this expression, well, you must admit that your intuition is a divine gift. It’s God pointing you in the right direction.

The degree to which you aren’t living intuitively, that you aren’t following your inner guidance, is the degree to which you want to cause yourself suffering. It’s the degree to which you doubt that God, the Universe, Spirit, or whatever you believe in, doesn’t have your back.

God has your back. The Universe knows better. Spirit doesn’t want you to suffer.

Why do you?

Look, clearly, the world has enough suffering on its hands. It doesn’t need yours. It doesn’t need you to “suck it up” at a job you hate or follow your family’s wishes. Despite what a lot of us have been raised to believe, suffering isn’t noble. It isn’t the only way to learn, and it isn’t how God tests us and our faith.

If you think following your heart, your gut, your intuition is selfish, well, take the word “want” out of the picture. I’m not talking about doing what you want. I’m talking about doing what you know is true – for you. That is completely different from indulging in every desire you have.

You know that you’re destined for something, don’t you? On some deep level, you’ve co-created it with the Universe. Now, tell me again: why aren’t you living it?

Your story is important.

Look, I know that today you’re going to wake up and your hair is going to be a mess and you’re going to think about how you didn’t get everything done yesterday and and how maybe you’re just a little too old to be chasing rainbows.

Maybe you’ll frown at yourself in the mirror or you’ll drag yourself to the gym or you’ll read a book and wonder: “Why didn’t I write this book?”

I million small things might have happen today. Some good. Some humbling. Some annoying. Some amazing.

They are all part of your story. They are all important.

When you’re tuned into your intuition, you can see how the world is constantly trying to hook people up. Read this story! Talk to this person! Quick – you might miss him! The Universe is constantly trying to connect us with the people and the information that will help us.

And telling your story will help someone. That person in front of you at Starbucks might really need to hear about how you feel like you might strangle your children if they don’t be quiet for one. single. minute. That friend who keeps entering your thoughts might really be helped by knowing how you made a particular decision. That new colleague at work might also be struggling with a family relationship and your perspective our your own familial mess might make a big impact.

We like to share the high points of our lives (Have you seen Facebook?), but while that’s wonderful, of course, it’s also good to be open to sharing, at the right moments, all of the other stuff. I’m not talking about complaining or whining or staying stuck in negative thinking. I’m saying that when you stop managing your speech, your Facebook page, and your thoughts, when you allow them to be, you also allow the Universe to transform them into something new.

Because the Universe wants to hook you up, too.

And when you tell the truth, the world comes knocking. Holy cow, do we love truth tellers. Stand up comedians and writers and the the waitress who serves you at your favorite diner. Straight shooters. Not holding anything back, because not only do they know the value of truth, but they also know that it’s exhausting not to tell it.

Our society really values humility, and women, especially, seem to have a real issue with not wanting to be a burden. So we stay silent. We pick and choose every word, and often, the world loses. We lose.

The Universe is ready to transform you, but you have to get in the game. You have to start telling the truth, because that is not only how the Universe is going to help you, but that is how you are going to help the Universe. One person, one comment, one post at a time.

What did you used to be?

Friends! It’s been a few weeks. My apologies for the silence; I was moving and reconsidering the direction of my business and doing lots of other very life-y things.

However, today I’d love to tell you about a wonderful experience I had this weekend. On a whim, I responded to an ad to work with two New York-based artists who are collaborating with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoca) here in Madison. They needed some help with a project they are doing which will be turned into a full-scale exhibition in February.

As I was sitting in the lobby of MMoca listening to the artists speak with the museum staff, I had a God moment, a Universe moment, a moment of divine grace (pick your preference). I couldn’t help but think that I was drawn to these people for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important reason was to remember who I am.

Because I used to be an artist. Or I am an artist. It’s so hard to know.

Back (like 20 years ago back) I majored in film. I made movies and videos. I took photographs. Later, I painted. And as I listened to these I artists, I started wondering…what happened? When did I go from being an artist to, well, never doing art?

The Universe seemed to be tapping me on the shoulder: remember who you are.

Now, I don’t believe that art was every meant to be my main event. I’ve had lots of other things I needed/wanted to explore. But art is important to me, it’s important to how I like to define myself, and somehow, it disappeared.

I think it happened when I started teaching high school, and I was so overworked and overwhelmed that everything that I didn’t deem “necessary” fell away. I started doing what a lot of us do; I started helping everyone but myself. Slowly, I lost my artistic self, and now, over ten years later, I find myself reclaiming it.

Because you can’t get away from who you are.

After all, it’s not the first time that the Universe has tried to re-engage me with the art world. It’s just that this is the first time I’ve actually been listening.

You can’t go through life pushing your desires to the side. It just doesn’t work. The Universe will continue to keep presenting them to you in stronger and stronger ways. Because as much as we like to think we know how things work, we don’t. There’s a level of mystery here that can be concurrently fantastic and frustrating. So when the Universe keeps showing you something (especially something you continue to push aside) that has LOVE written all over it, remember that you don’t have all the answers.

But it does.

So, today, maybe you ask yourself who you used to be. An artist?  A gardener? An advocate? Because most of the time I think that who we used to be is still who we are. We shift and change and grow, but the part of you that liked to rock out in your garage as a kid probably still likes to rock out.

Those parts of us never die. Nor should they.