What I Learned from Design: Trust Your Instincts


“Told you so. Sincerely, Your Intuition”- Anonymous

So often, we hear the refrain: Trust your instincts. Go with your gut. Listen to your intuition. As humans, we’re born with this innate sense to sniff out danger, excitement, and know just when to say yes or no.

But what happens when you go through life second-guessing your first instincts, because you rationalize and analyze until you don’t know how it is you really feel about…anything?

Since I was young, my life has been visual. I have always related how I feel to what’s around me, and instincts come into play more than you’d think. If I walk into a client’s home that is cluttered, messy, or chaotic, instinctually I know how to fix it. I know how to clean it up, to get rid of the clutter, and address the “chaos” underneath. I know those amazing window treatments will wither and die if they are buried beneath pieces that don’t let the space breathe.

Every professional and personal decision I’ve made has been based on following my instincts or denying them. Do I work for the other firm, or do I start my own company? Do I take on the challenging client with deeper pockets or help the one I really want with the smaller budget? It’s cliché, but our first instinct is usually right.

So, why don’t we just make life easier, say yes or no, and move on?

Every second of the day, we are faced with choices: what to do, how to respond, how to feel, what to eat, how to react. It’s exhausting. We have so much stimulation all the time, it’s often hard to dig deep and figure out what your instincts are actually saying.

It’s hard to hear when the noise of your life is too loud.

While it’s not always easy to trust yourself and your instincts, your feelings inform you all the time. It’s so easy to ignore them, stuff them down, or not even be aware they are there. But through plenty of help and support, you can develop the ability to tune into yourself for the answers.

Developing the ability to tune into oneself is called emotional attunement, and it’s a process that only requires a few quiet seconds that can be packed with information.

One thing that helps me “emotionally attune” is to take it back to basics. For me, design helps streamline my life. It gets me creatively flowing and acts as the guide that lessens the noise and allows me to turn within for answers — not out.

6 Ways to Trust Your Instincts

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

How many times have you ever faced a job offer or decision that sounded great on paper, but just didn’t feel right? It doesn’t feel right for a reason. Stop the “ifs,” “buts,” or “maybes,” and just walk away when something is telling you to. A caveat: Be aware of your fear as a blocker to forward progress. Don’t talk yourself out of a decision that could propel you forward. Fear is a feeling to embrace, not to use as a defense mechanism.

Stop second-guessing.

It’s in our nature to second guess, no matter what you decide. It’s often hard to decide one thing and never think about the alternative, but make this a consistent practice. When you decide something, the other option goes away for a reason. Don’t spend time or energy thinking about the option you didn’t choose. Lean into the one you did. Go for it fully. Make the grass on your side greener!

Does it feel light or heavy?

Another way to assess your instincts is to ask yourself if what you are taking on in your life feels light or heavy. Make a list of everything you are doing, and answer accordingly. You might be surprised at the answer. If it feels heavy, ask yourself who you can enroll to help carry the load. If we have the eyes to see and the courage to ask, you’d be surprised to find out there is support all around us.

Look at the facts.

When making any decision, we often get caught up in excitement, feelings, and emotions. Instead, look at the facts. If you are offered an amazing opportunity, but it doesn’t pay enough to cover your expenses, then it’s a no. Assess how something fits into your life, what you’re willing to compromise, or how you can make it work by asking others for help. Then tune into how you feel to make the best logistical choice.

Listen to your body.

Our bodies tell us what we’re really feeling. If you have butterflies in your stomach, that often signals fear or excitement. Tension in the jaw or shoulders can mean you’re angry. Tightness in the throat and chest is hurt or sadness. Over time, with unexpressed feelings, stress in our bodies manifests itself in the form of illness. If you start becoming a keen observer to how your body feels when you make a decision, you will be a much better judge of what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

Be curious.

Life is about learning and growing. Watch what you say no and yes to. Use that as information to gather more data to keep you moving toward greater fulfillment. Ask yourself what you’re feeling and communicate authentically with the people around you who want to see you succeed. Be open to new opportunities and learning more about yourself and the world around you. It will not only guide you in exciting directions, it’s fun.

Though I love what I do, I still need these reminders. While life should be full of simple options, we are often faced with difficult decisions that don’t really need to be so difficult. We have a built-in guide that rarely leads us astray. So trust yourself, believe your feelings, and make the best choices for your life.

You always know just what to do.

Candy ScottComment