Lesson Three: Your Inner Guidance System and Happiness

Inside us is the power for immense change and wonderful success IF we follow our intuition. So, what is intuition? It’s a unique feeling to different people. For many people it’s a feeling in their gut that something is or is not quite right. For others, it may feel more mental or emotional. While you may feel pressured or expected to do something, your gut or brain may tell you not to do that. Listening to your intuition when you’re lost or if someone is manipulating you is much better than blindly walking a path you are unsure of following.


Part One: Honing Your Intuition

I used to shrug off my intuition in favor of being liked, for a quick fix or to follow others definition of happiness in order to fit in. By ignoring my feelings and true desires I put myself in situations of quick and painful learning. Here’s a summary of how I ignored my intuition.

  • There was the bully at school who I walked home with who eventually turned on me and threatened my life. I already knew she was volatile after seeing her so easily turn on others.
  • I tried dating people because they liked me, but to whom I was not sexually attracted and never romantically liked.
  • I attempted to forge friendships with people I wanted to be like, but with whom I had very little in common and ended up very alone.
  • I would go to bars and drink even though I don’t like the taste of alcohol and don’t enjoy the scene.
  • I went into debt trying to find contentment in material items even though I knew I couldn’t afford the debt.

These actions went against my intuition, but I followed them anyway. These actions also destroyed my self-worth. I started to give up and that’s when my depression really got painful. Eventually I realized this life I was building wasn’t healthy and I would never be happy following that path. This wasn’t an overnight change. Learning to follow my intuition took time. Healing takes time.

Deciding to follow my intuition wasn’t a quick fix. I was so used to the wrong choices that I continued to make them when faced with an impromptu decision, felt lazy, or wanted to follow the crowd (peers, co-workers or society in general). It was frustrating because I knew deep down that I was taking the easy way out. Breaking habits is a lot of work. I had to teach myself to make better decisions by following my intuition. When a new or nerve-racking moment presented itself, I thought about what I really wanted and what felt like the best choice as opposed to what someone else felt was the best choice or what was “normal”. I began to look at the bigger picture in terms of my life. Every day it’s becoming easier to listen and follow my intuition.

It’s been bumpy. While grieving after my parents and a best friend died, I made all sorts of quick decisions that made my life more difficult. Following my intuition was rough because there were so many emotions and such pain all battling for my attention at once. Now that my grief has mellowed it’s easier to follow my intuition. Don’t get down on yourself when you get snagged. Remember that life is an adventure. We can’t control everything, but we can control how we respond and we can pick ourselves up and forge ahead knowing we are capable. Listen to the voice inside of your heart. It’s your true voice and will guide you exactly where you want to go.

If you’re consistently unhappy then it’s time for a life review. If most of the choices you make turn out wrong or if you often feel yourself going against your gut, it’s time for a review of your decisions.

Answer the questions below and see what insight you can glean. It’s never too late to start following your intuition.

  • What choices am I making that don’t feel quite right?
  • When did I make a choice that felt good and worked out how you imagined?
  • How did I feel and why did I make that choice?
  • What parts of my life would I like to grow and what parts would I like to leave behind?

Write these questions and answers in your journal.


Part Two: Turn On Your Inner Guidance System

Self-awareness requires searching for insight about what is your real essence. Accept and celebrate who you are; accept and celebrate your differences. You are not wrong for being different, you just are.

Even the smallest steps can be difficult; don’t push those aside as unimportant. On the path to self-awareness you might need some help so ask for it, read books, listen to other people and be open to learning something new. You never know when that new information will come in handy during your journey. From personal experience I can proudly say these are great actions to take.

Over the years I have forced myself to look deeper at my actions and thoughts to see who I really am. I have found that what I used to think was wrong is just different. My personal beliefs, my passions, my goals and the path I am on is right for me. I see and feel life differently than what I see in the masses. This used to bother me and created a belief that I was broken. I no longer feel there is a right or wrong on most points of view, because as I accept my own differences I can accept that other people also see life through a different lens. What they see is based on who they are and what they have experienced. I am simply gong to live my life in a way that feels right to me. Like the saying goes, “You do your thing and I will do mine.”

How will you know that your inner voice is on track? Your decisions will have positive results.

Once you realize that nobody else can love you as much as you love yourself you won’t crave outside approval as much. It’s wonderful to feel free of all the energy needed to put on an act and keep it up. In my experience, this new freedom allows me to be myself without needing to act in a way that pleases others. I have more time and energy to follow my own passions. It takes commitment and bravery to go against the expectations of others. We are all capable to think for ourselves. Follow your intuition and really live in a way that YOU feel is right. It will be much easier to get past obstacles when we know our own strength.

Embrace your true self to learn about yourself and your needs. While other people can be wonderful guides, only we truly know what’s best for ourselves. Inside yourself is where you will find inspiration and answers to difficult questions. Psychologists have a term for this called “ego development” which explains that we mature and evolve over our lifespan as we become more self-aware. I take this to mean that if we can accept ourselves, then we can grow into our own guide. This is in place of needing someone or something else to lead the way and tell us what is right. So, go ahead and ask yourself who you are and who you want to be. Don’t focus on what society, your family or friends expect. Focus on what feels right for YOU.


Now imagine the life you want. What does it look like and how can you make it come true?

  • Create a list of everything that makes you feel happy and is also good for you.
  • Brainstorm on what careers or goals will give you a feeling of being truly alive.
  • Make a map. You can write it, illustrate it or create a dream board out of magazine photos.
  • Act on what you want to change. Do you need to go to school, change your diet or find healthier relationships? It’s your life and any changes you want are up to you.

Write these questions and answers in your journal.


Part Three: Care For Yourself First

Sometimes you must stop and rest! I used to live for the weekend, often scheduling too much and in turn feeling overwhelmed. As is becoming habit, instead of pushing myself to do it all, more often I choose to rest. After years of suffering depression, I understand the importance of keeping a balanced lifestyle. Too many highs and lows close together will keep you on a depression rollercoaster. Moderation really is more than a buzzword!

The truth is there are many things on your To-Do List that can wait, but if you push your body too hard you might not be able to do anything! Take a rest when you can. Your physical and emotional health is just important as your work, volunteering or activism.

  • Sleep is important! If you’re sick or feeling run down getting more sleep is especially important.
  • Enjoy GOOD food! Don’t force yourself to eat something designated as ‘healthy’ if it tastes awful and stay away from food that’s loaded with sugars and chemicals.
  • Rejuvenate in nature. Take a hike, go surfing, meditate in the park, create art using material and rash on the ground, or start a garden. Connect with Mother Earth and take a moment to leave the rushing, bustling city behind.
  • Slow your stroll and allow yourself to relax. What’s your rush? Can you take an extra 5 minutes on your way to where you need to be or spend longer finishing a project? If so allow yourself to slow down
  • Socialize with balance! Spend time with friends that support you and take time to just be with yourself.
  • Learn to love Solitude. Being alone can make us feel worse, but learning to enjoy yourself without any distraction is also healing. Make an effort to do something on your own without allowing yourself to feel like you are alone. Loneliness is a state of mind.


Choosing from the list above, commit to one tiny change over the next week. Each week choose a different tiny change or use your own list of self-care actions.

What makes you feel better? Is it resting more, eating healthier, spending time with loved ones who respect you, dancing, reading a good book or taking a walk on the beach? Always remember that your health is important. Write a self-care list in your journal. Hang it somewhere private, like on your bedroom door, or save it on your phone for easy access.


Part Four: Find Happiness By Following Your Truth.

Life is challenging and how we react to this is what decides our happiness. We can give up or we can move forward. For many years I gave up. Because I felt hopeless, I barely tried at life and ended up wallowing in pain and depression that lasted way too long. Luckily, I woke up and realized that my life was in my control. I taught myself to be happy by trusting my struggle and staying focused on my own truth.

How did I find my truth? By asking myself questions and then taking action to see what felt best for me.

  • What makes me happy in the long run as opposed to instant gratification?
  • What are my true passions?
  • Am I willing to move forward beyond my fear and live a life that resonates as true happiness with my inner self?

Once I began to answer these questions I was able to take action. I started writing and creating art, became a self-defense instructor, returned to my love of gardening, read every self-help book I could find and asked for help. It wasn’t easy. Some days are hard and I forget my truth, but I always come back. I know that you can do this too. You just have to make the choice to find your truth and LIVE IT!

An important aspect of staying happy is to find things and activities that make you feel good AND are also good for you. You probably won’t find happiness at the bottom of a tequila bottle or immersing yourself in angry or sad entertainment. When I was in the process of healing I gave up those things for more positive entertainment. This gave me positive reinforcement throughout my daily life. I could see the change in my thoughts which in turn changed my feelings.

To protect my mental health I use my self-care list, ask for hugs, think positive affirmations and find a balance of time alone and time with people who love me without judgement. To keep my physical body feeling good I eat food that makes my body feel good and give myself a good dose of movement. I’m very aware of what I need both mentally and physically.

Remember there will be days and moments when you won’t be happy. That’s okay. You’re an imperfectly perfect being. Embrace that reality and RELEASE the expectation to always be bright and cheerful.

An important aspect of self growth and healing from depression is accepting yourself. If you want to feel balanced and healthy you can’t spend all your energy fighting who you are. Instead you must learn to be genuine and love the parts of you that are both embarrassing and wonderful.

Action: Self Discovery Questions!

Below are seven questions to give you insight into your genuine self. After you answer these questions meditate on your responses.

  1. Who am I?
  2. What labels have been assigned to me by others?
  3. What about myself do I criticize? Why?
  4. What about myself do I celebrate? Why?
  5. What do I believe about myself that is not true?
  6. Who do I want to be?
  7. What can I cultivate to become my best self?

Write these self-discovery questions and answers in your journal.

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