I was looking at a post in a Facebook group recently and someone asked a question about a decision she was trying to make. The poster’s husband was going on a trip to a far away land and he had asked her to go with him. As someone who has been dealing with anxiety for a long time, she wasn’t sure if she should go. The idea of the flight was anxiety inducing, not to mention the smells, sounds and chaos of the country they’d be visiting.
She’d been mulling over whether to go or not for some time. Some moments her mind thought it was a good idea; it would stretch her out of her comfort zone, she’d be able to practice traveling with less anxiety. She had been learning about the inside out understanding and knew that her experiences, including anxiety, did not come from circumstances or experiences outside herself. She was also learning that every thought (and resultant feeling) is temporary and that she didn’t need to latch onto them. So maybe it would be a good idea to go on this trip. After all, she’d love to have the adventure with her spouse.
At other moments her mind thought the trip was a terrible idea. She was still dealing with anxiety about driving on highways; a multiple hour flight could potentially make her very uncomfortable. Travel is filled with uncertainty, and this also was anxiety producing for her. What if she had a panic attack on the flight? What if she spoiled her husband’s experience by being nervous about everything he wanted to do?
After grappling with this for a while, her mind going back and forth between how the trip was a good idea and how it contained certain doom, she asked the group for their thoughts on whether she should go or not.
When I saw her question I thought, “She’s adding more salt to an already salted stew.”
Here’s what I mean by that.
Adding more thinking to a problem doesn’t solve it. Just like adding more salt to an already salted dish doesn’t make it taste better. But it’s such an easy trap for all of us to fall into.
We all have problem-solving brains, and one mistake we innocently make so often is over using our thinking to solve problems. Adding more thinking to a problem you’ve already thought about from every angle is not going to help fix it.
This is where the salted dish metaphor comes in. If you’ve got a dish that you’ve already salted enough, adding more salt isn’t going to bring the flavours of that dish into balance.
In other words, if you’ve got a problem you’ve already thought about until your head is spinning, adding more thinking isn’t going to solve that problem.
So how do we solve problems?
What if you had access to a completely reliable source where you could always ask your questions and find answers?
What if there was a place you could go to that would resolve any moments of indecision you have, 100% of the time.
I’ve got good news; you do have that source.
At any and every moment, you have access to the wisdom that flows through everything, the intelligence behind life, and it will guide you the same way it guides the grey whales from Hawaii to Alaska in the spring and they way it guides tulip bulbs underground to know which way is up.
The next time you’ve got a dilemma, like the one about travel in the example above, try this one simple step: set the problem aside.
The wisdom that you have access to doesn’t come via your stirred up thinking about all the pros and cons and potential benefits or drawbacks. You’ll know you’re overthinking a problem when your answer or choice doesn’t come with a feeling of peace and you change your mind several times, never feeling like you’ve landed on the right answer.
Wisdom comes with that feeling of ‘I just know’.
We’ve all had that experience where we ‘just knew’ deep in our gut about a choice we needed to make or the solution to a problem. We’ve all had those moments in the shower when suddenly things seem clear.
Yet we often innocently persist layering thoughts upon thoughts to try to come up with a solution. And then, sometimes we ask for others’ opinions, as in the travel example, and this only adds more confusion to the mix. More salt to the already over-salted stew.
The Traffic Light tool
My friend Bella Mahaya Carter has a great tool for when we’re in this position, trying to make a decision and needing a clear answer. It works like this:
- Think of your dilemma or the problem that you want to resolve.
- Then think of one of the options or choices available to you.
- Check in with your body and picture a traffic light.
- Is the associated feeling you get about your option or choice like a green light, an amber light, or a red light?
Your wisdom, which speaks to you all the time through your body, will let you know very clearly what colour of light comes along with the choice.
Hint: Don’t over think it. Just feel into your body and you’ll know.
If it’s a green light then great.
If it’s an amber or red light, wait. Don’t make any moves or choices at this time. Leave the situation alone and it will evolve. Maybe the circumstances will change. You can check in with your body at that time and the light colour inside you may also have changed.
Additionally, if you don’t know what colour the light is, that probably means it’s not a green light. Leave the question alone for the time being knowing with certainty that an answer will appear.
My experience using this tool is that when something is a green light I really know it. I can feel that ‘greenness’ right away. Your experience might be different, but for me it’s like there’s a clarity or flow going on in my solar plexus when I feel a ‘green light’ feeling.
A Personal Example
Here’s an example from my life. I was thinking of signing up for a class and I was pretty excited about it. The teacher was someone I’ve followed for a while and admired. I knew the class would be well taught and interesting. I had the money to pay for the class and the time to take it. In other words there were no barriers to my enrolment.
I’d been using the traffic light tool for a while, so when the time came to enrol I didn’t even have to deliberately check in with myself before I noticed I had a amber light feeling about the class.
A quick aside to say that what I found challenging in the beginning of learning to trust that my soul would appear with answers was letting myself be guided by the feeling in my gut. My mind wanted to override that feeling and more often than I’d like to admit, I let it. Thankfully, I’ve gotten much better with practice at not following my mind’s busy demands and instead, if I receive a red or amber light when I apply this tool to a dilemma I’m having, I am now much more comfortable waiting for more clarity
In this instance, I was definitely puzzled by the amber light, given what I’ve shared above about there being no barriers in my mind to taking the class. But I had finally learned to trust the amber light feeling, and to not use my busy thinking to override it, so I simply waited. Waited to see if more information would come to light. Waited to see if the feeling would change. Waited to see if something else would occur to me. Basically, I didn’t add any more thinking to the issue (more salt to the stew) and just waited.
Within a week or two I began to understand why I’d received the amber light feeling. Insightfully, I began to see that the area of study that the class was going to be focused on wasn’t something I wanted to pursue at that time. I had thought I wanted to, but by respecting the amber light and being gently curious about what it could mean, I was eventually able to see – insightfully, not with my mind – that I wanted to move in a different direction.
If my mind had been in charge, I definitely would have signed up for the class. But by relying on wisdom, even when I didn’t totally understand the answer I was getting, I was able to move gracefully in a direction that was more aligned with my deep desires.
The next time you have a problem to solve or a decision to make that your mind gets busy trying to resolve (as all minds do) ask yourself if you’re adding more salt to the stew. If so, try to remember this: your access to wisdom is always there, 100% of the time. Your thinking will try to convince you otherwise, but you can always, always rely on the wisdom within you to guide you.