Your Intuition Speaks. Are You Listening?

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To be direct with yourself, to stare into your own eyes and admit that you want more, need more is to break ground on the path to inner peace. It is better to be honest with yourself than to waste time rationalizing what you know isn’t right for you. It is better to say no–knowing you will be hurt, restless, and sad but ultimately happy–than to say yes only to avoid the pain of letting go. You cannot be at peace with yourself if you ignore your inner yearning, the often soft but persistent that voice that begs for your attention.

It’s too easy, though, to disregard your desire for change. The status quo is much more comfortable. Even as you long to explore the unpredictable yet intriguing world around you, you relish familiar turf, for you know what to expect, what to say, what to do there. It seems too costly to fix what for sure is broken, so broken it remains, much like your heart. Much like your spirit.

But that’s not fair. If you settle for what feels easy when you want more, you’re cheating yourself out of a chance to be fulfilled. You’re bequeathing your right to contentment to someone or something that may not be worth your time, energy, money, or affection. All the while, that inner voice cries out in darkness. You deserve more, and you won’t get it until you listen.

If you’re struggling to remove yourself from a undesirable situation, ask yourself this: How long will I do absolutely nothing about my unhappiness? How long will I make someone else’s feelings more important than my own? How much will I have to lose before I realize I can’t take it anymore? Hopefully, you make the change you so deeply desire before it’s too late. Hopefully, you allow your intuition to have its rightful say in your happiness. Though the initial pain may be great, the rewards of brazen honesty with yourself–clarity, confidence, dignity–are far greater.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 4: Knowing When to Chuck Sour Milk

The most successful and creative people know how to fail fast – recognising when something isn’t working, addressing and moving forward, which in the end is anything but failure and actually paves the way to success.

-Natalie Lee

If life stamped “best by” dates on relationships, goals, and other parts of our journey, we’d have a much easier time chucking them like jugs of rancid milk. Since that won’t happen anytime soon, it’s important to know when to stop doing things that aren’t working anymore.

We have so many reasons, however, to maintain the status quo. For one, it’s comforting. If you’ve been in a relationship for several years, you know all the particulars of your partner’s personality, habits, and preferences. You know what to expect because you’ve had experience. With all the work you’ve put in, having to learn a new person inside and out seems daunting. But when you’re arguing constantly and your interests began to shift too far to opposite poles, it may be time to reevaluate things, to step out of your security bubble to get what you need.

The same idea applies to your goals. Sometimes we stick with aspirations we’ve outgrown because they just sound right. You wanted to be a doctor at 12, so you push yourself on that track well into your late 20s, hesitant to give up a lifelong dream but “cheating” on it with your new interests. If you feel conflicted about your career path, reassess yourself: You could be holding on to something you once wanted but have outgrown. Part of the beauty of being human is learning and growing. The problem isn’t with changing your mind—it’s with staying on a path solely because it felt right for you in the past.

Hardship, annoyance, or confusion do not automatically indicate that you should change your course. Sometimes, though, letting go is a sign of maturity, an indication that you’re honest about who you are and what you want. It’s not all always about saving the relationship or dream: It’s about recognizing when that part of your life has grown so clumpy, moldy, and inedible that you can’t waste any more precious time, money, or energy on it.

Parents: Life’s Sneaky Dreamkillers

Don't be fooled: Her mother may someday tell her she'll never be the first woman to sing "Run the World (Girls)" on a space shuttle.

As he accepted a BET Honors award for his storied filmmaking career, Spike Lee spoke one of the truest, saddest, most poignant statements ever.

“It has been my observation,” he said, “that parents kill more dreams than anybody.”

I shook my head and clapped in furious agreement. Yes, Mr. Lee. You don’t have to wait for your 11th-grade chemistry teacher to tell you “you’re smart, but you don’t have the logic to the complete the labs.” Sure, she can shatter your dreams of attending Johns Hopkins Medical School–rendering all your hours of studying the MCAT guide and college biology textbooks over summer vacation futile–but your hopes can crumble much earlier. The blow needn’t come from strangers tossing your resume or disgruntled online commenters with their drawers in a wad about their own deferred aspirations.

Undoubtedly, the jab that smacks your dreams to the mat can come from your parents, the people who gave you your chromosomes, the people you’d expect would offer you the most encouragement and support. Shameful.

Now, I must admit I’m coming from a slightly different angle here. Except for the stint in sixth-grade erotica, My parents always encouraged me to pursue the career that would fulfill me. At 11, it was medicine. I promised my mother I would become a doctor, and though that pubescent hope is still possible–Me, Ph.D sounds pretty good–I will most likely never be a physician. Now, thankfully, that is okay with me. It wasn’t when Ms. Chemistry Dreamkiller so smilingly offered me her .02 about my scientific aptitude, but today, I’m comfortable with being a patient. At least I can win trivia games with my knowledge of the periodic table.

[Which is the only other element besides mercury that is a liquid at room temperature? Bromine!!]

Some parents, though, really do kill their kids’ dreams, either by telling them, flat-out, that they’ll never get into college, Hollywood, or anywhere else, or indirectly leading their starry-eyed offspring to another vocation. You’ve probably seen the completely sane dance moms on TLC.

I understand how big dreams can sound to practical folks. I still get the courtesy nods–“Oh, ok, that’s good,” with the patronizing smile–when I tell some people my dream is to write for a magazine in NYC. I can’t be upset though, because that’s the same nod that I, admittedly, give to 35-year-old aspiring rappers. Some dreams just seem to farfetched for others to grasp, including parents. Parents are people, and people are judgmental.

But what good would come of us if no one dreamed of anything even remotely spectacular? We wouldn’t have half the amenities–shoot, even pants with zippers–if someone hadn’t dreamed sideways. And if the encouragement to dream big begins anywhere, it should begin at home and then in school, the two places children spend most of their time.

The world is going to give children enough heat. That’s why parents should instill genuine confidence in their children, confidence that compels youngsters to think boldly yet prudently. Kids should always get a healthy dose of realism and flexibility: Telling a child she’s a lazy bum is no better than telling her she’s the smartest kid in the world, as both statements leave no room for variation. But for the most part, parents or guardians should be the child’s first cheerleaders, even if the aspiration really is off the charts.

Without wild dreams–and someone to believe in them–Spike Lee, Steve Jobs, Oprah, and many, many more people would just be (or have been) regular old folks taking up seats on the Metro.