Information is good. Like most teachers, I love learning. New information can expand our existing frame of reference. It can open doors we never even knew existed. New information can blow the roof off of our belief system and create lots of expansion.
Information can also lead to confusion and overwhelm. There is just so much of it coming our way, all day long. Our minds have become addicted to constant input. Collectively, we have become information junkies. Most importantly, we have become accustomed to receiving our answers from outside of ourselves. Information has begun separating us from our inner wisdom.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes information is exactly what we need! The way I see it, the cycle of growth and expansion goes roughly like this:
Stage One: Dissatisfaction Something is bothering us. Whether that is a slight dissatisfaction within a relationship or a major lack of cash flow in our business, life is not as we want it to be.
Stage Two: Information gathering This is where we google our hearts out, looking for answers to our discomfort. We go out and buy books, read articles, attend workshops, and participate in teleclasses. We talk to our friends, our parents, or whatever experts we can find.
Stage Three: Integration We have gathered lots of information. Now it’s time to decide on a course of action – preferably the one that is exactly right for us. This is where we take all that information and apply the filter of our inner wisdom to what we have learned.
Stage Four: Action and Resolution Now that we’ve put information together with inner wisdom, we are ready to take action. Because we’ve been guided by our inner wisdom, we are clear in our intent. We may be moving outside of our comfort zone, but we are certain of our choices. Our actions are likely to create desired results.
When Integration Goes Missing
What happens if we move straight from gathering information to taking action? It happens all the time! when the critical stage of integration goes missing, we often get the following results:
1. We don’t take any action at all Every piece of information we gather simply creates confusion. We’re high on what one expert says one day, but lose our enthusiasm the next. Inevitably, we do more research. Paralysis by analysis sets in. There are too many options, too many decisions to be made. Oddly enough, we may feel very busy and productive, even though we are not taking action beyond gathering information.
2. We take action that does not yield the desired result. We’re so ready to resolve our discomfort that we allow ourselves to be told what to do. Without applying any personal discernment, we follow someone else’s “proven system” to the letter. Much to our surprise, we either lose our enthusiasm half-way through, or do not create the desired results. Mind you, I’m not saying that there aren’t some excellent “proven systems” out there that actually work! I’m just saying that all tools need to be applied through the filter of our inner wisdom.
3. We take way more action than we need to. We’re not quite sure which course of action to follow … and so we implement three or five or ten solutions all at once. Let’s say the discomfort is a lack of clients in our business. We advertise in ten different places. We implement eight strategies to build website traffic. At the same time, we create a bunch of new products, offer a few new services, start a new blog, and end up completely exhausted. Maybe one of those strategies yields actual results, maybe not.
Cultivating Inner Wisdom
How do we make sure we don’t just blow right past that essential integration stage? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Set a time limit (and maybe also a budget!) for your information gathering. Whether that’s an hour spent online researching a particular topic, an afternoon in the bookstore, or taking a week or so to find a class or training program – set a time limit and then stop. Allocating a reasonable amount of time for your information gathering will ensure that you do not go into overload. It also ensures that you will eventually move forward into action.
2. Now that you’re done gathering information, go on an information fast. Stop reading all books, listening to all podcasts, and talking to your friends about the topic. No more input! I suggest that whenever you feel the desire to feed your mind with more information, start journaling on the topic instead. You’ll be surprised at how much you know. The act of writing may even lead you to exactly the solution you need.
3. Focus on the desired outcome, not on how you will get there. How will you feel when the situation has been resolved through your actions? Who will you be? What will have changed, not so much in your external circumstances, but within you? From tuning into this state of being, what action are you most drawn to right now?
4. There are two kinds of available choices to which you will want to pay a special amount of attention. The first is the course of action that gets you excited, happy, and eager. This path may involve expressing your gifts and talents. The other course of action that you may want to embrace is the one that makes you uncomfortable by taking you beyond your comfort zone. If a possible path makes you squirm a bit, it might be exactly what you need!
5. When in doubt, do nothing. When you act out of the energy of confusion, you invariably create more confusion. Be with your uncertainty, rather than trying to force a solution right now. Be comfortable with the state of “I don’t know.” You don’t have to know your course of action right now. It’s okay not to know – don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. In cultivating inner wisdom, we are asking our minds to be quiet and our Spirits to speak. When we allow the mind the luxury of not having an answer, our Spirit has much more of a chance to get a word in edgewise.
6. The only choice you can make is the one that is immediately in front of you. Make the decisions you can act on today. If the available choice is not clear, then perhaps the time for that choice has not yet come. If you find yourself agonizing over a decision that you cannot act on for another two weeks, focus on what you can do today to put yourself into a calmer, more peaceful state.
How do you integrate information and inner wisdom? Leave your comment and share!