With so much swirl and churn around us right now, discernment seems like a lofty goal. Something to aspire to, something we know to be important, and something that seems to elude us when we need it most. How do we keep a discerning eye towards our relationships, our careers, our habits, our emotions, our boundaries when it seems like everything is shifting, week after week after week?
Is it possible to stay the discernment course when so much asks us to forsake it in favor of the quick fix, the ready answer, the smooth distraction? The appeal is strong to welcome in the slick charlatan who makes us “feel” better in the moment while peddling us cheap, plastic crap, stealing our money, and leaving us destitute by the side of the road with nary a glance backward, as we recover from our willful distraction and feel the stinging regret of yet another bad decision.
The key to cultivating discernment in all things is a spirit of openness and discovery. To ask ourselves on a continuous basis, what is there to learn from the situation or the person in front of me? What is there to see? What am I missing (or flat-out ignoring) that I must see in order for self-awareness and true growth to occur?
I’ve seen how the downshift of the past 18 months has opened up space within myself to be more discerning. While disorienting at times, it’s given me a chance to consider beyond the surface why I do the things I do, and if I want to continue doing them. It’s been an interesting and uncomfortable interior dialogue. It’s been hard for me to admit that some things in my life had turned sideways, because I’m someone who expects herself to see it through once a commitment is made, in spite of sideways-ness.
When our relationships and commitments start demanding and not respecting – or even caring – our personal boundaries and choices – it’s funny how somehow, we are the ones who sacrifice our time, our energy, our health, and our peace of mind in the hopes that the balance will tip back in our favor. That kind of thinking is a fools’ game, and often does not happen.
How do we cultivate discernment and discovery in all things? Here are some points to consider:
- Create space: the first – and most important – step we can take is to carve out space in our lives. It’s impossible to have any level of reliable discernment if we keep filling up our precious time and energy with endless distractions. What’s one thing you could cut back on that would open up a breath or two in your life so you can step back and really see what’s around you?
- Practice mindfulness: everyone is talking about the importance of mindfulness, which means there’s something to it. Committing to three mindful minutes, three times a day, starts to move mountains so you have the space (see above) needed to get real and get curious about what’s going on with you. Try it and see what happens!
- Cultivate curiosity: children are great examples of this and ask “why” at least 100 times a day (or maybe that’s just my kids). If we never question why we do – or don’t do – the things that we do, auto-pilot rules the day and change never happens. Here are some questions to get your curiosity jump-started:
- What agreements were made when this thinking/expectation/action was put in place in your life? Does that still work for you today? How so? How not?
- What new agreements could be put in place to support yourself/your path today? What could they look like in your life? What would have to change in order to support those new agreements?
- Who/where do you need support from? What would that support look like (keep in mind: it could be the support you give yourself)?
- When you think about setting boundaries (or redrawing/setting new boundaries) in your life, what does it look like? What does it feel like?
- What is showing up for you right now as you contemplate setting boundaries (or redrawing/setting new boundaries) for yourself?
- Honestly, now: what feels the most do-able?
It takes time, intention, and real work, but in time, having a high level of discernment in our lives opens the gate to discovering parts of ourselves we never knew existed. A way to equip, engage, and empower ourselves to participate and lead in our lives, and not leave what’s important to chance or to fall prey to circumstances we can’t control. To remember that we have a choice – every single day – as to how we show up, how we choose to perceive circumstances, and ultimately, how we decide to act, one bold step at a time.