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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Petty

022 Tune Out to Tune In

Hearing and Heeding Your Inner Voice in a World Full of Noise


Your inner voice speaks the truth of who you are and the life you were made to live. But many of us treat it like a suspicious stranger instead of a trustworthy friend. What gives?

In this episode, I’ll reveal some of the most common reasons we fail to hear and heed our inner voice and the surprisingly harmful consequences of ignoring it, and how to tune OUT the noise around you so you can tune IN to the reliable guide within you.

A Familiar Idea

The idea of an “inner voice” isn’t new. It’s an idea that has come in different shapes and forms and expressions over the years. Some might call your “inner voice” your “heart,” and encourage you to “follow your heart.” Others might say “be true to yourself.” No matter how it’s expressed, though, the implication is that within us is a trustworthy source of truth about who we really are and the life we’re made to live.

My Evolving Relationship With My Inner Voice

To be honest, for most of my life, I was really suspicious of this idea. Partly, at least, because I grew up in a faith tradition that taught me that, left to its own devices, my heart would inevitably bend toward selfish and even evil ways of living--that something within me was broken on a fundamental level. I haven’t abandoned that belief entirely--not in its essence, anyway, because I find that it holds up to the litmus test of reality. I don’t have to look any farther than my relationships with my wife and boys to know that I sometimes withhold love that they deserve or speak unkindly to them because I’m unhappy with myself. I can dream of being all-competent or remarkably wise so that others will think of me as exceptional and I can think of myself as superior.

I do things that I shouldn’t, and I don’t do things that I should.

So I haven’t discarded that perspective entirely, but I have expanded it to make room for what I believe to be an important companion truth--namely, that...

...within the same human heart that holds the capacity for evil resides a voice that whispers truth and goodness to us.

Recognizing Your Inner Voice

Now in my worldview, that voice is of divine origin--placed within me by the Creator, and perhaps it even IS the voice of the Creator. Which in my worldview makes that voice imminently trustworthy.

But I don’t think it’s at all necessary to share my worldview in order to buy into the idea of a good and reliable voice within us that guides us onto our unique path in life and helps us fulfill our unique purpose.

It’s the voice you ignore when an “expert” in a topic tells you the “right” way to do something--and you do it that way, knowing that deep down you really think there’s a better way.

It’s the voice nudging you gently and persistently to leave a job to pursue an entrepreneurial path--but you stay in the job because it provides a reliable paycheck.

It’s the voice telling you to forsake the entrepreneurial path because you actually really like being part of a team in an established organization--but you ignore it because you’ve bought into the myth that entrepreneurs are cooler, gutsier, and eventually always make tons of money.

It’s the voice calling you back to your canvas, brushes, and paints--but you ignore it because your parents told you long ago that art is a frivolous and self-indulgent pursuit that doesn’t benefit anyone. So you let your art stuff continue to gather dust in the attic and dive deeper into your sterile corporate law job with a corner office and an amazing salary, while a beautiful part of you dies just a little bit more.

It’s the voice calling you out on a limb--but you ignore it and keep your arms wrapped around the trunk because, well, it feels safer here. And you begin to develop an insidious and deep-seated disdain for yourself because you know you’ve chosen badly.

Or maybe it’s the voice that you finally listened to because its whisper had increased to an unavoidable roar in your heart and mind--and to ignore it any longer would take more resolve and energy than simply doing what it said. And so you tuned out all the other voices competing for attention, tuned in to the trustworthy voice within you, and stepped out on that limb.

I had a moment like that almost seven years ago, and it profoundly and wonderfully changed my life. Tune in to episode 005 of this podcast, How to Become the Boss of Your Fear: Bravery-building to Live With More Guts and Gusto, to hear more of that story.

The decision to hear and heed my inner voice--to tune out the other voices competing for attention and tune in to my own--has enabled me to become more of the man I was made to be and live the life I was made to live.

My inner voice didn’t lead me astray. It proved trustworthy.

And I’m SO grateful for it. And that experience, more than any other single experience so far, and the good fruit that has come from it, set me on a path of learning to hear and heed my inner voice day in and day out.

Which Person are You?

BTW, hearing and heeding your inner voice is more challenging for some than for others. Some people--because of their innate personality style and upbringing--do it instinctively and effectively from an early age. Others though--also because of innate personality style and upbringing--find it very difficult to do. But that’s a whole different discussion for another time.

You know which of those two people you are.

And if you’re someone who finds it hard to do, then you know deep down the price you’re paying for holding your inner voice at arm’s length.

And if that’s you, stay tuned and listen closely.

The Culprits that Compete With Our inner Voice

I’m not going to spend any more time or energy making a case for the existence and value of our inner voice. Countless others have done that far more intelligently and persuasively than I could ever hope to.

Besides, truth be told...I don’t actually think any of us need to be persuaded of the existence and value of our inner voice. What we need instead is encouragement to actually give it the attention it deserves. What keeps us from doing that?

Here are a few of the big culprits--the other “voices” that compete for our attention:

  • First, our parents. On the one hand, it may seem ridiculous as an adult to think that our parents could still have that much power in our lives. After all, we’re adults now, right? Wellllll...When you consider that for the first 18 or so years of our lives, all of us had one or more parents--or adults who had the rights and responsibilities of a parent in our lives--who profoundly influenced our view of ourselves, life, and the world we live in, then it’s no wonder that their voices from the past can drown out our own inner voice even in adulthood. To be clear, I’m not saying that I think we shouldn’t heed the input and counsel of our parents--even as adults. I HIGHLY value my parents’ counsel still--even at 46. But I AM saying that if your parents’ voices drown out your inner voice, then it’s time to tune out their voices so you can tune in to your own.

  • Next, trusted role models, mentors, and “experts.” This is a tough one, too--because we pick role models and mentors because we respect and admire them and believe that in some way they have something valuable to offer us. We may know them personally, or they can also be authors, public figures, historical figures, podcasters like me, bloggers, celebrities, and so forth that we don’t know personally but who nevertheless influence us. If we tune in too much to the voices of role models, mentors, and experts, though, then our own inner voice can get lost in the crowd. We can begin to try to live according to their prescriptions for success instead of the one that our own inner voice has been offering us all along. If the role models, mentors, and experts you trust are drowning out your inner voice, tune them out or dial them back so that your inner voice can be heard clearly over them.

  • What about cultural & social pressures? To achieve and maintain a certain standard of living. To have a certain kind of job that carries a certain kind of prestige or authority. To take vacations that are just a little more exotic than those that others take. To drive a certain kind of car. You get the picture. If cultural and social pressures--fueled by your own ego and insecurities--are drowning out the truth of your existence and the life you were made to live that your inner voice is patiently and persistently whispering to you...then turn them down and turn your inner voice up.

  • How about the News and Social media? These are HUGE threats to the clarity and influence of our own inner voices. In the digital age, news cycles are lightning fast, there’s more information available then we could ever hope to consume, a huge chunk of that information is useless anyway, and social media creates an echo chamber of our own devising--reinforced by algorithms that serve up heaping quantities of whatever we click on most. If we’re not mindful in our consumption of information from these sources, we begin to live frenetic, harried lives scripted by whatever messages and agendas OTHER people are propagating. We simply allow so much of that noise into our lives that our inner voices don’t have a chance of being heard above the fray.

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list of the voices that can compete for our attention. But these ARE some of the big culprits. And it’s less about tuning out those voices forever and ever, amen, than it is about getting the mix of voices balanced better--like an audio engineer would do when he’s mixing together instrument and vocal tracks to create a finished song.

Will Ferrell’s Cowbell

One of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits is the one with Will Ferrell playing the cowbell in a studio recording session. The scene is set in the 70s, and all the musicians are wearing stereotypical 70s garb. Will Ferrell’s hairy gut is sticking out from a tacky velour shirt that’s too short, and he’s about to bust out of his light-blue bell bottoms. He and the producer keep wanting to add more cowbell to the track, and take after take, the amount of cowbell and Will Ferrell’s antics become more and more ridiculous and completely overwhelm the recording session. It’s obvious to the viewer that “more cowbell” is NOT in fact what this recording needs. And it’s hilarious to watch the other musicians as they react to the absurdity of the whole situation.

Which voices are Will Ferrell’s cowbell in your life right now, drowning out your own inner voice and creating a mix that isn’t true to the music you alone can offer the world?

Whichever voices are drowning out your inner voice, turn them down or tune them out. If MY voice via this podcast is too loud in your head and heart, then turn it down or tune it out.

There’s simply NO substitute for the truth of who you are and the life you were made to live that your inner voice can whisper to you in a way that NO ONE ELSE CAN.

The Consequences of Ignoring Your Inner Voice

Because here’s the deal: We may fail to hear and heed our inner voice for a while, or we may even consciously choose to ignore it.

But make no mistake, our inner voice will make itself known one way or another. It simply can’t be ignored forever.

I believe long-term neglect of our inner voice--that is, long-term neglect of the truth of our existence and the life we were made to live--leads to anger, depression, blown-up marriages, broken relationships between parents and kids, destructive coping mechanisms like substance abuse, and more. Some of these collateral damages were true in my own life before I began to risk hearing and heeding my inner voice. I see the same patterns playing out in the lives of my clients when they’re resisting their own inner voice. And I see them break free of these patterns when they begin to hear, heed, and live according to the truth of their inner voice. Then, slowly but surely, who they truly are begins to emerge.

The Rewards of Hearing and Heeding Your Inner Voice

If it feels risky to listen to your inner voice, then consider the risks of NOT tuning in to it. And compare those risks to the wildly wonderful benefits of you fulfilling more and more of your unique purpose in the world.

Tune out the noise, and tune in to your own inner voice to discover the truth of your existence and the life you were made to live.

And since none of us knows when we’ll draw our last breath in this life, isn’t it time to give your inner voice the attention that it deserves?

Today is the Day to Start Hearing and Heeding Your Inner Voice

This episode is airing in the ninth month of the global COVID-19 situation. For some of you, the whole ordeal has brought some nagging questions to the surface in ways that you can’t ignore. Your inner voice is available to help you answer them.

And I can help you tune in to your inner voice and act on what you hear.

Maybe the first step for you today is reaching out to me. My purpose as a coach is to help you live the life you know you were made to live. Connect with me on Facebook, email me, or visit my website to learn more.

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