“Listening within” is a term I use to describe what it’s like when we really check in with ourselves to discover our true intentions, and what really matters. It’s an important skill to learn because it’s hard to focus on work that matters when we, ourselves, are out of touch with what that means.

Listening within is how we check in with our deeper self, beyond the fears and ego, to remember what really matters. One client who worked with me on aligning his work with what matters most came up with a unique way of expressing the process…

This client was a former CEO. He had been asked to leave a role and was now in career transition. I asked him to listen within about a decision he was wrestling with.

He just kept talking about the situation, and sharing other people’s opinions.

So, I said, “Greg, hold on a minute. Let’s just take a moment to ask yourself what you really think about this. You are getting lots of external influence, but I don’t think you are getting enough internal influence. I’d like you to take a moment and listen within to get some feedback about this from inside.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“OK, let’s try this,” I suggested. “Just ask these questions of yourself and see what information you get:

  • How is your body feeling about this?
  • What does your heart have to say about it?
  • What is really important here, for you, from the inside?”

We stayed quiet for a few minutes, and then Greg shared.

“It’s like there is a little guy inside who knows what I really like and want. I’m out here worrying about what is happening around me, and everyone tells me what they think. It’s almost like I’ve forgotten what I really believe. But I can ask the little guy, and he remembers.”

I loved this description of the inner landscape Greg created to get in touch with what was important to him. He would ask the “little guy inside” questions throughout the transition to his new CEO and consultant roles. It helped Greg stay true to his dreams, and his conscience.

Prioritize What Matters: Listen Within

When you need to prioritize your commitments and responsibilities, it can be helpful to “listen within” so that you can remember what really matters. There’s not always a logical way to determine where to best focus our time and effort. Sometimes, the situation calls for us to turn our attention inward to cultivate our inner knowing.

People often call it “gut instinct,” intuition, or just centeredness. Either way, the idea is to ask ourselves a question about a specific situation, choice, or challenge.

By questioning ourselves, we’re activating the logical mind. But on a deeper level that goes beyond thinking and reasoning, we can start to notice our emotions, body sensations, and perhaps a tugging on the heart.

Sometimes we receive a very strong “yes” or “no” feeling in response to a question, or maybe a calm inner knowing about how something will turn out, even when we have no logical basis for that conclusion. But that’s kind of the point: listening within lets us go past the logic and rationale so that we can start to feel a directional pull.

Inner knowing has a specific type of positive quality – even when it is warning us of danger, or saying “no” to a choice we think we want, it is a positive and forward-looking orientation of aligning with what matters.

Inner wisdom is not about recrimination, anxiety, or opening old wounds… that’s not the voice we want to listen to when we listen within. That’s an inner critic.

In contrast to the harshness of our inner critics, wisdom is more sure-footed. Even the flickers of inspiration are worth exploring and connecting with, so we can visualize a new angle or perspective.

Many clients share with me how they have been moved to take action, share ideas, talk to a specific person, change jobs, and try out something new because of a hunch, a tug, or inspiration that just “feels right.”

Perhaps you have similar experiences of having been moved by an inner wisdom. Use these memories as a touchstone for the type of communication you are requesting.

When you check-in next, ask a question with genuine curiosity:

  • “Where do I need to focus?”
  • “What is most important about this?”

Then you can follow the thread of impressions you receive to create a dialogue with your inner knowing, moving step-by-step to new territory and insight.

After asking your question, don’t forget to be quiet so you can actually listen within. Remember, this is not a “talking within” exercise.

Claim this time for yourself. Hunches can turn into great results that could not have been anticipated with the logical mind.

Effective, high character leaders blend their business savvy and effective systems with their inner knowing to create a powerful source of direction and insight for themselves and causes.

For more advice on growing your leadership skills, check out my new book, The Conscious Professional: Transform Your Life at Work.

Jessica Hartung

Jessica Hartung is a partner, coach, and guide for those leveling-up their personal professional leadership, their teams, and their communities to a better future.

Jessica has a passion for inspiring and preparing people to grow from their work to improve their lives. In 1998, she founded Integrated Work, a consulting firm that brings top-notch professional development to mission-driven leaders, while being a learning laboratory for innovative work practices.

Jessica provides self-directed professional development tools to leaders at all levels striving to create positive impact.

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