Have you ever been in a situation where you need to make a choice, and while everyone is telling you to make one decision—usually the safe, sensible one—something inside you is screaming to do the opposite?

Let’s say you want to take a course to kick-start your career. There might be a course from a well-known education provider that gives you a recognised and desirable qualification… yet your heart hankers for that slightly quirky course from an offbeat source that no employer has ever heard of.

It’s a tough decision. On the one hand lies a sure-fire path to employment and a steady income. On the other… you do the maths.

To make matters worse, friends and family may pressure you into following the safer choice—yet every time you look at the website for the quirky course your heart does this chocolate-in-the-sun thing.

Welcome to discernment.

Attraction and repulsion

The example above shows how discernment works in relation to attraction. Our mind (and, annoyingly, other people’s minds) tell us one thing but our heart tells us another. Logic gives one result; instinctive, intuitive attraction gives another.

If it was just our mind versus our heart the decision might be simple; the weight of others’ opinions magnifies our own doubts and fears until we get lost more in confusion than translation.

But discernment also works in relation to repulsion.

Discernment tells you what—or whom—to avoid just as much as what to choose. It tells you when to get out of a situation or avoid someone with a hidden agenda. As with attraction, it may warn you off someone whom everyone else thinks is wonderful.

In these situations it’s very easy to think that we’re at fault and how dare we think badly of someone else without any evidence? What is it that others see in them that we don’t? Yet if we stick around long enough the evidence will arrive and we metaphorically kick ourselves for not listening to our instincts.

Falling off bicycles

Discernment is about learning to choose what’s right for you, no matter what it looks like to anyone else. There is no money-back guarantee.

Discernment is about learning to choose what’s right for you, no matter what it looks like to anyone else. There is no money-back guarantee.

Whenever you’re faced with a ‘don’t know’ situation—a choice-point where you have insufficient or contradictory information, remember Einstein’s dictum that “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Going to the next level requires a jump out of your current comfort zone—i.e. your current level of thinking. Evolving to the next level requires you to make your own choices, for the very simple reason that you are a unique being in the history of space and time.

Discernment is intuitive

Discernment is purely intuitive. It is often experienced as a warm flush around the heart (if something attracts you) or a tightening in the gut (if you are being warned off). Notice when you experience these feelings, notice what choices you make, and notice the outcomes.

It’s worth journaling situations when you hit these choice-points. Over time, you’ll notice that the times you back your heart trump the times you backed your mind—even when a fragile butterfly voice inside told you otherwise.

Learning discernment is like learning to ride a bicycle. If you haven’t fallen off, you haven’t learned the limits.

Don’t worry, you will.

Photo: Odd man out by Joseph Jayanth on Flickr