Taking the Leap: Listening to Your Instincts


Admittedly, I am something of a “looker.” Less in terms of appearance, and more in terms of “before I leap.” I’m the type who overanalyzes everything to the point of somehow convincing myself that I’ll need to bring a snakebite kit to the dentist.

Panda bear shrugging with question marks in the back ground
confused panda is confused

Too much thinking is the antithesis of productivity. If we spend so much time trying to predict and plan for every possible outcome, more often than not we’ll end up paralyzed by indecision and hold ourselves back from taking action.

You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. -Paolo Coelho

In a psychology class I took as an idiotic teenager, I learned an interesting fact about the human brain. Our conscious mind, the part that thinks as we recognize it, is only the tip of the cranial iceberg. If we make all of our decisions using logic and rationality, then we’re only basing our choices on a tenth of our total brain capacity. If we never listen to our subconscious and take a leap of faith, trusting that we’re making the right decision, then we’ll miss out on cues we might have known deep down but not consciously understood.

woman rainbow
A woman’s brain is a browser with seventy tabs open simultaneously.

Women especially have a deeper connection with their right-brained instinctual thought process. “Women’s intuition” is a famously overused phrase that turns out to have a sound scientific basis, as women tend to use their emotions in decision-making more than men. Or, perhaps, women have developed the traits that come with being the “nurturers of the world.”

System 1 is our quick, instinctual, and often subconscious way of operating… controlled by our right brain… System 2 is our slower, more analytical, and conscious way of operating- it is controlled by our left brain. -Kelly Turner, Psychology Today

My CAT scan just showed a hamster on a wheel.

The science behind intuition turns out to be much more complex than I originally assumed. The two halves of the brain work in tandem to process sensory input and make the best decisions to ensure survival. Logic is slower- the conscious thought process, working through the facts to arrive at an informed conclusion- but instinct works in a flash, with leaps of judgment caused by the subconscious impulses and analysis of sensory input. The conclusion that can be drawn from all this is that we must listen to our instincts, or miss out on half our brain’s capacity for decision-making.

The Holy Ghost works in a similar manner to our own intuitive thought processes. It speaks to us in subtle ways, not always directly. The Spirit may have something in store for us that we are as yet unaware of. If we think ourselves out of every risk, how will we ever know what we could have had? The subtle promptings of the Holy Ghost, those not even consciously recognized, might lead us to amazing things if we allow them to.

Abraham praying to God

I recently learned about the “Abrahamic Test,” a concept of gospel doctrine entailing the choice to follow the Spirit when logic sees no possible good outcome. All of us will likely face some such test in our lives, and we must be prepared to face the decision when it arrives. It may not be as drastic as sacrificing Isaac on an altar, but if we are accustomed to following only our logic, we may not be capable of making such a seemingly unreasonable decision.

We do not know the future, but our Father in Heaven does, and he will lead and guide us if we let him. When we are in tune with the Spirit, we will see many small miracles happen in our lives. -Ronald T. Halverson, 2007

If I may recount yet another story from my incomparable mother, a woman more in tune with the Spirit and her own intuition than anyone else I’ve ever known. She recounted to me the story of her dearest friend, after receiving some troubling medical news, sitting alone and scared but unable to leave the elementary school where she taught. At the same time, my mother was driving past the school and was prompted to drop in unannounced, something she had never done before or since.

The Spirit is subtle, but discernible.

If my mom hadn’t listened to the Spirit and her gut feeling, her best friend’s prayer for help and comfort would have gone unanswered. As the Stake Relief Society President, she has had countless opportunities to be the answer to the prayers of many.

If there is a moral to this story, I would have to say this: Stop thinking so much. Close your eyes and take the leap. It might not always end well, but there’s always another opportunity waiting. If you’re not seizing life with both hands, are you really living?

After all, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.


Emily is a long-time day-dreamer, first time professional writer. She makes more puns than is healthy. She's on the road to becoming a crazy cat lady.