Growing up in the 1970's and 80's had one huge upside: incredible TV! There were amazing shows like Cheers, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Facts of Life, and The A-Team, but one of my all-time favorites was Magnum P.I.
Magnum P.I. followed the adventures of private investigator Thomas Magnum, a former naval officer, as he solved crimes on the island of Oahu.
Magnum often found himself in tough situations, like all of us do. And while he leaned on his close-knit community of Vietnam War veteran buddies, he relied most on the little voice inside his own head. His little voice would nag him throughout an episode, nudging him to follow his instincts, which ultimately would lead to the breakthrough that solved the case.
We all have that little voice---you, me, everyone. Just as kids across the globe can understand the difference between a smile and a frown, so, too, do we all know in our hearts what is right from wrong, compassion from greed. It's not something defined by culture or religion; it's being human.
Our little voice, that nagging feeling that something isn't right, is the most reliable connection we have to our ideal of who we want to become. You see, it isn’t just your gut instinct; it’s also your conscience. The little voice is an important guide that never leaves your side.
Acting on its deep intuition is how we build our character, placing what we know to be right above our emotional whims in a given moment. American author Robert Brault summed it up like this:
“You do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders of self-respect to self-interest.”
Trust that little voice.
Often, the reason your inner voice is speaking up is that you are not acting in line with what you know is right. Your behavior is disconnected from your values---from your better judgment.
One of the hardest things in life is living up to our own personal compass in the heat of the moment. It’s not that we don’t know the right thing to do; it’s that we don’t always have the fortitude to embody it.
In the words of inspirational writer Joyce Meyer,
“Character is doing what you don't want to do, but know you should do.”
At my first job after college, during the new employee orientation, we were told to expense anything as long as we weren't embarrassed to explain it to the CEO if asked. That simple guideline was more effective at guiding my actions than a thousand pages of rules and policies.
When you feel that little voice pulling and tugging for your attention, listen. Consider asking not what would be easiest, most comfortable or of most benefit to you, but what is right? What is the right action to take regardless of the consequence? Would the future-you be proud of how the present-you is acting? Will you regret your action and feel ashamed about it later?
There is a French proverb that I like very much:
"No pillow is as soft as a clear conscience."
Your little voice is of course a compass for right and wrong, but perhaps more importantly it is also your protector. It’s a finely tuned instrument to detect when something is amiss.
When you feel uncomfortable in a social situation or are being pressured to fit in, listen to your vigilant little voice. When you meet someone and get a weird "vibe" you can't explain, respect your doubts and keep yourself safe. Trust those feelings and act on them, even if you come off as rude or unfriendly.
Your intuition was tuned over thousands of years of evolution. Pay attention to what you instinctively know and act accordingly. Sometimes in tough situations there is no time to reflect--- only act. Let your gut be your guide and listen to your little voice.
I wish I had a foolproof way to tell you how to respect your intuition all the time. I haven’t found an airtight solution to consistently act from your highest and best place. It takes equal parts self-knowledge and courage, and it also takes practice.
Sometimes I am who I want to be, and other times I fall short, but I keep striving. That’s the important advice I have for you this morning: keep working at it and eventually you will find that you’re living more and more in integrity.
Mark Twain gives us a typically humorous and frank view of the project ahead of us when he says,
“A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.”
Character is built brick by brick.
The path to becoming who you are destined to be begins with the little voice. Keep trusting your gut, listening to that little voice, and acting on what it tells you and you’ll do just fine. And with that, I'm off to watch a little Magnum P.I. on Netflix.