Recently, I was at a dinner party rattling off all the ways I planned to actualize self-improvement over the next 12 months. I was perfectly embodying a person who fears unfulfilled potential. I pinpointed with exacting precision what is wrong with me: I am lazy, have trouble with focus and therefore discipline…and my self-esteem? Almost always in the gutter. The trouble was, for as well as I knew this, I provided zero context regarding how I ought to fix any of it.
“My 2018,” I told the victim of my prose — an unassuming but fiercely thoughtful man seated next to me at said dinner, “is going to be all about learning not to abandon my gut.” This, I surmised, was the most important of the work that lay ahead for me. But before I could get into the specifics of what it means to abandon your gut: to betray the inner voice when it tells you that something must change, to close your eyes to your heart, to think of your instinct as a trampoline that is always ready to catch you, he cut me off and asked, “When’s a time that you abandoned your gut?” Surely I should have had an answer at the ready given how convicted I was about this resolution, but I had to think about it.
When was a time that I abandoned my gut? I listened to it when logic told me I was too young to get married but my gut said, “Fuck it, just do it.” I listened to it when logic suggested I take an elongated work break but my gut said, “No way.” I even listen when logic says, “Salmon!” but gut says, “Sandwich.” Or maybe that’s a different thing. But in trying to pinpoint what I was so sure I was terrible at, what would encapsulate the whole of my 2018 work, what I found was that, yeah, there have been some blunders along the way. For the most fundamental things, however — the real turkey, not just the gravy — I have done a pretty decent job letting my gut lead.
If I couldn’t answer his question as passionately as I could incite his asking it, how could I possibly troubleshoot against abandoning my gut again? So when’s a recent time I abandoned my gut? When did I last forget that all the answers are baked into the oven of my anatomy?
Can you think of a time? Are you willing to share it? If you’re not, that’s okay, but I do encourage you to do what my seat mate forced me to and reflect on some of your self-deprecation, some of the ways you lean into your “unfulfilled potential,” and to challenge it. You’ll probably find that you’re better off than you think.
Photo by Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour by Getty Images.