• Cherise Bernard, PhD

Discovering The Intersection between Instinct and Decision-Making

Oftentimes, we choose to navigate our careers and other decisions in life according to societal “norms” or what has historical precedence for our family, friends or inner circle. But if we’re honest with ourselves, these career and life decisions sometimes can veer off of the path that we would normally take if we seriously considered our own thoughts, desires and goals. I mean, what would happen if you eliminated the external noise, the opinions, the expectations, and what “should” happen? Which decision would you make then?

Of course, I’m being idealistic. I know.

However, there’s something to be said about taking steps towards finding instinctual fulfillment in yourself and what you do every day. I’m a believer that the best way to truly enjoy your career is for it to closely align to your purpose on Earth. I’m acutely aware that purpose is not always easily discoverable...sometimes it takes being rejected, disappointed, or fired for you to find it! Other times, it takes doing things outside of your every day work to really feed that flame: volunteering, starting an organization, sewing, gardening, singing. There are no hard and fast rules to this. Every single journey is unique. But as I mentioned in my last blog post, being in touch with your own personal instinct and acting on it can inevitably lead you to live that purpose-driven life that you crave.

So how do you discover what your instinct is telling you?? And how does your instinct translate into practical decision-making? That’s the million-dollar question. Let’s unpack that! Here are some things that I practice often:

1. Unplug. Practice stillness. All you have to do is turn on the television or social media to be bombarded by disturbing news, commentary, opinions, images, hard to obtain beauty standards, and more. These things have their place, but where is your voice? What’s your opinion? Unplugging periodically and being still allows you to get back to your core. I remember back at the end 2013, I was going through a major life change. It made me question everything that I was familiar with. I made a decision one day to unplug from Facebook just to get back to my own it is 5 years later and I never returned . I appreciated not having that heightened sense of awareness about everyone else’s life..I needed to rediscover my own. Today, challenge yourself to find a way to achieve stillness, and just...LISTEN.

2. Pay attention to what makes you feel the most ALIVE. Slowing down, unplugging, and becoming more aware of yourself and your thoughts may not be a popular thing to do right now. You may have a slight case of FOMO (fear of missing out)...but would you rather miss out on where your friends are going on vacation this year OR miss out on an opportunity to commit to yourself and your growth? Doing this puts things in perspective. As you begin, contemplate activities that you are currently doing (or that you hope to do) that are the most fulfilling to you! Create a list and dedicate 15 minutes per day for a week to add to the list. Believe it or not, this is a great start to really uncovering areas in your life to give more of your energy to!

3. Then...AIM! Act, with Intention and Motivation 🤓. This part, keep it personal and authentic. Compare yourself only to what you did yesterday. Don’t worry too much about making mistakes. Understand that your journey is personalized. The goal here is to move in a forward direction. This is where the learning takes place. Dr. Martin Luther King once gave amazing instruction regarding this: “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Take the list that you created during your unplug phase (the ALIVE list) and begin to add practical action items to each step. I’ll give an example: during that period in 2013 when I experienced a pretty traumatic change in my life, it was the first time that I created my ALIVE list in my journal. One of the things that I put down was to “engage more with students.” Now, my job at the time wasn’t focused on student engagement at all, so I needed to step out of my comfort zone to practically attack this. I decided that I would try to become an SAT tutor...that way, I could help students achieve great test scores for college AND be a role model at the same time. I wrote down the practical steps on how I could do this and ended up tutoring at The Princeton Review for a number of years. Needless to say, I felt ALIVE!


These three practices are the beginning of finding your voice (if you haven’t already), being aware of who you are, being true to your core, and making practical decisions on how to move forward in your purpose. In the next few posts, we’ll dive deeper into connecting this process with establishing a fulfilling career.

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