Living in Colorado, I take full advantage of playing in the mountains. I love to go on hikes, especially by myself. There’s nothing like spending a few hours alone amongst beautiful scenery to clear your head. Most of the time, I cruise along the path effortlessly, trusting I’ll find my way to the destination with ease. There have been a couple close calls, though. Hikes where I somehow find myself all mixed up, off trail, and searching for some clue to put me back on track. It’s these times when I wonder, “how did that happen?” And then I realize, perhaps I was too caught up in my own world to pay attention to what was happening around me.

Going through life day to day can often feel like I’m on a solo hike. I’ve come to realize this after ignoring the signs that I was veering off my path, suddenly finding myself completely mixed up. I knew I needed to make a major shift in direction, but it took a while to rediscover which way my true north points. And whether I’m in some remote mountain location, or going through my work day, the fact remains that no one knows what I need more than me. Once we build that trust in ourselves to make decisions that honor our deepest desires, even when there’s a lot on the line, we feel a shift start to happen. We feel aligned in all areas of our life. We know our true north, and our soul’s compass comes alive.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can deepen trust in ourselves, and make course corrections as soon as possible when we have veered off. All of this requires honing the skill of quieting the mind enough to listen. Listening to our bodies, the feedback we are receiving from within, all while noticing the ever present exchange of energy between us and our environment. Is there an equal flow of giving and receiving happening? If not, what stories are you telling yourself about why this is okay?

Let’s say you’re like me, and you’ve found yourself in barely recognizable circumstances. Maybe you’re wondering who let things get like this. I mean, where the homies at?! Couldn’t someone have politely sat you down for a little intervention to say, “hey, you might wanna take at a look at the things”? I know I’ve wondered that. I’ve wondered if people could hear the excuses I used to tell, or see the dark circles under my eyes, or feel the energy draining out of me. I’m sure they could, because by the end of my unraveling, I was looking and feeling pretty ragged and run down. Emotionally beat up by one out of alignment decision after another. The thing is, the only person who can wake you up, is you. You have to decide there is something better on the other side. And that the risk of finding out is greater than staying stuck living a lie.

How do you know if you’ve fallen out of internal alignment? Here’s some clues:

-Pay attention to somatic cues ~ What is your body trying to tell you? When you’re at work, spending time with someone close, or just trying to go to sleep, notice. Do you tense up and get on high alert, or are you relaxed and open?

-Are you in survival mode? ~ When the stakes are high and we’ve engaged in an unhealthy pattern for so long, we tend to quickly shut down any red flag that something’s off. It’s a “put your head down and go with it. Don’t question things, your feelings aren’t justified anyway” kind of mentality. And it’s a ticking time bomb.

-Blurring your own boundaries for the sake of meeting other’s needs ~ Assess where your energy zaps are right now. Who or what is depleting your precious resources of time and energy? What would it feel like to reclaim your power and step away from these areas? It may mean something is lost in the process, but gaining self-respect, the ability to say “no”, and clear space for more of what really serves you, is going to give you the fuel to move forward in a way that truly feels good.

-Minimizing, justifying, or just plain lying to yourself about what’s going on ~ Denial, it’ll get ya if you’re not careful. We’re so good at convincing ourselves it’s not that bad. Try to catch yourself next time you have a thought like that. Is “not that bad” what you’re willing to settle for? If so, I’m here to remind you that you’re not on this planet to have a mediocre life.

How do you know when you’re in full internal alignment? Look for these signs:

-Feeling a sense of fulfillment ~ Emotionally, spiritually, physically. With work, play, relationships. All of it. Doesn’t mean you’ve reached some idea of perfection in these areas. It just means you’re designing a life that fills you up in all the ways that make you whole, and ditching the rest.

-Prioritizing yourself,  holding clear boundaries ~ Often times when we struggle with boundary setting, it’s because some fear-based idea about what would happen if we did the opposite has been programmed into us along the way. Identify what this is and challenge it. Start asserting yourself in small areas to build confidence in your ability to stand tall.

-Trusting what’s on the other side ~ Letting go of what’s familiar for what is true to you. Fear likes to convince us we’ll never find another job with great benefits, even though every morning we cringe at the idea of going to work a little bit more. Or we’ll never find another partner, and who wants to be the awkward single person in the friend group, even though we can’t remember the last time we felt understood and appreciated in our current relationship. You get the idea. Sure, big change makes us uncomfortable. But those growing pains are where the magic happens.

-Honoring the importance of rest and reflection ~ One of the biggest challenges I see is with people just being. We all have so much on our plates, it can seem selfish to carve out of a block of time to do nothing. But please tell me, who has ever succeeded at sustaining the go-go-go lifestyle? That “time to do nothing” is actually when we’re able to really process the whirlwind of life. And I’m sorry to break it to ya, but a Netflix binge does not constitute true rest and reflection. I’m talking about dropping the distractions and getting to know the soul in your body through activities like meditation, going for a walk, journaling, etc. It’s also worth asking yourself if you’re keeping a full agenda to avoid sitting with uncomfortable feelings.

-Believe that you deserve better ~ This is really the bottom line. Unless you know your worth, you’re going to keep settling for circumstances that don’t serve you.

It may sound weird, but I appreciate those mixed up moments on my solo hikes. I certainly don’t enjoy the panic that comes over me as I realize I need to retrace my steps. However, the sense of confidence that comes from arriving at the trailhead at the end of the hike, after moving through self-doubt and fear, is so satisfying. It’s these moments, or days, months, or even years, of going off course, that provide us the wisdom to keep moving forward to live our best life.