We, humans, are a measuring group. Rarely does a day pass when we don't measure something. Gas tank half full. Teaspoon of sugar in coffee. Snowed a foot. Kid grew an inch. Leave in an hour. Lost two pounds. Gained two pounds (aargh). These measurements are useful to help us maximize pleasure (sugar), plan (snow), and monitor health (inches and pounds). Such measurements are straightforward and simple. More challenging are measurements of our thoughts and feelings that can't be objectively quantified. How content are you with your career? How happy are you with your marriage? How much do you trust a friend?
There are two ways to answer these questions, neither of which is objectively verifiable. One approach is to rank these intangibles, our feelings, on a scale of 1-10. I frequently ask my clients to do this ranking to give both them and me a more concrete idea of degree, or depth, of feeling. How content is someone with their career? A "10" means it's the career they always dreamed about and, pinch them, they can't believe it's real. A "1" means they rather donate blood for a living. How happy are you with your marriage? A "10" means you would marry this person all over again. A "1" means you can't remember why you ever dated him or her. How much do you trust a friend? A "10" means you have no doubt this friend has your back and they hold confidentiality as sacred as life itself. A "1" means telling this friend a secret is the equivalent of taking out a full-page ad in the local newspaper.
A second way to assess the depth of our feelings is to listen to our "gut," or, what some call, our "inner voice." We know in our gut when something feels right or wrong, good or bad, for us. Yet too often we dismiss our inner voice because we follow the path we think we "should" be taking, or the path that is expected of us, or the path that everyone else seems to be on. We squelch our feelings for many different reasons: to not make waves, to fit in, to keep the peace, because we think it/he/she is as good as we can do. There are as many reasons as there are people.
Our gut provides our first clue about when we need to make life alterations. Just because you're in the career that once satisfied you, even one that others admire greatly, doesn't mean it's right for you today. What does your gut tell you? Just because you married the seemingly perfect person for you doesn't mean there aren't real issues to be resolved. What is your gut reporting? Just because you trusted someone 20 years ago doesn't mean this person still adheres to their previous standard of confidentiality. Your gut knows the truth.
We need our objective measurements to get through life, but we should never rely on them to the exclusion of listening to our gut. The next time you're sorting through a challenging decision or dilemma, use all the measurements at your disposal. Make a list of all aspects of the dilemma and rank them based on howyou feel. The numbers indicate degree. But never, ever substitute your own inner voice with a number. Your intuition, knowledge, and wisdom are truly immeasurable.