CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In these days of volatile political ads, fact checkers are used to sort out inaccuracies. But what about those thoughts we let run rampant through our heads? You know -- the ones that keep building on top of each other.Without an internal fact checker, at times these assumptions can gain enough steam that there's no turning back. Even worse, when shared with others, these thoughts pick up even more steam and can take on a life of their own.This past week I dealt with an uncomfortable scenario. It seemed there was no way out. Yet, I had a gut feeling that the contemplated course of action was not the right one. I took some time to "unplug," rewind the situation back to the beginning, confront the source and allow myself to be open to other interpretations.Much to my relief, I learned some things that helped set the course straight and offered an opportunity for a clean slate. In fact, it opened up a whole new avenue that everyone in the situation is now excited about exploring.It took stopping and listening, though -- weighing the risk/benefit ratio of taking such action. And it took courage on both sides of the equation.In hindsight, I realize how I'd allowed a series of rumblings to affect my thinking. While there was definitely enough responsibility to go around, the unhealthy thing is that suspicions were being built up on both sides. It's as if everyone was "collecting evidence" to support his or her own point of view. And our head of steam had built up to a runaway train.Of course, the situation could have turned out differently. It could have exploded, rather than find its way back to a civil solution. But that's the risk I was willing to take -- because I didn't want to let it play out to an ultimate demise without at least trying to stop the train and evaluate things.
"Peeling the onion" is a process I've learned at seminars, and that's exactly what happened in this case. As we rewound the situation and peeled off one layer, another was waiting beneath. Once we got to the core of the issue (which didn't take that much time, actually), we found we had more common goals than we thought. And it was easier to get on the same page.Which got me thinking about how often this can occur in our daily lives. Here's a handy tip you can use as a personal fact checker: Thoughts are not facts.
Pay attention to your gut feelings. That's your intuition speaking to you. It probably gets drowned out a lot by all those sources around you -- friends, family, co-workers, the media, etc. The more you trust your intuition, though, the more it will show up. It takes time, effort and finesse. That's because most of us have buried our intuition under lots of layers, like that onion.We also need to evaluate how long to keep our options open. In life, decisions need to be made; and we need to move on. I'm not saying we need to stop and examine everything to the nth degree. Just pay attention when you feel you're being swept away by the tide.While that inner voice may not always be 100 percent accurate, odds are it will steer you in the right direction. Or, at least, give you the peace of having paid attention and explored other options.The more you exercise your intuition muscle, the stronger it gets. And the more it will be there for you.Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.