By Matt Hearnden

Before you fall into trance while reading this post I want you to think of a question:

How many times has listening to your gut not worked out?

I’ll wait.

Ok. Thanks.

Your trance awaits.

1. Hearing your gut and listening to it are two different things. Even if you don’t listen – it’s always speaking.

I’d heard the company would be offering voluntary redundancy but there was no way I was letting myself feel how I’d feel about it. They’d done it before with senior managers and directors, and I have no idea how it even works above those levels, but with us? The lowest in rank and responsibility and power?

“I’m sure some of you have heard already…”

We were summoned downstairs by one of the directors and, after saying words I’ll never recall, she said that.

“… we are going to be offering voluntary redundancy.”

I wanted to look around at everybody else to see how they felt about this but I didn’t. I remained stoic while my chest bloomed.

I have no idea what she said next. I didn’t care. I had what I needed.

“I’m taking it.”

And there was my gut with one of the clearest thoughts I’ve ever had.

Lots of things have happened since I’ve taken voluntary redundancy. I’ve written every day. I’ve published many posts. I’ve gained some popularity on Quora. I’ve even published my first book.

Something else has happened too.

One of the reasons I listened to my gut when it said “I’m taking it” is because I’d listened to my gut before that.

I went back to my secondary school to represent my company at a careers fair. It was fun. I got to see some of my old teachers. I talked to the students. And, at the end of the day, when I was driving out of the school, I cried.

Because I wasn’t proud of what I was doing.

“I can’t keep doing this,” is what I thought.

And, because I listened to my gut, I’m not.

Now I feel proud.

2. Your gut chooses what you need, not what you think you want.

One girl had played a big part in my past. She was complicated, emotionally stagnant, and shy.

One girl had played no part in my past. She was uncomplicated, emotionally open, and confident.

My mum said to me “if you could only see one of them again, which one would it be?”

I chose the one who’d played a big part in my past. The complicated, emotionally stagnant, shy one.

I know. But that’s what I felt in my gut. And I instantly felt lighter.

I’m glad I chose her. I still remember moments of what we had.

We didn’t work out. We never would’ve.

I think I’d make a different decision now.

But I’m proud of choosing her.

3. Following your gut requires the commitment to keep following it. It’s not a one-and-done thing.

“I want to commit to writing.”

It was time to admit it. It was rising inside me like a story rises to a conclusion. And every conclusion is the beginning of a new beginning.

1,000 words. Every day. That was the deal I wanted to make.

I was scared because it seemed like a deal with myself was easier to break compared to a deal with another person. Is that insanity?

I couldn’t deny it though. I wanted this. And it was only when I realised I was going to let myself do it that I felt… relieved.

That surprised me. But now it makes sense. It was like I was finally indulging myself. Like I was finally going to unleash the real me. Like I was finally going to have “something to do.”

Has it worked out? I don’t think I have an answer for that right now. I’ve grown my audience, and my email list, and I’ve published a book. But this is still the beginning of the beginning.

But maybe it had already worked out when I decided to commit.

Because I’m proud that I chose that over fear.

4. Your gut instinct will win out, even if you ignore it for a while.

She was pretty, smart, funny. She appeared to be everything I was looking for. I wanted it to work.

Sometimes, when I want things to work, I don’t live in reality.

When I first started talking to her is when my gut warned me. It didn’t say anything to me. It was a feeling. A “don’t get hurt” feeling. But then what happens when I say to you “don’t think of a blue tree?”

I ignored that feeling and persisted.

We went out. We had fun. She never appeared to be interested in listening to me but that was ok.

No, it wasn’t. But I pretended it didn’t matter.

How proud do you think I was of myself at this point?

Then she wasn’t texting like I wanted her to text. She wasn’t showing me the attention I wanted her to show me. She wasn’t caring about me like I wanted her to care about me.

That pissed me off. It pissed me off that she wasn’t being who I wanted her to be.

Sometimes, when I want things to work, I don’t live in reality.

I was pissed off but I was also angry. I was also upset.

Whoever said “wisdom comes from pain” was right. Because I felt hurt, so embarrassingly hurt, that I finally asked myself “would I truly care if I never talked to her again?”

On the inside I laughed and said “no.”

So I didn’t.

I chose me over her.

How proud do you think I was of myself at this point?

5. It will speak the truth even if you aren’t comfortable with the truth.

I knew I’d have to give a speech on my last day of work. Everybody else who’d ever left had given one. I liked giving speeches but on my last day my stomach was a runaway train of nerves wanting to plunge into an immovable object.

My boss had given a kind speech before it was my turn. She’d also alluded to the fact that I didn’t mind an audience so I jumped from my seat and strutted and everyone clapped and hollered.

I had no idea what to say. As long I said “thank you” at some point I thought it would be ok.


Good start, right?

I just… I didn’t… I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. I couldn’t say anything.

I bowed my head because I was embarrassed because 50 people were about to see me crying.

I’d spent so much of my career there trying to become an “inspirational” public speaker. I’d taken any opportunity. I’d taken a job where I knew I’d have to speak in public almost every week.

But, perhaps for the first time, I felt like bravado wasn’t enough.

And, perhaps for the first time, I felt like I was enough.

So I let myself cry because that was how I felt. I was emotional. I was sad.

“I’m going on to do something I love.”

“It was the people.”

“Thank you.”

Those were about the only sentences I could get out.

I looked up and was glad I wasn’t the only one crying.

I’m more proud of that speech than of any other.

6. “Following your gut instinct” isn’t always about immediately choosing the happy ending… rather the exact circumstance you need to grow.

I wanted to text her but I couldn’t.

“Just text her and tell her,” my dad said.

What was wrong with him? I couldn’t just text a girl to tell her how I feel. I wasn’t a maniac.

But I was hurting. I liked her. And I thought she might like me but I was too scared to find out because, as I kept saying to my parents over dinner, “what if she says no?”

“Then she says no,” my mum said.

Oh, ok. I feel much better now.

Obviously they were both right. A nasty habit they still have.

I don’t think I would’ve texted her if they hadn’t pushed me. But I did. I wrote down how I felt and pressed send and then felt slightly horrified.

And then I felt better. I knew this was the right thing to do. To listen to my parents and to me and not to fear.

About a week later we kissed. And then we started meeting up. And then we started seeing each other. She even bought me a mini basketball hoop for my birthday.

We didn’t work out in the end. We tried a few times but… I don’t know. And now we don’t speak.

But when I told her how I felt is when I felt proud.

7. Your instincts are how you create expectations and goals for yourself.

“Basketball college.” I suppose for someone who was small and couldn’t jump and wasn’t even the best player on his team it could’ve seemed delusional.

I also wanted to go to university and universities didn’t seem to value a BTEC as high as A-Levels. But I’d decided that wouldn’t matter because I’d do well enough in “basketball college” to go to university. Or maybe I just said that to my mum to get her on my side. Maybe I just wanted to play basketball every day and live away from home with a roommate.

“Basketball college” was up and down. My roommate was my best friend. I didn’t get on with the older kids. I loved playing basketball every day. Then it felt like a chore. I got good grades. I had to plead with some teachers to move me up a grade.

It was two of the best years of my life.

I listened to me. Not to anybody else. And not to the imaginary expectations of anyone else.

I’m proud of that me.

8. To choose your instinct is to stop letting fear choose for you.

My friend took me to a bar because his friend was there. A girl.

We walked in and he spotted her and he went over to talk to her.

She was with a friend. A small, cute, blonde friend.

I couldn’t use any of my normal excuses. I couldn’t say she was surrounded by her friends. I couldn’t say I didn’t have the opportunity.

“I have to talk to her.”

But how? What to say? What if she wasn’t interested?

But this time I didn’t give in. I didn’t let fear choose for me.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hey,” she replied.

Why don’t I remember this more often?

That “hello” led to a date. Which led to us seeing each other. Which led to us going out. Which led to trips to Portugal and France and France again.

I think she was the first girl I loved.

We didn’t work out. We never would’ve.

We didn’t talk for years but now we respect each other. Sometimes we even help each other.

She was the first girl I loved because I gave myself a chance at love.

9. Your gut is the miraculous reminder that even though some feelings are borne of fear… they don’t necessarily have to be listened to.

I wanted to quit my first job after three days. It was so boring and I had no idea what I was doing and I was overwhelmed.

My parents weren’t too happy when I told them. They convinced me to stay.

I think in my gut I knew it was the right thing to stay but all those other feelings blocked it. They told me to remove myself. To run in any other direction.

Staying in that job was the decision I made and that led to where I am today. And I love where I am today.

It also made me realise how important time is. How I want to spend as much of my time as possible doing things I love.

Who knows what would’ve happened had I left? Maybe my life would be better. Maybe it would be worse.

I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here. This is just what happened.

Maybe it’s that, sometimes, the feelings we feel aren’t our true feelings. They’re feelings borne of fear.

What would we do if we knew we didn’t have to listen to them?

10. Your instincts are the real answers, not the comforting ones.

Once again I was in the position of liking a girl because I was ignoring who she really was.

There were so many times when my gut felt bad. When she said that thing about her current partner. When she told me who she was but never showed it. When I felt like she was toying with me.

I don’t know how many times I cried over her. I don’t know how many times I talked about her to my friends. Or to my journal.

Too many times.

If I’d listened to my gut when it first felt bad I would’ve stopped it all months before I did. But I had feelings for who she told me she was instead of who she showed me she was and I’d decided my feelings were more important than my gut feeling.

I realised I couldn’t keep existing without telling her.

She said she didn’t want to stop being “homies.”

And then I felt better.


It confused me. I was expecting to feel something but not this.

I felt better because I finally had a real answer.

I felt better because I’d finally been courageous enough to ask for a real answer.

I felt better because I’d finally stopped being scared of what she’d say and started being proud of what I’d said.

11. My gut told me to make another point on this list.

Did you know the gut is like a “second brain?” There are over 100 million neurons down there. I guess it’s ok to listen to it.

In the past I’ve said things like “when doesn’t listening to your gut work out?”

I’m not sure I knew what I meant when I said “work out.”

I think I meant “success.” But listening to my gut isn’t a guarantee of success. You’ll know that if you’ve been reading.

Now I think I know what I mean. Maybe it’s not the same for you but I hope it is.

When I listen to my gut is when things work out.

And by “things work out” I mean “I’m proud of myself.”

Being proud of myself has nothing to do with success and has everything to do with who I am.

Can I say “I’m proud of myself” without cringing? Without pretending? Without lying? Even when I’m not successful?


When I listen to my gut.