Ever wish you could consult with someone wise who would give you good advice about how to manage your relationships and your career? A guru who could tell you the secret of how to be happier? Well, you can. That guru is you.
Whatever problem you're grappling with, whatever advice you need, you are the person best qualified to understand and talk through your problems. The challenge is finding that objectivity and wisdom in yourself, particularly when you're facing frustration, struggling with a quandary, or coping with failure or loss.
It's not always easy, but turning into your own guru is the most important gift that you can give yourself. Here's how to get started:
1. Know that you are no less wise than anyone else.
Believe it, because it's the truth. In the brilliant and hilarious documentary Kumar, Vikram Gandhi, a New Jersey native of Indian descent, creates a fake identity for himself as a wise guru recently arrived from India.
As Kumar, Gandhi's most heartfelt teaching is that we all have our own gurus within us and don't need to listen to anyone else in order to receive wisdom. It's a teaching meant to prepare his disciples for the day when they will learn his true identity, but it is also inspired by real research. For a different film project, Gandhi interviewed many well-known gurus and soon came to the conclusion that they were not necessarily any wiser than anyone else.
Believe in yourself, in your own ability to provide wise counsel and to access a deeper, more insightful place. And then you will.
2. Think of yourself as someone else.
Whatever advice you need, pretend someone else is asking you for that advice. Then imagine the advice you would give this fictitious person. Research suggests that this simple mental trick will lead you toward better, wiser answers to your most pressing dilemmas. It should let you view your problem with more common sense than you can when you're stuck in your own point of view.
Many answers to our questions become clear when we look at them this way, if only because it's easier to see what the right move is--leave that bad relationship, quit that boring job, stop spending so much time at the office--when the subject is someone else and not ourselves. So give yourself the same advice you'd give someone else. You'll be way ahead of the game if you can follow it.
3. Think back to a wiser time.
We all have times when we're emotionally stronger. Often, these times come when we've made our way through a crisis, or taken some time away from our daily lives to go on vacation or retreat. For years, an annual visit to relatives in a distant city gave me a chance to reflect on how my life had evolved since the previous year's visit.
Whatever those moments were when you got a chance to put your life in perspective, try to plug in to the person you were then. It can be tough to do in the middle of a crisis. But if you can do it, you'll make better, calmer decisions. Here's more on why it's important to take vacations--and how to get the most benefit from them.
4. Write yourself a letter.
There are many ways to do this, all of which are right. What should go in the letter? Anything you want--your hopes and fears, questions, answers or both. Try not to scold yourself for what you think you've done wrong--you'll be better off making a list of all the things you've done right. Better still if you can also include all the things you're grateful for.
You can put a stamp on it if you like, and put it in the mail. Then you'll have the pleasure of reading it when it arrives. Or you can do what I and a lot of people do and sit down with a journal and write out your thoughts, questions, and see what comes up for you.
I can't count how many times I've worked out the solution to a life of business problem simply by writing down the problem, and my feelings about it, in my journal. It seems to activate the problem-solving part of my brain.
5. Consult your dreams.
Speaking of engaging the different parts of your brain, one fantastic way to do that is by using your dreams as a guide. Ask yourself one question as you're falling asleep--for best results ask the same question for at least a week--and make note of the dreams that come up in response. You'll want to keep a paper and pencil or voice recorder by your bed so you can record the details of whatever dreams you have while they're fresh in your mind. Here's a more detailed look at how to use dreams as a problem-solving tool.
6. Make time for uninterrupted thought.
This may be the single most important tool for activating your inner wisdom. If you're rushing from one task to another all day, and watching the news, reading, or posting to social networks every minute that you're free, you'll miss the chance to reach your own creativity and wisdom.
That's a shame. So make some time for what seems like idle thought. Meditate, go for a walk, bike, swim, lie on a beach, or otherwise find at least a few times a week when your mind is free to wander its own paths. Let it lead you where it wants to go. Your brain will benefit. And you may be surprised at how quickly your own inner guru emerges.