My best friend works at a handmade art market in Portland. She meets a lot of interesting people when she’s sitting at her booth selling necklaces — earth mamas who share recipes for homemade toothpaste, wood carvers who claim very matter-of-factly that they were born on a different planet, chakra healers and aura seers and everyone in between. A few weeks ago, she texted me about a young hippie writer who had stopped by the market as part of his nomadic journey across the country and offered to pay for his items with “trippy treats” instead of money (I die for details like this).
“He said something really cool while we were talking,” she wrote in her message. “He said that life is about choosing paths. We all must choose a path at any given time, and there is no right or wrong path, but there is always a path with more heart. When you choose the path with more heart, life becomes easier and happier.”
I stared at her text for a moment, letting the words sink in. I thought about all the paths I’ve taken, the way I’ve drastically altered the course of my life over the past few years, the way I’ve been itching to alter it again, and damn, let me tell you: hippie kid knows what’s up.
Here’s what I know. Deep down, there is something within all of us that guides us in certain directions, nudging us toward bravery and authenticity and the pursuit of our life purpose. You can call it your heart, your gut, intuition, guardian angels, God, the universe, destiny, The Divine, fate, guiding light, spirit, soul — whatever feels right for you. For me, it’s heart, and it comes in the form of a little voice. The more I ignore this voice, the quieter is gets. The more I listen to it, the clearer it becomes. This isn’t a scary “I hear voices in my head” situation or anything like that, it’s just a faint-but-unmistakable inner voice that, when I can quiet my mind down enough to hear it, always has a very simple answer for even the most complicated questions.
A little over a year ago, as I’ve written about before, I was living in Portland, and deeply unhappy. I wanted to move to Nashville, but thanks to a combination of fear and logic and obligation, I was convinced that I needed to wait around and save more money before I could actually do it. My inner voice had one very simple answer all along: “Leave.” I heard it loud and clear, but I didn’t want to listen. The thought of picking up and moving without a clear plan terrified me. I made excuses. I dawdled. “Leave,” the voice kept saying. “Leave now.”
The more I defied my own heart’s desire, the harder life became. I couldn’t find an apartment. I got into awful fights with dear friends. I couldn’t sleep. It truly felt like every door was closed or closing. Finally, I built up the courage to listen to the voice, to change my path, and I decided to leave. And almost instantly, after I’d made my decision but had yet to act on it, doors started opening again. Everything got easier. Things suddenly stopped falling apart and started falling into place. Looking back, it’s clear that little voice was guiding me toward a path with more heart, a path toward happiness. There is no question in my mind that this is the path I was meant to be on.
After experiencing this whole “following your heart make life easier” thing in action, something really cool happened: I got braver. Way braver. And that little voice inside me became stronger and clearer. When I listen to it, which I do much more frequently now, life feels open and abundant and easy. New opportunities and exciting possibilities seem to unfold effortlessly. When I ignore my heart, which I still do on occasion because I’m a stubborn control freak, life feels confining and difficult, like trudging uphill through molasses. I’ve learned to pay attention to the signs: if I’m really struggling and feel like I’m coming up against resistance in every single thing I do, it probably means I’m not listening to my heart. Choosing the heart path makes life easier. Period.
There’s a difference, of course, between the ease that comes with following your heart and “taking the easy way out.” The truth is, following your heart is often harder, at least initially. It takes more courage. It might create resistance or resentment within yourself or among the people around you. It probably won’t look like the path everyone else is taking or the path you’ve been on so far. It will probably require facing some fears or breaking some long-held habits. Your friends might call you crazy or try to dissuade you. But you’re the only one who knows what feels right in your heart. And you’re the only one who has to live with the consequences of either following your heart or ignoring it.
Your heart path might be breaking up with a boyfriend who treats you like a queen but, for some unexplained reason, you don’t feel a true spark with.
Your heart path might be applying for a job you think is out of your league, or asking for a raise at your current one.
Your heart path might be leaving your comfortable job to go work for yourself.
Your heart path might be putting some emotional boundaries between you and a toxic friend.
Your heart path might be speaking your mind to someone who intimidates you.
Your heart path might be selling all your stuff and moving to Thailand.
Your heart path might be moving back home to take care of your parents.
Your heart path might be quitting a rigid diet that makes you feel weak and empty.
Your heart path might be signing up for a half marathon.
Your heart path might be telling your family you need one evening a week of uninterrupted alone time.
Your heart path might be sharing a painful secret with a close, trusted friend.
Your heart path might be calling off the wedding.
Your heart path might be proposing and eloping this weekend.
Your heart path might be doing something that scares the shit out of you. It might be doing something just because it scares the shit out of you.
Sometimes following your heart means making the obvious, simple choice. Sometimes following your heart means hurling yourself into the unknown and just trusting that everything will be OK. The only thing that’s certain about your heart path? Deep down, you already know what it is.
Be brave enough to follow it, and trust me, not only will you set your life into exhilarating forward motion, things will get easier. Chances are, you’ll never look back.