Did you know it’s possible to plan too much…and in the process, to block your spiritual intuition? Here’s how to avoid this HSP pitfall.

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) can have a hard time letting go and trusting things will work out. Our motto, as Elaine Aron puts it, is “Do it once and do it right.” We crave that secure feeling of seeing all of our ducks in a row before we act.

There’s nothing wrong with planning. I’m an assiduous planner myself. Like most HSPs, I’m by nature highly conscientious, and I love the idea of preventing mistakes by thinking through every possible eventuality.

However, there’s such a thing as too much planning, and it comes at a high price. When we cross the line into trying to know and control things we can’t know or control, we block the very resource we most need at such a moment: our spiritual intuition.

In fact, our spiritual intuition is our most powerful resource. We need it to navigate in those territories beyond the visibly obvious and the easily plannable. Without it, we feel like we are flying blind.

How do you access this most valuable resource? First and foremost, you need strong intention to open to your spiritual guidance. Next, you need skill and practice to discern it and vet the wisdom you receive. And finally, you need self-discipline to follow it.  Let’s unpack each of these three keys to living a spirit-led life.

Key #1: You must be open to receive guidance

I used to think of spiritual intuition as a butterfly landing on my shoulder: an event as rare and random as it was precious. On one level, I was right: we can’t control spiritual intuition. On a deeper level, though, I was wrong. While we can’t control spiritual intuition, we can open to it.

Monarch butterflies find milkweed plants by sensing a complex mix of scents, visual cues, and touch. Similarly, our spiritual intuition finds us when we root ourselves in stillness. To stay still and be open in this way requires a conscious choice—one we must make over and over again as we move through each day.

This choice, as you likely already know, requires great strength of will. Our human bodies are evolutionarily hard-wired to fear the unknown, so our default setting is to try to know everything and control everything. No wonder we find surrender challenging.

Surrendering to not-knowing may be the essential prerequisite to hearing your spiritual intuition, but to this scared part of you, letting go will always feel like the scene in The Last Crusade when Indiana Jones has to step off a cliff. Even though I’ve seen the movie and know perfectly well that a bridge will form under his feet, I feel queasy watching him step into the void.

However, once you understand this fearful tendency in yourself, you have a new option: you can turn inwards and get to know something in you that is scared. When you feel scared to open to your guidance for fear it will tell you to do something you can’t or don’t want to do, you can turn inwards and say,

I’m realizing I need to access the wisdom of my spiritual guidance about this situation. And I’m sensing something in me is feeling scared to do that.

Then you can develop a relationship with this scared part.

Key #2: Once you receive guidance, you have to vet it

Let’s say you’ve turned inwards and gotten quiet. Spiritual intuition has come to you to take a certain action. In our culture, your next step is immediate: act, without delay.

Sometimes we really do need to act instantly. Most of the time, though, you’ll be much better off if you follow the arrival of spiritual intuition with a second round of tuning in. Otherwise you may inadvertently bulldoze any parts of you that are uncertain, skeptical, or simply scared.

In fact, most so-called “self-sabotage” is simply something in you protesting because you acted without first hearing its concerns. As sensitive people, we risk pushing ourselves this way when we compare ourselves to the culturally dominant ideal of instant decisiveness. If we don’t yet feel ready to “just do it,” we tell ourselves we are weak or wishy-washy.

We certainly need to be assertive to take care of ourselves. But in the long run, assertiveness without empathy is as ineffective as it is harsh—to ourselves and to others. We need action and empathy.

As we do our inner work, we gradually “take over” for the parts of us that have been managing in a less-than-optimal way. This takes time, because these parts won’t “retire” until they have a trusting relationship with you. You build this trust by checking in with them before acting on your spiritual intuition.

Key #3: Trust your guidance, and follow it

“Follow your guidance” sounds obvious. But it’s not easy to do. Have you ever gotten an inner knowing which you knew was solid and right, then—

  • Postponed taking the action (thinking you know better): “Sure, I’ll do that…but first, I’ll just_______[fill in the blank.]”
  • Edited the instructions (again, thinking you know better): “Sure, I’ll do that, but I don’t want to do it that way. I want to do it this way.”
  • Insisted on more (wanting all your ducks in a row): “OK, thanks for this next step, but I’m not taking it until you lay out the whole project for me to see.”
  • Got scared and shelved the guidance indefinitely (not trusting) “I can’t do that. No way.”

You’ve likely responded in all these ways to your spiritual intuition. I certainly have. Fortunately, all is not lost. You simply need to turn inwards and repeat the vetting process described in Key #2 above.

Once you’ve decided to surrender to the unknown, receiving guidance is relatively simple. It may take considerably more effort to address any inner objections. Finally, once all your inner parts have agreed to the proposition, your final task is to do what you’ve been guided to do—and only that.

Simple, right? But once again, not easy. There’s a reason many myths and fairy tales center around the discipline of following instructions. Orpheus suffers terrible consequences for disobeying as he leads Eurydice out of the underworld: looking back, he loses her forever.  In the Russian fairy tale The Firebird, on the other hand, Prince Ivan meticulously follows the grey wolf’s instructions through a series of wild adventures. He wins the princess and lives happily ever after.

To deepen your trust: observe, learn, and celebrate

How do we overcome our ingrained fear of surrendering to spiritual intuition? Fortunately, we can practice on smaller issues, where, unlike Orpheus, we get second and third chances. We can learn by observing the results of our choices.

If, for example, I feel out of sorts, I can open to guidance. Perhaps I hear, “You need to stop now and take a rest for 20 minutes.” Let’s say that instead of going and lying down, I get distracted by the part of me that prioritizes getting things done over anything else. I postpone action, saying to myself, “Sure, I’ll take a nap…as soon as I’ve finished this project.”

Two hours later, I still haven’t finished the project and I’m no longer out of sorts: I’m downright cranky. I’ve blown it for the moment. However, the experience, while painful, is instructive. The next time I hear, “You need to take a rest now,” I’ll more likely recognize that workaholic part of me that says, “No, you can’t rest! You have to finish x, y, and z first.”

Then, instead of letting it take over, I can have a conversation with my inner workaholic, and I’ll be much more likely to go take my rest. What’s more, when I come back refreshed from my nap, the workaholic part will notice how much more quickly and easily I’m able to complete “x, y, and z.” Now I have both pleasant and painful feedback to support me in trusting my spiritual intuition next time.

Whatever you do you can learn from it

Whether you choose to follow your guidance or not, you can’t go wrong for long if you simply take time to observe the results. Either way, you’ll get clear feedback. This is a key element of the Inner Bonding® process. Step Four of Inner Bonding is “Open to guidance.” Step Five is “Take loving action.” And Step Six is “Evaluate the action.” Although Step Six comes last, it is anything but an afterthought. It is the “feedback” step.

Through patient Step Six observation, you receive clear feedback about your actions. What’s more, this feedback is intrinsically motivating. When you follow your spiritual intuition, you end up feeling more energy, integrity, joy, inner peace, creativity, love, and gratitude.

On the other hand, when you ignore, postpone, or edit your guidance, you’ll notice you end up feeling scattered, tired, out of integrity, stressed, numb, anxious, and scared. All this is helpful information. All you have to do is pay attention to it, and you’ll naturally move in the right direction.

Along the way, feel free to engage in thoughtful planning. Just remember to ask yourself, “Who is doing the planning right now?” Don’t allow a controlling part of you to take over and start trying to line up all the ducks, or you will block your spiritual intuition.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash