Do you follow your gut instincts when making business decisions? Or do you prefer poring over logical lists of pros and cons?
Intuition and logic might not be as far apart as you think. On today's episode, Helen Pamely, a former city law firm partner turned wellness coach, helps us figure out how to tune in to our intuition and why it can be such a powerful guide in business. We cover:
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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Louise: Hello everyone, Louise here. Today I am really excited to be talking to Helen Pamely who is a former city law firm partner turned wellness coach. I've been loving Helen’s videos on LinkedIn recently about well-being and mindful minutes and leaning into your intuition when making decisions. I thought the concept of using intuition in business would be a really fun and interesting conversation for other people to hear. Hi Helen, thank you for being here.
Helen: Hi Louise, thanks so much for having me.
L: I'm really excited to have this conversation.
H: Absolutely, I love talking about all this kind of thing, and intuition I think is so powerful for us.
L: Maybe we could start with some definitions. Because I know this might feel maybe a little bit fluffy to some people, many of us are used to making decisions in very practical terms and evaluating the pros and cons, so maybe you could explain to us what does it actually mean to follow our intuition and is that different from following your instincts or your gut?
H: Really what it is, it's the ability to know something without analytic reasoning. What that means really is bridging the gap between our conscious and our unconscious minds. For me, it's anything but fluffy, because what we're not saying is go completely against your logic or that there is no logic, but what we're saying is actually deepening our awareness into sort of a wider sense of our own consciousness. Perhaps that all sounds very deep. But what it means is, if you think about it, everything that you've experienced in your life to date, that impacts how you are today. Maybe you had a bad experience with a dog as a child or something like that and now you're afraid of dogs. The thinking part of your brain isn't necessarily kicking in each time, but you have that in your consciousness and your unconscious brain, and that's what your gut and your brain will be telling you when you come across that experience again, and that's why it's so important for us to tap into this kind of intelligence.
L: I feel like that's so relevant for freelancers, because we're working on our own a lot of the time. I think behind closed doors, a lot of people are maybe struggling with things, and part of the reason for that could be because something's out of alignment between what they want to be doing, and what's important to them, and what they actually find themselves doing on a day-to-day basis. You know, I think for a lot of freelancers, you might imagine this life of freedom, and you're working with all these amazing clients. Sometimes the reality isn't quite like that, you might find that you've got 10 bosses instead of one, or you're saying yes to projects that don't feel like a great fit. Maybe having the processes and systems and the practical stuff are really helpful, but it seems like intuition could point us in the right direction some of the time.
H: Absolutely, I think it's an interesting one isn't it, in terms of thinking about what kind of clients do we want, or what direction do we want the business to go in. Because all of this sort of stuff is actually us coming back to our own values, our own integrity, feeling into our own strengths. And for all of this sort of stuff, we have to go inwards. Basically, for me, intuition is really around just tapping into that sense of deeper knowing and knowing what's right for me. If I'm always working on a completely sort of outwards, logical plane and looking at the facts in front of me, I'm not checking in with myself as to how that aligns with myself. Pretty much all the work I do with clients, it will come back to, how do I want to portray myself, who do I want to attract into my business, into my life. It's about, who are you? What are you wanting for yourself? It's always starting with the I. I think in the legal world, I very much pull this stuff over, because I went up the ranks very quickly in law and I think one of the reasons I did that was because I was particularly good at just thinking into, what is it I want here, what opportunities can I see, what opportunities can I create. And I sort of saw things from a different perspective, because of that.
L: Do you think this is something that people are naturally born with an ability to do? Or is it something that you can improve at?
H: I think probably some people are a lot more that way inclined in terms of using intuition. Intuition is scientifically shown to be more connected with the right-hand side of our brain. Perhaps the more creative emotional side. But I think at the same time, it's certainly something that can be deepened into and tapped into. I know from having completed a master's in Psychotherapy, learning about yourself, learning about your own self-awareness, deepening that and also deepening your awareness of other people around you is definitely a muscle which can be strengthened. I think the more we practice this, the more that we take time and space for ourselves, the stronger this is going to become. I think it's particularly difficult in today's world where we're surrounded by lots of social media, lots of disturbance all the time with phones, computers, etc. But it's really about creating that space so we can really hear our own inner voice.
L: Are there things that could get in the way of it? You mentioned social media there, could you say a wee bit more about that?
H: I think, as I've mentioned, it's really a case of going inward rather than outward, and just listening to our own sense of what we feel is right and trusting. It's trusting ourselves and trusting our gut. And I think, to the extent that we're always in our heads and always in the outer world, you know, on Instagram, on LinkedIn, or even just interacting with people, we're never taking that time and space for ourselves. Historically, as human beings, that wouldn't have been the case, we would have had much more space, much more time for ourselves. I think it's about us consciously taking that time to really feel into what we feel. That goes for our well-being as well. I think if we never have time for ourselves, and we never have that personal space, then we really start to feel that and that that can be quite detrimental to us.
L: I really like that. I think the idea of taking space is really important, even if it's just taking a few minutes in between meetings, or getting outside for some fresh air and just kind of changing your energy and your state in a little way.
H: Absolutely. I see this sort of, it's a little bit like an elastic band being wound up really tightly, I see it with a lot of people I work with in the city in particular, who are just very stressed, very overstretched, tight deadlines, high workloads. I think you'll probably see this with freelancers, as well, in the sense we're all working really, really hard. If we don't take time just to loosen that band a bit and give ourselves that space, it's like one thing on top of the other, and before we realise it we're completely stressed out, and that's just not helpful for us.
L: One thing that I've wondered about is how do you actually know what your intuition is telling you, how do you listen to it, how do you kind of tune into that, and tell the difference between your intuition and let's say, your bias or a fear or some other belief. For example, let's say you get a query from a client, and you think, hmm, I feel like I shouldn't say yes to this. How do I know if that's my intuition helping me pay attention to a red flag, and how do I know if it's something else, like maybe I'm just scared of taking on a bigger project, or I'm worrying that I won't do a good job or something like that.
H: Yeah, completely, and actually, this is something I was recently really thinking about. Just a bit of a shout out here to Kirsty Waite the business coach, because I think we were having this conversation with her weren’t we, trying to actually put this into language which you can differentiate. Which can be really hard, because I think sometimes you can have a feeling of gosh, I don't know if I should be doing this. But as you say, you don't know if that's because of perhaps fear around not being good enough, or not capable of something, or actually that your intuition is telling you don't do that because this is just a really bad idea. I think on that one, I really liked how Kirsty phrased it, which is, there's a difference between saying, for example, this client isn't right for me, that kind of feeling and that coming from intuition, and then doubts or worries around, for example, can I serve this client. Because I think the latter is very clearly you doubting yourself. The former is that sort of deep feeling of knowing that actually this just isn't the right thing for you. Actually, when you sort of feel into that, those two things do feel quite different, or at least to me they do.
L: Just on that same train of thought, I'm thinking about things like analysis paralysis, and doubt, and perfectionism, and things like that can stop us from moving forward with things that we want to do. I'm wondering if intuition could be a way to break that cycle. You know, if there are things that we would really like to do in our business, like maybe it's showing up on LinkedIn doing videos, or starting a newsletter or something like that, but we always put it off because we want to wait until the right time, or we're not sure that we’ll be good enough. Is intuition, something that could help us there?
H: I think so, and I think this is all linked in as well with us actually taking the space to make decisions and really tapping into our thought processes. Because a lot of the time if we're procrastinating on something, we're putting something off, or we're just not really sure. It's because there's some sort of narrative underlying that. Maybe you're procrastinating on doing a podcast because actually you're afraid of public speaking or you're afraid of being judged or something. I think this is where mindset stuff really comes in as well. It's about really noticing and observing those underlying narratives, those limiting beliefs, and then working out how you can perhaps work through them. I think on an intuitive level for me if I was feeling into that, would be feeling of feeling like I'm drawn towards something, I want to do it, but I'm being held back and I don't know why. That would be, it's kind of this feeling of, oh, I'm not quite sure what's going on here and then tapping into that to work out what's actually holding you back. I think that's when you can start to unravel that.
L: Then that also calls on you to trust what the outcome is going to be and trust yourself to figure it out. It seems like if you are someone who usually has quite an analytical approach to solving problems and making decisions, then maybe leaning into your intuition could lead to some uncertain outcomes. Do you have any thoughts on how we can learn to let go of control and just kind of trust that process?
H: I think we don't control as much as we think we do. So actually, us being able to let go of the outcome a little bit more, it's not actually us letting go into the ether. If you think that that anything random is going to happen, it's not that at all. I think a lot of the time, we keep the cards close to our chest, and we think, okay, if I hold on to this more tightly then I know what's going to happen. I don't actually think that that's probably the case. I think also, when we tap into this thing of, I'm not saying we use our intuition to go completely against logic, for my experience, I think, especially working as a lawyer is that you've normally got facts, which are arguing for both sides of the story. Whatever decision we've got, we can back up any decision we want to make with facts. We have to tap into our intuition, when actually, we've got all of the logic in front of us, it could be argued either way. It's actually what do I feel is right here, and actually understanding that when we're tapping into that, we're tapping into all the intelligence of our unconscious, all of that wisdom which is in our brains, which is sending off certain signals. And that's most of our minds, our conscious mind is such a small part of our intelligence. I think it's trusting in the fact that actually that decision that we make, which is based on our gut at that point, and which will be backed up by logic as well, is actually backed up by a really deep intelligence. It's not just, you know, waving a magic wand and deciding on something random.
L: And of course, the longer that you run your business and you come across different scenarios, then the better that you'll get at this, you'll be more confident making these decisions.
H: I think so absolutely. I think you do become more confident with it. I know for myself, I mean, I practice meditation and mindfulness a lot, and I think by giving that space to yourself, and learning what your feelings mean, how you feel in different circumstances, all of that builds, it is a muscle. I think you can test out with little things and you can get more comfortable. It doesn't have to be just you dive in at the deep end and think, okay, that's my intuition, I'm gonna go with it, start testing it out and start creating that space for yourself.
L: Oh, it's so good, it's such a juicy topic, isn't it? I always think that running a business is like a giant project in personal development.
H: Absolutely. I think it's been one of the biggest challenges I've ever had for sure. I think it brings us face to face with all of our fears, as well as you know, all of the things we want to achieve and really pushes us to reach our potential. So absolutely.
L: Yeah, you can't hide from anything, can you?
H: I wish you could, if you find out how can you let me know.
L: One other thing that I wanted to ask you about, so far we've been focusing on us as individuals and how we think about intuition and use that to our advantage. I'm wondering how that applies to work situations, for example, as a copywriter, I will use a lot of research and a lot of evidence and frameworks and that kind of thing when I'm writing copy for clients. But sometimes you are just going with your gut a little bit. And I'm wondering if you've got any thoughts on how we communicate these kind of intuitive decisions to our clients, or to other people who may be looking for hard evidence of why we've gone one way compared to another.
H: I think one thing that I realised as I got more senior in my career as a lawyer is that people paid me for my judgement, ultimately. People can read the case law, they can read the facts, they can have a look at the logic for themselves, but what they're paying you for at that point is your experience and your judgement. I'm sure that if you're advising someone and saying actually this is the way I've drafted it for x, y, z reasons, it’s not going to be that they asked you to write about a certain topic and you've gone off the wall and written about something completely different. I think that's the thing where it's you being able to trust in your judgement, and they believe in you as a person as well. They've hired you not just on the basis of your output, but on the basis of everything that you bring. I think that's also coming back to a real confidence in yourself about what it is that you offer and you bring to the table.
L: I love that. That's so good. Thank you so much, Helen, that's really given me a lot of food for thought. It's quite a deep one to try and do justice to in 15 minutes, but I hope that's kind of planted a seed for people to think about how they can maybe listen to their intuition a bit more as they build their business. So thank you so much for that. If people would like to find out more about your work and what you're up to, where would the best place be for them to find you?
H: I'm very active on LinkedIn, on Instagram, and also you can find me at my website www.helenpamely.com
L: Thanks so much, Helen, and thank you to everyone for listening. I will see you next time. Bye.
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.