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Encore - True Guidance vs. False Guidance - By Debbie Gall

You've probably had the experience of an idea popping into your mind out of nowhere; or felt a powerful hunch in your gut.  Maybe you "saw" something, as in a vision.  Or you heard an inner voice prompting you.  Do you trust these forms of guidance, dismiss them, feel confused by them, or even worse, not even recognize/acknowledge them?

I've responded in all four ways, at least until I began immersing myself 8 years ago in books and training programs that focused on intuition and Higher Guidance.  As a neophyte life coach, I was looking for a ways to facilitate change more quickly and deeply, both with myself and with my clients. 

Over the years I've moved from hardly being aware when Higher Guidance hit my radar screen to seeing it as a natural part of my day to day life that I can recognize, trust, and act on.  My ego voice does like to get in there to trip me up, and muddle me into confusion.  But it doesn't happen as often.

Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.wrote a book a few years back called Divine Guidance.  It's a plain-speaking, clearly written book that teaches readers two things:  how to distinguish true guidance from false guidance; and how to more fully open up your channels to receive Divine Guidance.

In her book, Doreen Virtue discusses 12 ways you can distinguish true guidance from false guidance.  This post will cover 4 of those ways, and the remaining 8 qualities will be discussed in the next 2 consecutive posts.


Characteristics of True (Higher) Guidance and False (Lower/Ego) Guidance
by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.

1.  True Guidance has a mature tone and content.  It's supportive and motivational, like an encouraging coach.  There's a loving and energizing feel to it.  False Guidance is immature.  It encourages fearful thinking that tears down confidence, reduces enthusiasm, and inspires doubt.

Here's a powerful example.  About 7-8 years ago, a coaching colleague called me up to ask me to step in for her to speak at a business dinner to take place in two days.  She needed to fly to Europe for business.  I turned her down.  Although I was free that evening, I felt afraid that I couldn't possibly prepare to give a talk that soon.  Truth be told, no matter how many times I did it, public speaking still gave me the nilly-willies.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I heard an inner voice, like an angel speaking into my right ear.  I was told enthusiastically that I could easily come up with a topic that I'd enjoy speaking on and to say "yes" to this request.  Much to my surprise, I phoned my colleague back, agreed to give the talk, and experienced one of my most memorable and positive talks. Who would have thought it?  Obviously not my lower self.

2.  True Guidance is consistent.  False Guidance switches topics impulsively.  True guidance repeats itself consistently over days, weeks, months, even when we don't heed it.  It doesn't change, unlike false guidance, which creates chaos by giving us conflicting advice and changing the advice frequently.  Your higher guidance may be telling you to take better care of your body; or to reach out to someone; or to take action in your career etc. 

In the spring of 2003, I was repeatedly guided to make our home market ready for sale.  This guidance persisted for weeks.  Although we had no intention of moving, we made out a punch list of improvements and completed them over the next several months.  Less than 8 months after receiving the guidance, my husband accepted an out-of-state transfer.  We sold our home the first day it went up, for within $1000 of our asking price!  This is such a powerful example of how the loving Universe wants to support us.  Pay attention to persistent messages from your Higher Self and act upon them.

3.  True Guidance talks about your life purpose or mission.  False Guidance talks about how to compete with others.  True guidance talks about life purpose in the theme of love and giving service to the world.  False Guidance inspires fear and doubt, and tells you that you are too small and will fail, so why even try.  If you've ever thought about changing careers, doing something different, or long to do the kind of work that makes a true difference, you are being nudged to fulfill your life purpose.  Expect the ego to interfere and create fear, especially in the financial aspects of this kind of change. 

My most persistent Spirit nudging over the past upteen months has been to ease out of 1-on-1 coaching.  I've been guided to understand that it's time to create other vehicles for touching people and giving service.  Writing plays an important part of creating new vehicles, but like a jigsaw puzzle that lays in a pile of pieces, I don't know what the completed picture looks like.  And I don't have to.  I just need to take the first steps and know that the guidance continues to come.  I fully expect to be able to refer back to this post a few months down the road and share positive results.  In the meantime, writing has made me feel more alive than I have experienced in a long time, a sure sign that this is coming from True Guidance.

4.  True Guidance wants you to be joyful right now.  False Guidance wants you to delay happiness for the future.  True guidance nudges us to fulfill our life purpose throughout our lifetimes.  It does not procrastinate but encourages us to work on the important stuff right now.  True guidance assures us that Heaven backs us up with all the time, money, intelligence, creativity and contacts we need. False guidance makes us believe that we still are not ready, no matter how many books we've read, workshops we've attended, or degrees we hold.  False Guidance encourages us to put higher priorities on the back burner, such as putting off exercising until the stars align, or delaying an essential project till the youngest daughter gets married, or going on a diet next month etc.

False guidance is ingenious in the ways it devises to delay us and make us believe that happiness lies in the future.  These tactics include addictive behaviors such as compulsive eating, drinking, smoking, drug-taking, Internet surfing,  shopping, television viewing etc.  My personal favorite is staying busy as a way to avoid acting on Higher Guidance.  It's much easier for me to check email and do laundry than to take action steps to market and promote myself.

5.  True Guidance is strong and powerful.  False Guidance is insidious and sneaky.  Sometimes we experience something so loud and powerful we can't ignore it.  Such true guidance often comes when we are afraid of fulfilling a larger purpose. 

I had been experiencing 2 solid years of career restlessness during 1994-1995.  I applied the usual strategies, none which provided permanent relief.  During a meditation on a weekend retreat late in 1995, I asked this question - "Will I ever be able to figure out my career?"  The reply, in a loving tone, blew the wind out of me:

"We can answer your question - we've been patiently waiting for you - are you ready to listen?  Let go of [organization] completely.  It is time to choose a date to leave.  When this happens, much energy will return to you, allowing you to focus on yourself.  You are entitled to define your dreams, your own goals not somebody else's.  You will have the strength, energy and wisdom to deal with the unknown, and with the financial changes.  Your husband understands your needs and will support you.  The time is now."

I chose a date to leave and handed in my resignation right after the weekend.  And I felt awesome!

6.  True Guidance sounds familiar.  False Guidance seems out-of-sync with your interests/lifestyle.  True guidance has a quality of reminding you, "I know that."  Even when true guidance challenges you to stretch to reach for something, there's an underlying sense of trust.  False guidance has the opposite effect of confronting your aspirations and telling you, "Don't even try."

I get a lot of negative messages from lower self that attempt to block me, limit me, or have me believe that I just can't do something, so I better play it safe.  I find that when I can stay present, and notice them, then I can actually make a choice to follow or ignore the false guidance.  The true guidance I received to start a blog in late '05 felt familiar because I had begun writing more, and the guidance felt so in sync for me, even though creating a blog was still a new venture I felt enough trust to move forward.

7.  True Guidance speaks in second person termsFalse Guidance uses the word "I" constantly because the lower self believes it - not the true you, is the center of the universe.  Most true guidance is phrased in the 2nd person, and sounds like another person is speaking to you. 

The most dramatic example of this that happened to me occurred in 1980.  I sat in my living room, despondent that I had not become pregnant.  My husband and I were in our late 20's and anxious to start a family.  We faced several infertility issues that needed medical intervention.  Without prelude, this loud and powerful voice in my head said the following words:  "You will conceive and give birth to a normal, healthy baby."  It was so dramatic and unlike my thoughts that I knew it was Divine.  I recall being visibly shaken and even looked over my shoulder to make sure I was alone.  I hung onto those words during many more months that followed before I did indeed conceive and give birth to a normal healthy baby (now age 24 and off on her own!)

8.  True Guidance feels like a warm hugFalse Guidance drains your energy and enthusiasm.  Whenever I act upon true guidance, I often experience a surge of energy that is very tangible, as I mention in my "shoot the moon" post.   The opposite is true when it's false guidance - then I feel no energy and sometimes have the sensation of slogging through mud with 50 pound weights on my ankles.  Other people may feel warmth with true guidance, or a sense of cold, prickly painful feelings with false guidance.  There's always the "gut" test too - do you have a sick feeling there?  Bodies don't lie, and if we choose to take an action when we shouldn't, some part of our body will communicate discomfort to us!

9.  True Guidance empowers you.  False Guidance weakens you.  True guidance may share news that indicates unexpected change, but will do so in a supportive and loving way.  False guidance sends us messages that leave us feeling helpless, victimized or persecuted.  Doreen Virtue offers this question as a litmus test of sorts - ask yourself - "Do I feel empowered by this message?"  If not, it is not true guidance.

Here is a current personal example. [Jan '06]  My husband has lived under the fear of getting laid off or fired for several months, for reasons that certainly appear logical, including that his entire department was decimated, and 60% of his peers are no longer there.  The intuitive guidance that I have consistently received for months indicates no loss of job.  But as time goes on, and the guidance remains positive and loving, I believe that the issue of his getting fired is a "non-issue," in that no matter what happens, we'll be supported and we'll be fine.

[Those of you who followed my blog last year may recall that my husband did indeed get his walking papers early last year and was unemployed for 5 months.  It was a huge change, with challenges and silver linings, and that change helped to catapult me into my own career change last summer.  Along the way, amazing sources of positive support kept us going and sustained us.  We are in a great place now, and things keep getting better and better.]

10.  True Guidance is to the point.  False Guidance rationalizes with wordiness.  True guidance is clear, direct, and unambiguous.  False guidance beats around the bush, while contaminating you with fear and anxiety. 

Have you ever been in a bookstore and felt guided to buy a book?  It happens all the time to me.  One time I ignored the guidance, left the bookstore, got in my car, and heard an inner voice telling me in crystal clear language to go back in the store to buy a particular book.  And so I did. 

Or how about when you make a sudden turn down a road you weren't planning on?  I recall a time when I "unconsciously" turned right instead of left to go to my Jazzercise class, so I missed my usual shortcut.  I was ready to turn around, when I felt guided to continue going down the road I turned on.  Five minutes later, when I caught up to the place where my usual shortcut ends, there was a traffic accident.  Cars were backed up.  Because I turned right instead of left at the beginning of the trip, I breezed by without delay.

Earlier this week as I pulled up into the bank drive-through, 3 lanes were open, all with 1 car in each lane.  I got an automatic nudge to go in the middle lane.  I chose not to.  Wouldn't you know it, that lane moved fast, and my lane didn't.  We can have fun with this too!

11.  True Guidance comes suddenly and completely in response to prayer/meditation.  False Guidance comes gradually in response to worry.  True guidance often comes as a complete chunk of information out of the blue.  Recall the example I shared yesterday - the Higher Guidance that came through in one big chunk in a meditation around a career question.  If there is a chain of thoughts that lead to your guidance, it's probably coming from your lower self.  When you think of a person out of the blue, without any trail of thought leading up to it, this indicates true Divine guidance.  When seemingly random thoughts, visions, feelings seem to come out of nowhere, without any thought leading up to them, pay attention - your true guidance is calling you.

12.  True Guidance never puts you above or below others.  False Guidance says you are better or worse than others.  The lower ego self tries to convince us to be a "star" that others will adore, but ends up putting us in roles where we compete, attack, or win at others expense.  Our true self does not elevate us above other people.  Rather, true guidance shows us scenarios in which to make a meaningful contribution with our natural talents.

I once listened to a CD that featured a millionaire talking about his business failures and successes.  He said that whenever he got involved in a business for the money, but did not believe in the business, he lost his shirt.  He has since learned to make sure there is a philosophical fit in businesses that he invests in. 

This reminds me of how I succumbed to ego fears in the early days of my coaching career in the late 1990's.  I was invited to join a coaching company.  I received instantaneous guidance that this company was not a good fit for me.  In no uncertain terms I was told that who I was and how I worked with people would not be honored.  I was not to join this company.  My lower self told me I couldn't get clients on my own and I better join.  I listened to my ego, much to my detriment.  I was miserable and didn't receive one paying client from this company.  Four months later I came to my senses and left.  The week that I left, I heard about an advanced coaching program starting up called "Coaching from Spirit," a program designed to teach coaches how to tap into and use Divine Guidance, and to teach clients how to do the same.  I finally felt like I was coming "home."  It's such a strong reminder to me to remember that in saying "no" to what is not right for me, I make room to say "yes" to something else that is coming to me.


As Doreen Virtue points out in her book, true and false guidance are one hundred percent reliable.  True guidance consistently gives empowering advice; false guidance always gives fear-based suggestions that lead to rash decisions.  Keeping the 12 distinctions between true and false guidance in mind, we'll be more likely to recognize and choose wisely.

So many of you have your own stories to tell, of decisions you made, or didn't make, times when you followed what you know, and times when you ignored that.  Leave a comment, or if you'd like to share more detail, I can feature your story in a separate post - just email me.  We have much to learn from one another!


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Updated 7/10/10