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How To Practice Discernment As A Skill?

So, in the broader conversation about how to make it through the 'in between' moments when facing change, challenge, and opportunity, it's time to think about discernment as a skill to cultivate over time. For the purposes of this article, discernment refers to the skill of differentiating between your assumptions and reality. It can take the form of differentiating between your adult self and your inner child; between the people who will amplify your strengths and those who will amplify your doubts; between the practices that you need to be consistent about and the ones you need to let go of; between excellence and perfection; between the places that nourish your Why and the places that deny or deplete it. Ultimately, it comes down to differentiation.

In this sense, the practice of differentiation makes discernment possible. Why is discernment important, though? Because discernment is what helps you identify what tools to use in different situations, what attitudes will serve you best, what approaches will support your communities most, where to dedicate your energy, what relationships to maintain, and what practices to continue. Through discernment, you can prioritize and budget your energy accordingly. Analyzing a situation, allowing yourself to change your mind when presented with new information, and getting clear about what you want to leave or take on are all key expressions of discernment.

When's discernment most useful? When navigating blurry situations, conflicting information, strenuous relationships, hard conversations, when taking a step back, and when adjusting to a new reality, for example. Conclusion: whenever you're looking to navigate uncertainty, you're also looking to differentiate between what you want, what you can offer, what you can receive, and what you need. Same goes for the communities you're relating to.

Here are 10 questions to consider as you practice flexing your discernment muscle in both low stakes and high stakes situations:

  1. What's negotiable and what's non-negotiable in this scenario?

  2. How might you communicate respectfully, honestly, and clearly? (No matter how challenging the subject matter might be)

  3. Are you showing up from a place of curiosity and information gathering?

  4. Are you practicing loving kindness? (aka having a soft front by being fair and a hard back by being firm)

  5. How might you support yourself and those around you to feel physiologically safe?

  6. How might you lower uncertainty for yourself and for others to navigate change/challenge/opportunity with greater ease?

  7. What do you know to be true and what assumptions do you need to park at this time?

  8. Is this enough to navigate the situation with intention or do you still need more information?

  9. At the end of the day, what do you and the people around you need walk away with?

  10. Whatever comes out of this situation, how might you make peace with the outcome?

If practicing discernment seems overwhelming to you, that makes sense. You typically need greater discernment the more uncertainty you're experiencing. It makes sense that your system would want to flag that as a threat. It becomes easier to drown out your own discernment in the midst of asking for too much advice or stalling for too long, for example. And. The more you practice in low stakes situations, like whether or not you actually need a walk or some down time, the more available that muscle will be in higher stakes situations, like do I need to share this complicated news with x or y person or team member.

For support on navigating change/challenge/opportunity from a place of purpose, follow @valenbrics

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