The other day, a friend brought up the subject of one’s “inner voice” — that unsolicited voice who speaks up without us ever asking for an opinion.

My friend had spoken with someone whose inner voice instinctively responded with reasons about why things couldn’t or shouldn’t be done.

Our inner voice is best described as how we instinctively react to circumstances or challenges we meet in life. And learning to successfully train our inner voice to our advantage is one of the most valuable lesson we can learn in life.

Imagine when someone suggests you perform a task at work differently? For many people, their first instinct is defensive. Even the dreaded — but comfortable — phrase of “but we’ve always done it this way” can find it’s a way to our lips. Or, say, another suggests you could save money by shopping at a different grocery store? Again, we rationalize that we’re familiar with our regular store. Having to learn a new store layout would make us uncomfortable, less secure.

“No” is easy. Going back to the literal beginning of human existence, our brains were intentionally wired for us to avoid change — equating shifting surroundings with danger. Survival is about being aware of unusual activities and potential threats. Fast forward through history and this is still our default setting — even if it means doing a task as nonthreatening as finding what row the peanut butter is on in a different grocery store.

And in today’s world of hyper-change, this default setting is increasingly a losing proposition.

The good news is, we can rewire ourselves.

One day a group of us sat around a table and looked up at an image on a screen on conference room wall. The image was large horse tied by small leather reins to a plastic lawn chair.

“The horse is larger than the plastic chair, right?” was the question. “Then why does the horse not simply walk away, dragging the chair wherever it wants to go?”

This was not a trick question involving physics or clever word play.

“Because he does not believe, he can walk away whenever he wants,” came the answer.

The truth is when the horse is young it is reined to a solid fence post. Try as it might, the young horse cannot pull off from the anchored marker. After a length of time, the horse learns whenever it is reined to something, it cannot break free. It simply stops trying. For the rest of time, the slightest resistance of the reins when tossed across even a tree branch will keep the horse in place.

This learned behavior is inside of us. Our minds as well as outside influences tend to teach us to be cautious and avoid danger or uncomfortable situations at all costs. Successful people commit to breaking from those reins — learning to fail or experience uncomfortable situations.

Training your inner voice can be the difference between you forever tied to small tree branch or running freely across open fields.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207;

President & Publisher of The Galveston County Daily News.

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