The Wisdom of Hesitation


The Wisdom of Hesitation

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Ever caught yourself waiting before making a decision, but not knowing why? Explore how hesitation can be a meaningful manifestation of intuition.

You’ve thought about it, you’ve weighed the pros and cons, you’ve made your decision and then…you hesitate. Your mouse hovers over the “purchase now” button, you’ve written the text but can’t quite bring yourself to press “send,” or you put your key in the ignition but can’t quite seem to start the car. You hesitate.

Our culture values doing. We are big on “going for it,” on taking action, on that valuable next step. And that’s fair. It’s powerful to take action on the things we want, and absolutely to do things that we’re afraid of. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think there’s a lot of wisdom in listening to our hesitation.

Why Should We Listen to Our Hesitation?

Our minds are powerful and important, but so are our bodies. We don’t always make it a practice to listen to our bodies. When we’re paying attention, we have access to a lot of nonrational information, including, potentially, from our intuition, our spirit guides, God, or whatever our conception of the Divine is. Hesitation can be a signal that there’s something we haven’t considered yet, some hidden information we really need. When we walk up to the door but don’t quite want to open it, it might be a good idea to pause and consider what’s going on in our bodies. Is there something we haven’t been paying attention to?

When you notice yourself hesitating, you’re not in an enthusiastic “yes.” An enthusiastic “yes” means every part of you—heart, mind, body, soul—is ready and willing to do the thing. Hesitation means a part of you isn’t quite sure.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “no,” either. Sometimes that part is fearful, perhaps because of past experiences. If our rational minds know that it’s perfectly safe, we may simply need to reassure that part and move forward. That hesitation could also come from a part that knows, on some level, that we’re rushing, that this isn’t the best option, that we’re not quite sure. We may need to gather more information or ensure that we have actually looked at all the other options.

Hesitation as Intuition

Hesitation can be our intuition trying to talk to us. It’s easy to miss signals from our intuition when we’re always trying to move from our thinking minds. Hesitation can mean your intuition is trying to speak to you from some deep inner place.

It’s not always easy to know the difference between our intuition and, for example, our fear, anxiety, or trauma triggers. When we’re in a consistent practice of listening to ourselves and our bodies and when we know our fears and triggers well and can tell the difference between a lack of safety and a reasonable risk, our hesitation can be a valuable source of intuitive information.

Most of us try to make decisions with our rational minds. That makes sense—our rational minds have a lot of good qualities. But they don’t catch everything, and they tend to be comfortable sitting in their narratives and frameworks for how the world works, which isn’t always reflective of reality. When we can sit with our thoughts and emotions around a certain decision, it can give us a lot more information than when we think alone.

One way that we can help ourselves with a specific decision is to notice when there’s hesitation and, if you have the time, wait. Sleep on it. Give it a week, even. Check back in with the decision you thought you made and see if anything feels different. Another interesting way to look at making a decision is to walk up to the door of it. Take action as if you had already made the decision and, before it’s irreversible, of course, notice how it feels to walk that path. That may give you more information than thinking ever could.

Try my meditation on making a decision with the body here.


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The Wisdom of Hesitation

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