06/29/2015 12:59 pm ET Updated Jun 29, 2016

Who Knows You Best? You Do

Who knows you better than anyone in the world? Well, you do, of course! Does this sound strange, coming from a psychologist? After years of being in private practice, I've learned that most people really do have the answer to their problems, the key to their hopes, wishes and fears. But sometimes the truth is buried deep inside. Below the level of consciousness, as Freud would say. (And don't worry, I don't usually quote Freud on this blog!)

Most of us are surrounded by friends and family, a network of people who love us, want what's best for us and have our best interests at heart. But is it always wise to take their advice? Are they seeing the situation through a different lens than we are? No matter how kind and well-meaning they are, they haven't "walked a mile in your shoes," and they don't have the insight and awareness that you do.

When a client is facing a dilemma, whether it's a career issue or a relationship problem, here's what I tell her to do. Write down the answers to these two questions. 1) What do I really want? and 2) What am I willing to do to get it? The first one is easy but the second one is the tough one. Every choice has pros and cons, every choice has consequences. There is something powerful about putting your thoughts on paper.

-- Many times, your friends and family will align themselves on one side of an issue and you may lean strongly toward the other side. Here's what I advise.

* Take in all opinions from all sides. You don't have to agree. Just listen thoughtfully. Some of it may resonate with you, and some will be totally off base.

* Talk to someone neutral, a counselor, a spiritual advisor, a psychologist. Someone who can help you filter out all the distractions and get to the heart of the problem.

*Do an instant "gut check." How do you do that? Let's say you're thinking of changing jobs. Take out a coin and say, "If I flip it and it says heads, then I'll stay where I am. If it's tails, then I'll start job-hunting." Then flip the coin. And immediately ask yourself what you're feeling. The beauty of this experiment is that you can instantly access your feelings on the issue.

* When in doubt, gather more information. Very few decisions have to made instantly. Maybe there's another way of looking at the problem? Maybe there's a third choice and things aren't as black-and-white as they seem. Is there some avenue you haven't explored, someone who can help you see more clearly?

* Shannon Kaiser's new book, ADVENTURES FOR YOUR SOUL will help you discover what's holding you back and devise strategies to conquer your fears. In a compelling 21-day program, she outlines an action plan to tap into your potential and achieve the life you've always wanted.

In the end, of course, it's your life and your decision

Dr. Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice in AHP in north Wilmington, Delaware. She is the author of The Dream Club Mysteries and the Talk Radio Mysteries for Penguin-Random House. Visit her at