By Emily Steele | Owner, Love Local

I was just six months shy of graduating from college when I decided it was no longer worth it to continue making decisions that pleased others. It was time to trust myself and my own desires.

But what even were my desires?

My life had become a culmination of what everyone else was doing, what I "should" do, and living life on autopilot. The fastest word that came out of my mouth was "sure!"

I knew that if I was going to radically shift how I lived my life, I had to do something disruptive. So I signed up to bike cross-country with a group of nine strangers. I had no bike, no time to train, and very little confidence that I could actually do it.

As you can imagine, biking across an entire country gives you plenty of time to be alone … in your own head.

It was a mess and also a tremendous blessing. I remember asking myself question after question after question.

"Why are you friends with this person who always interrupts you?"
"Why do you run when you actually hate running?"
"Who are you trying to impress by getting this job?"

Two months later, I was now completely unsure of who I was, but also confident that I had the tools to figure it out more and more.

That journey started in 2012 and I’m still on it, continuing to peel back layers of what it means to be so rooted in myself, my voice, my power and my authenticity that every word and action I take is rooted in abundance and my own truth.

And the universe is funny about tossing in moments, people and opportunities that test it … just to see if I’m paying attention.

About a year ago, I was presented with a client for my marketing company, Love Local, that was on my dream list. A brand that I respected, shopped with regularly and adored. It would have been a "wow" client for my company.

I presented my rate and the value of the work I could co-create with them, but they were only willing to pay half that amount. My gut instinct was "Don’t take this." But I called my husband and best friends, asked their opinions, dove into it with my mom, and obsessed over it for days.

I was trying to justify why taking on this client could be worth it. Do you ever do that? You know what you need to do next but you don’t really want to do it, so you ask all of your friends what their opinion is.

Wondering what I did? I trusted myself. I said no. It was a decision that could have been very easy, but I made it very difficult.

Just days later, I was reflecting on this empowered decision when my best friend called and was like "Hey! I thought for your photo session I could grab a quick photo of the family on your porch."

The word almost came out -- "sure!" -- but that’s not what I intended for my photo session, so I paused for probably a half-second longer than usual and said no thanks.

It’s the big moments like getting a new client, relationship, job or opportunity where we can really dive into our own inner voice and desires to allow the "answer" to bubble up over time. And it’s also the small moments in everyday life and decision-making that we can step in and trust that our desires can be vocalized and embraced.

My business and spiritual coach, Cari Rosno, encourages me to "create gaps in thoughts" where my own truth can surface and I can make a decision with clarity and consciousness.

These "gaps" are available to all of us. It takes a level of awareness and willingness to do this work, but wouldn’t it be worth it to live a life where your decisions are your own? Not what you think your mom would want you to do. Not what you think your boss would want to hear. Not what will make you look good or perfect or right.

Your boundaries, your dreams, your own beliefs make you magnetic. When you have the clarity to trust yourself and the wild ideas or loud "YES, DO IT!" voice, you’ll notice you attract the people and experiences that complement your truth.

It all starts with creating the space, the gap in thought. I do this best by walking outside with my daughter in the mornings or journaling or writing things out in my Notes app or taking a bath. There’s no magic formula or "process" I can share. I’ve just started showing up in my life in a more conscientious way. And you can too.

Emily Steele is the owner of Love Local and co-founder of the hummingbirds. She is passionate about helping build irresistible brands and helping individuals see their limitless potential in life and business. You can find her sharing this journey on Instagram: @emily.steele