Using the Tarot for Knowing When to Take Action

One question or theme that comes up quite often with my clients in my tarot consulting practice centers around the desire to know when to take action on a decision. Sometimes the decision has already been made, and sometimes the decision is being clarified through the reading itself, but often the end question then becomes, “When should I [leave my current job, walk away from this relationship, move, start, stop, etc.]?”

Timing in the tarot is notoriously tangled, and as with much about the tarot, there doesn’t seem to be a standard “one size fits all” way to go about it. That’s why I don’t want to use this post to give you prescriptions about spreads that predict when or how to use an elaborate system of questioning or counting to come up with the answer. In fact, as I’m not specialized in predictive uses of tarot, in my readings I’ve had to find alternate methods for handling and treating questions of “when,” because I intend to honor the client’s desire for insight even if I don’t read in a way that gives an answer such as “next week” or “in two months.”

Here are my thoughts:

1) Examine the underlying belief system that requires being told when to do something.

Ah, yes, here we go again with self-empowerment. As I’ve talked about in the past, for example here in Tarot and Non-Attachment to Outcomes, before we go to the cards for insight and information, it’s always good to do a little check on what sort of power we’re delegating to the cards themselves.

Let’s take the example of “when should I leave my job?” At the heart of this question we’re already assuming that the person has decided they will leave, and it’s assumed by the fact that the question is being posed that the person doesn’t feel secure enough at the present time to actually make that move.

This is where a creative and competent tarot professional can delve deeper into the inner world of the client to examine possible underlying factors that have brought this question to the surface.

For example:

– What would give me the security/confidence to know that it’s time to leave my job?
– What is my greatest fear in leaving my current position? How can I work to overcome and mitigate this fear?
– What conditions must be present to allow me to leave my current job?
– What do I need to know about the decision to leave my job?
– What’s underlying my desire to leave my job? Is there an alternative way to resolve this factor in the meantime? (Here an example would be feeling a sense of lack of meaning or purpose in the current work position, that could potentially be mitigated by finding purposeful volunteer work, or utilizing talents in other areas.)

2) Let go of the entire notion that the cards have the ability or power to tell you when the perfect time is to take action.

This might sound tongue-in-cheek or even counterintuitive (“What do you mean? Isn’t that why I’m getting a reading in the first place?”) but again it goes back to the idea that the tarot can be used as a tool to gain insight and clarity about factors and circumstances surrounding an issue, but the responsibility for making the ultimate decision (in my opinion) shouldn’t be delegated to this set of pictures printed on cardstock.

Let’s be honest here. Human nature tends to gravitate towards the “sure thing” or anything that will provide us with a sense that in making a particular decision, we’re somehow ensured success, guaranteed security, or blessed with protection. As humans, we naturally want to mitigate risk in order to minimize potential harm. It’s only natural! No one, once they’ve touched a hot stove and gotten burnt, is going to want to put their hand back on the burner without first checking if it’s on or not. Meaning: in life we’ve all made decisions that have had consequences that were difficult for us to manage. Therefore, in varying degrees depending on personality and individual characteristics, we subsequently tend to want to know how things are going to work out before we do them. That, in a nutshell, is why so many people turn to tarot and other divinatory methods in the first place. There’s the hope that there’s some method that can give us the perfect equation so that we can do things in just the right way so as to not ever have to deal with uncomfortable consequences and make everything go super smooth sailing.

Here’s where my method of reading the tarot quite possibly diverges drastically from the readers who will provide a standard and “tied up with a bow” nice and neat prediction. I won’t. I refuse to take away a client’s power to make their own choice. I feel that’s an unfair robbery of our divine gift of co-creating our reality together with the sacred force of the Universe itself. That might sound high and mighty, new agey and mystical, but it’s something I firmly believe in.

Another practical example. I am a single working mom of three preschool aged children. They’re coming to an age where they are gradually gaining some semblance of independence and being able to do things by themselves with support. If, when I see that my child is just on the edge of being able to climb up a rope net at the park, and instead of giving my child the opportunity to try it with the risk of slipping I run over and hoist him or her up and deposit them safely on the platform above, what service have I done? All the hard work they’ve completed to arrive at that point of just about being able to do it on their own, and I go and take away the chance for them to prove it to themselves that they can. Maybe they would have found a better way, a different way, a way that was more suited to themselves, but I didn’t give them that chance, so we’ll never really know.

That’s how I see this issue in reading the cards. Who am I to rob a client of the possibility to see that they can make a decision based on all the information they have at hand, and ultimately take responsibility for the outcome? No one can guarantee an outcome in life. And yet, win or lose, good or bad, success or failure, when we can learn to own our life experiences, we grow, just like the children on the playground. Sure, there’s always a risk that we may slip or even fall flat on our face, but even in that circumstance, we learn how to marshal and mobilize our unique resources in order to face the situation and continue moving forward.

In my view, the tarot can provide information that isn’t readily accessible to us. The tarot helps us to tap into our inner knowing, our own personal source of divine wisdom. What we then do with that sacred information, however, should belong to us and only to us. Creating a life that’s uniquely yours must by definition ultimately be created by you and you alone.

So, in answer to when?

When the time is right.

When you decide.

When you know, based on everything you have at your disposal, that you’re ready.

In other words: there is no concrete answer. This is the mystery and risk of being a co-creator of your story with the Universe. You can’t delegate that responsibility to anyone else, because even in refusing to choose, you’re making a choice, so why not do that in a more consciously creative way?

They even say that angels won’t intervene on your behalf unless you specifically ask them for help. The divine beings know and respect your soul’s inviolable right to free will in making decisions. So rather than asking when, ask yourself how to connect to that source that already knows the perfect timing for everything. It might sound impractical but in truth, it’s the most practical source of knowing that we have, once we learn how to develop it, trust it, and then ultimately act on it.

How do you approach questions of “when” in your work with the tarot? How do you feel about asking the tarot for specific timing on taking action? What methods have you found useful in your own life for knowing when the time is right to take action on a plan or decision?


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