Gut Feelings

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~ Albert Einstein

Intuition is part of the human experience. It’s the ability to know something without thinking consciously about it. It can be more reliable than thinking, if you’re attuned to it and able to listen to it.

Ancient civilizations believed that your gut was the seat of your emotions, and of wisdom that expresses itself physically rather than in words.  Modern, rational people tend to discount the idea of intuition. Most of us think we need reasons to make decisions make sense, and we rationalize decisions after we make them because we feel silly saying they were based solely on a tingle at the base of our spine.

Intuition can help in making decisions, says Joseph Bikart, the author of The Art of Decision Making; How We Move from Indecision to Smart Decision Making. He writes, “One advantage of intuition, compared with rational thought, is that it offers a shortcut to decision making, obviating the need to master mountains of data. This does not mean you should make your decisions blind, on the evidence of intuition alone. Instead, intuition allows you to practise the technique of “thin slicing” – using small data samples instead of sifting the huge amount of information theoretically available to you.”

When you’re facing an important decision, you might choose to do research. The more information you have, you reason, the better your decision will be. And you might be right.

But there is such a thing as too much information. It’s easy to get lost in the data, to fall victim to what’s fondly called “analysis paralysis.” In fact, research can be a form of procrastination, of putting off decisions because you’re worried about making the wrong one.  That’s when it might be time for a gut check.

If you want to get better at listening to your intuition, here are Bikart’s suggestions:

  • Allow yourself time. Intuition happens quickly but may take hours, days or weeks for you to process, depending on the situation. Do not force yourself into schedules that make it difficult for intuition to play its part in your decision making.
  • Find a quiet place where you can think. Pondering the situation in a quiet place, far from the action, makes it likelier that intuition will come up with the answers you seek.
  • Sleep on it. Think about the problem you want to solve or the choice you need to make before you go to sleep at night. You’d be surprised at how active your brain is while you’re unconscious. It processes information differently, without constraints from the rational part of your brain. It’s not unusual to wake up feeling like you’re closer to an answer.

Here’s how my husband and I have used my gut feelings to help make a difficult decision. It works best when we have two options with relatively the same value. Reviewing all the pros and cons can make you crazy after a while. So I’ll write each option on a scrap of paper and make a vow that we’ll abide by whichever I draw from a hat. The commitment is important because you’ll be listening to your gut as you unfold the paper.

It’s option B. Pause. Listen to your gut. Did you feel a nudge of disappointment? Or of joy? That’s nudge is probably a nudge in the right direction for you right now. That’s the power of intuition.

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