We refer to gut feelings by names like instinct or hunch. It’s the capacity to understand something without using conscious thinking. You may receive answers and solutions yet be unaware of how or why.
It’s easy to dismiss your instincts in the age of big data. In research, intuition is typically disregarded as supernatural or untrustworthy. While intuition can be flawed, studies suggest that coupling gut impulses with logical reasoning helps you make quicker, better, and more precise judgments. It gives you more certainty in your decisions than depending just on intellect. This is especially true if you’re overthinking something or if there isn’t a single clear-cut, “right” alternative.
According to surveys of top management, the majority of leaders use feelings and experience while dealing with crises. Even the United States Navy has spent millions to assist sailors and Marines to improve their sixth sense, since intuition may outperform intelligence in high-stakes circumstances like combat.
Your Gut Feelings: The Science Behind Them
Intuition has a deep foundation in neurology. Scientists refer to the stomach as the “second brain.” Your digestive system is lined with a network of 100 million neurons. Your gut has more neurons than the spinal cord, indicating the gut’s remarkable processing skills.
When you approach a choice instinctively, your brain and gut work together to swiftly examine all of your memories, prior learnings, personal requirements, and inclinations, and then make the best option given the circumstances. In this sense, intuition is an experiential and emotional data point that leaders must respect.
Even if you aren’t actively engaging your intuition, you are most likely reaping its rewards daily. We know what it’s like to have a pit in your stomach. That’s your gut telling you something. For example, studying your direct reports’ tone of voice and facial expressions help you to detect when they’re disengaged. Similarly, performing a gut check on a product design might help guide your creative process.
How to Use Your Intuition to Make Better Decisions
People who describe themselves as extremely sensitive have more prominent gut sensations than most but are discouraged from using this sensory information. High sensitivity helps us to see, process, and synthesize information, especially knowledge about the emotional worlds of others. This shows that your intuition is better developed than other people’s since you are continually adding fresh information to your bank of knowledge about the world and yourself. The only complication is that you’ve been conditioned to underestimate your strength.
Intuition can be enhanced by deliberate practice just like any other muscle. Here are a few tips for using your intuition as a decision-making tool.
Distinguish gut feeling from fear
Fear is frequently associated with body sensations of confinement or minimization. You may feel stiff, desperate, or anxious. Fear has an energy that pushes as if you’re attempting to force anything or choosing an alternative to escape punishment, threat, or rejection. Fear is also governed by self-critical ideas that drive you to withdraw, submit, or sacrifice yourself.
Intuition has pulling energy that makes you feel as if your choice is leading you in your best interests. This is true even if our intuition prompts us to take a chance or go slower than others. Intuition is generally associated with feelings of anticipation and excitement, as well as calm and satisfaction. Physically, gut feelings tend to calm your body. Your intuition’s inner voice is grounded like a wise mentor.
Begin making minor choices
Speak up at a meeting without silencing yourself. Choose clothing that speaks to you without considering too many criteria. Taking rapid, decisive choices with minor consequences helps connect you with your instincts. Starting small reduces the overwhelming emotions so you can progressively move to more significant, higher-pressure decisions. This method is helpful because it increases your stress tolerance. By engaging in this practice, you can manage your emotions amid suffering.
Roleplay your decisions
Decisions may take some time to come to you when you first start using your intuition. Roleplay your decisions instead of overthinking everything. Act as though you’ve selected Option A, such as a new job in a new industry, for two to three days. Examine your thoughts and feelings. Then, for the next two to three days, try on Option B, which is to continue on your existing job path. Take note of your reactions at the end of the experiment. Simulating the outcome may reveal a lot about the desired goal and which option is ideal for you. You might also try flipping a coin and observing how you react to the outcome. If tails means rejecting a big deal, do you feel relief and joy? Or is it dread and fear?
Try the snap judgment test
Using rapid thinking allows your brain to make judgments without overthinking, which can improve your confidence in your gut. Try it using the “snap judgment test.” Write a question on a piece of paper, such as “would accepting the promotion make me happy?” List yes or no to the question below. Keep a pen nearby. Return to the paper after a few hours and promptly circle your response. It might not be the response you want, but chances are that you forced yourself to react honestly.
Tap into your values
Your values show what is most essential to you. Assume you’re angry after a hard day at work where very little went your way. Your values might help recognize the reason for your aggravation. For example, you value honesty and what’s generating stress is that you’re not communicating your authentic emotions on a critical topic. Your values help you discover what feels wrong internally so you can get perspective on the issue.
Take time now to consider your top one to three values. Next time you’re stumped to make a choice, remind yourself, “which action or decision puts me closer to my values?” We can release the tension that causes mental loops by going inside ourselves to study how our values impact our gut.
Intuition cannot thrive in a frantic, stressful atmosphere. Allow your thoughts to roam and find connections. Remember that, while intuition isn’t flawless, it’s also a decision-making skill that you’re probably underutilizing right now. Use these tactics, and you might be shocked to discover that your gut instinct is a far more potent decision-making tool than you previously believed.