Go with your gut: Harnessing the power of intution
Intuition. It’s that voice in the back of your head telling you that you should bring a raincoat or umbrella. It’s that sinking feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when feeling that you’ve been betrayed. It’s the instant connection that you have with your best friend. It’s that hunch that you should make that investment or take a business risk.
Intuition has long been studied. From Aristotle to Carl Jung’s groundbreaking studies in the early 20th Century. More recently, intuition has been linked to successful executive management and been favored by successful individuals like Steve Jobs, who said, “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”
However, intuition also has a bad reputation. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, a German social psychologist and director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, told The New York Times that is because “it is not thought to be rational.” That can be a problem in “some situations, that demands too much information. Plus, it’s slow.”
Dr. Gigerenzer adds, “When a person relies on their gut feelings and uses the instinctual rule of thumb ‘go with your first best feeling and ignore everything else,’ it can permit them to outperform the most complex calculations.”
A gut feeling, Dr. Gigerenzer says, is “a judgment that is fast. It comes quickly into a person’s consciousness. The person doesn’t know why they have this feeling. Yet, this is strong enough to make an individual act on it. What a gut instinct is not is a calculation. You do not fully know where it comes from.”
Despite the misconceptions, intuition is beneficial. It’s a form of intelligence that allows you to understand and use information that will guide you throughout life.In fact, Bruce Kasanoff makes the argument in Forbes that intuition, is in fact, the highest form of intelligence.
“Sometimes, a corporate mandate or group-think or your desire to produce a certain outcome can cause your rational mind to go in the wrong direction. At times like these, it is intuition that holds the power to save you,” writes Kasanoff.
“That ‘bad feeling’ gnawing away at you is your intuition telling you that no matter how badly you might wish to talk yourself into this direction, it is the wrong way to go.”
“Smart people listen to those feelings,” concludes Kasanoff. “And the smartest people among us – the ones who make great intellectual leaps forward – cannot do this without harnessing the power of intuition.”
How Intuition Enhances Your Life
“There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions,” Ivy Estabrooke, a program manager at the Office of Naval Research, told the New York Times in 2012.But, what exactly do intuitive people do differently and how does that enhance their lives?
They listen to their inner voice, instead of ignoring it. Slow down, spend some time by yourself, and listen to that voice in the back of your head. We often make our best decisions when we balance our instincts and rational thinking.
They practice empathetic accuracy. This means that they can read other’s body language and tone of voice to understand their thoughts and feelings. It’s an effective way to develop more meaningful relationships.
They create. “Creativity does its best work when it functions intuitively,” writes researcher and author Carla Woolf.
They practice mindfulness. “Mindfulness can help you filter out the mental chatter, weigh your options objectively, tune into your intuition and ultimately make a decision that you can stand behind completely,” explains the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.
They trust their gut. There’s a reason why we refer to intuition as a “gut feeling.” Sometimes our body is telling us that something’s wrong. We either feel sick to our stomachs or still to get clammy. Don’t ignore your “Spidey” senses. They’re telling you that something isn’t right.
They analyze their dreams. While some dreams are nonsense, there are plenty of other dreams that are trying to tell us something. Don’t dismiss these dreams. The ask, “Where did this dream come from?” and “What can I take away from it?”
They let go of negative emotions. Your intuition can fail when you’re depressed or angry. And, those negative emotions aren’t good for your health or productivity as well. Those who are intuitive, however, are able to accept and let go of these emotions.
Make no mistake about it. Intuition is a powerful part of our intelligence that can assist us in making better decisions.
Tips to Harness the Power of Intuition
Thankfully, intuition is something that we can turn up by following these tips:
What is your gut feeling? When making a decision, you’re probably going to be competing with your thoughts and your gut. Instead of overthinking or overanalyzing the situation, consider how you feel about making this decision, as opposed to thinking about it. Keep in mind that when listening to your gut you should be calm.
Inside or outside? Are there outside forces, your family, friends, or colleagues, pushing you in a certain direction? That’s not always a bad thing. But, remember, these outside forces always have an agenda, so take their advice with caution. Unlike your inner sense that always has your best interest at heart without an agenda attached.
Keep a journal. “Writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper—even if you ‘think’ you have little to say — helps the nonconscious mind open up,” advises Francis P. Cholle, author of “The Intuitive Compass: Why the Best Decisions Balance Reason and Instinct.”
Knowing or thinking? “I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics,” wrote Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in his memoir. “I tend to make up my mind about people within thirty seconds of meeting them.” In other words, sometimes we just know an answer before being asked and having time to think about.
Silence your inner critic. “Allow the inner dialogues to happen without fear or ridicule,” writes Cholle.
Remember, your gut feeling could be wrong. While you should listen to your gut or inner voice, there are times when it can be wrong. Before making any rash, risky, or major decisions, make sure that you instincts gel with your thoughts. For instance, you may have the gut feeling that you need to start a business, but you’re still going to need to think about your industry, audience, marketing, etc. After your research, you may decide that you need to develop a different business because the one you had won’t be profitable.
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John Rampton is serial entrepreneur who now focuses on helping people to build amazing products and services that scale. He is founder of the online payments company Due. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine. Time Magazine recognized John as a motivational speaker that helps people find a "Sense of Meaning" in their lives. He currently advises several companies in the bay area.