The power of trusting your gut
Studies show that pairing gut feelings with analytical thinking can help you make better, faster, and more accurate decisions while giving you more confidence in your choices.
How many times have you heard the phrase “follow your gut”, “trust your intuition”, or “go with what feels right”?
In research, this “gut feeling” is often referred to as intuition. Intuition is linked to instinct and an ability to immediately understand something or have the answer without necessarily knowing how or why. Most people, however, are unaware that it’s actually based on deep neurological and physiological evidence from your gut - quite literally.
The science behind gut feelings
Scientists call the stomach the “second brain” and there is an obvious reason for it. It comprises 100 million neurons lining the digestive tract and communicating with the brain. In fact, the gut-brain axis is one of the most powerful relationships in our body.
Therefore, when you approach a decision intuitively, your brain works with your gut to assess all your memories, past learnings, personal needs, and preferences to make the wisest decision given the specific context. Intuition can thus be seen as a form of emotional and experiential data. It is invaluable, and plays a critical role in your leadership and decision making processes.
How to flex your gut muscle
This is where sensitive leaders have the advantage. Being highly sensitive means that you have stronger gut feelings than most. The trait of high sensitivity contributes to perceiving and processing information more deeply, including data about others’ emotional worlds. And for this exact reason, your intuition is more developed than others. Because you’re constantly adding new data to your bank of knowledge about the world and yourself.
However, if you’re not considered a highly sensitive being, it doesn’t mean that your intuition is inaccessible or simply out of the equation for you. The gut is like a muscle that needs constant exercise. And the good news is that it can be strengthened with determination and enough intentional practice.
Here are 5 ways to improve your intuition and apply your gut as a powerful decision-making tool in your career:
1. Separate gut feeling from fear
Fear makes you feel constricted, incapable or small. Whereas intuition makes you feel grounded, calm and content. Ask yourself, is this decision drawing me towards my best interest or pushing me further from it?
2. Start with small decisions
Taking quick, decisive actions with small consequences can help amplify your intuition. Gradually move towards larger, higher-pressure decisions, and see your self-trust grow.
3. Test your choices
This is as easy as flipping a coin. Ask a question and make a decision based on heads or tails. You know that feeling you get when the outcome is revealed? - there is your answer.
4. Do the snap-judgment test
On a piece of paper, write a question such as, “will taking the promotion make me happy?” List “Yes” and “No” below the question and walk away from the paper. After a few hours, come back and immediately circle what feels right to you.
5. Know your values
Values are core to who we are as human beings. Take a moment to reflect on your own top three values. Use them to check in with yourself and figure out what feels off internally to gain perspective on the situation.
If you’re serious about strengthening your gut feeling, it’s important to keep in mind that intuition can’t improve in a busy, stressful environment. Your mind needs time and space to wander and recognise what your gut is trying to say. It is also important to remember that intuition and the practice thereof is never perfect. However, when practiced correctly it can be a key decision-making tool in your life and your career.