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Harvard Business Review (HBR) wants you to learn how to cease overthinking and begin trusting your gut and if you are like me and your gut is 10X the size of your brain… this just may make sense (see the article How to Stop Overthinking and Start Trusting Your Gut). The article posits (The author of this blog, whose words you’re reading at the moment frequently refers to himself in the third person and calls himself the author for the same reason the distinguished gentleman, presently pecking away at the keyboard uses words like posits and that reason is to appear educated and intellectually superior to the flotsam and jetsam common folk who inhabit this little blue ball circling the sun. Back to our story.) This article posits that people often dismiss intuition as a mystical, unreliable force.

I believe intuition is the unconscious process of deriving a conclusion as the result of the collection and accumulation of facts gathered either knowingly or unknowingly and applying pattern recognition. While intuition may often be correct, a cause of failure is often a lack of process. If one could deconstruct the data and apply a disciplined process, intuition accuracy would improve immensely… but of course, that wouldn’t be intuition… it would be logical reasoning.

The Science Behind Your Gut Feelings

Despite popular belief, there’s a deep neurological basis for intuition. Scientists call the stomach the “second brain” for a reason. There’s a vast neural network of 100 million neurons lining your entire digestive tract. That’s more neurons than are found in the spinal cord, which points to the gut’s incredible processing abilities.

When you approach a decision intuitively, your brain works in tandem with your gut to quickly assess all your memories, past learnings, personal needs, and preferences and then makes the wisest decision given the context. In this way, intuition is a form of emotional and experiential data that leaders need to value.

Highly sensitive and empathetic leaders have a well-developed ability to perceive, process, and derive accurate conclusions that exceed the ability of others because these sensitive leaders constantly add new data and patterns to their data banks resulting in an increasingly accurate, Artificial-Intelligence-like, Non-Artificial Intelligence, decision processing system.
Throughout our lives, our teachers, mentors, and “thought-leaders,” warned us to abandon intuition for the pure scientific process resulting in intuition atrophy.
Ms. Wilding, says (hmm says, a much less impressive word than posits… no?) that one must follow these steps to better develop and trust their gut.
  • Distinguish your gut feelings from fear – One actually feels fear in their gut, and fear brings on the fight or flight response. Your heart races. Your skin may flush. Your heart rate increases. Fear tends to be dominated by self-critical thoughts that cause you to feel on edge. Intuition has a different energy, an energy of choice and forward movement. Think about what your gut is telling you… is it fear or instinct?
  • Start Small – Let your intuition guide you on the little decisions in life. What outfit should you wear today? Does this outfit make me look fat? Speak up when a thought pops in your head (as long as that thought isn’t, I’d like to tell my boss he’s a friggin imbecile). Evaluate the success of these small decisions to gain confidence in your gut.
  • A/B Test Your Intuition – For those bigger choices, career moves, mergers, hiring, or investments, write down what your gut tells you. That’s choice A. Then go about a more disciplined repeatable decision-making process. Execute choice B and think about what would be different if you chose choice A.
  • Fallback on your values – What are the 3 most important things to you? Integrity, Freedom, Family, Reputation, Looking Really Cool? Weigh your thoughts and plans against those values.

Think about it? Are you overthinking or underthinking your decisions? Will increased confidence in your intuition help you be a more effective leader? Would you like to discuss this with an executive coach who helps leaders make better decisions every day? Try a complimentary coaching session by pressing that little button below. Let’s discuss!