Intuition (the term used to refer to gut feelings in research) is frequently dismissed as mystical or unreliable — but there’s a deep neurological basis for it. 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.
Welding writes referencing surveys of top executives that a majority of leaders leverage feelings and experience when handling crises.
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.
Intuition is like a muscle — it can be strengthened with intentional practice.
Wilding recommends the following ways to begin leveraging your intuition as a helpful decision-making tool in your career.
Widing: Intuition as a helpful decision-making tool
- Discern gut feeling from fear. “Fear tends to be accompanied by bodily sensations of constricting or minimizing. … Intuition on the other hand has pulling energy, as if your choice is moving you toward your best interest, even if that means pursuing a risk or moving more slowly than others.
- Start by making minor decisions. “By starting small, you mitigate feelings of overwhelm and can gradually step your way up to larger, higher pressure decisions with greater self-trust. This approach is effective because it builds your distress tolerance, or your ability to emotionally regulate in the face of discomfort.
- Test drive your choices. “When you’re first starting to use your intuition, decisions may not come to you quickly. .. For two to three days, act as if you’ve chosen Option A, for example an opportunity in a new industry. Observe how you think and feel. Then, for another two to three days, try on Option B, say staying on your current career path. At the end of the experiment, take stock of your reactions.
- Try the snap judgment test. “Relying on rapid cognition, or thin-slicing, can allow your brain to make decisions without overthinking and help strengthen your trust in your gut. … On a piece of paper, write a question such as, “will taking the promotion make me happy?” List yes or no below the question. Leave a pen nearby. After a few hours, come back to the paper and immediately circle your answer. It might not be an answer you like, especially if the question is a big one, but there’s a good chance that you forced yourself to respond honestly.
- Fall back on your values. “Your core values represent what’s most important to you. Examples include freedom, diversity, stability, family, or calmness. … Take a moment today to reflect one what your top one to three values may be.
Source: Harvard Business Review
Keep in mind that intuition can’t flourish in busy, stressful environments. Give your mind space to wander and make connections. Remember, while intuition is not perfect, it’s also a decision-making tool you’re likely underutilizing at the moment. Give these strategies a try, and you’ll probably be surprised to find that your gut is a more powerful decision-making tool than you may have realized.
- How to Stop Overthinking and Start Trusting Your Gut | Harvard Business Review