Updated: Jan 14
How do you feel about using your gut feeling? Does it feel risky? Irrational? Unpracticed? Unpredictable? If you answered yes to that, trust me, you're not alone. Some of the most talented and immensely effective people in the world attribute their great success to one powerful, yet readily available, ability: their gut instinct. And that one ability is something we are all born with, yet very few of us actually work to develop beyond even the most basic level. Trusting that instinct, or intuition, takes practice because it goes against the better judgment of our logical mind.
For me, there is always a fight between my mind and my soul. The mind keeps me doubting and worrying and can lead to a road of pain and confusion; on the positive side, my mind also keeps me grounded. But the soul seems to be quietly whispering and offering encouragement of kindness and endurance; my soul seems to fuel my hope and belief. Unfortunately, in true “Jen Fashion”, I tend to listen to my logical, analytical mind and I turn everything over a hundred different ways, as I try to find “the right answer”.
I need to work harder at allowing myself to feel my way through situations with my soul, and not to let my mind judge, compare or destroy. While there is a time and place for my logical mind, I find that it often gets caught in over-analysis when what was really needed in the moment was TO LISTEN. Listening to my soul, really my gut instinct or intuition, allows me to find a different perspective and additional options for, seemingly, no-win situations.
SO WHAT IS GUT INSTINCT?
“Gut instincts are the sum total of your experiences — millions and millions and millions of them. And that sum total enables you to make reasonable decisions,” says Bob Lutz, who used that instinct to turn around Chrysler in the 1990’s. Instinct, the opposite of logical reasoning, tell us viscerally if something feels right or wrong. And it signals us in a variety of ways:
• When a decision isn’t right, we may experience sweaty palms, sleeplessness, an upset stomach, or loss of energy.
• If our gut is telling us we’ve made the right decision, we may feel a sense of peace and ease, or tingling and goose bumps on arms or legs.
When people say they’re “listening to their gut,” they really mean that their intuition is guiding them in making a decision. We all have this innate ability to listen to that inner voice telling us not to go through with something, or that the person asking us for help might have ulterior motives. We can essentially decode this indescribable gut feeling we get in certain situations, because that pang in your stomach, sudden bout of fatigue, or strong urge to help the person next to you can reveal more than you think.
Scientists say that our subconscious stores all kinds of information, knowledge and experiences, and they connect with each other in that magical moment when it comes to making a decision. It is suggested that there is an inner voice, a feeling, that tells us what to do. But because we don’t know where it comes from- and why it knows what to do - we simply don’t trust it. We hesitate.
HOW TO FIND YOUR GUT
Sometimes we have trouble tapping into our instincts. The noise in our heads from over-reasoning cancels out the signals that could help guide us. Unstuck, the free app, has put together four unscientific but effective methods to locate your gut instinct.
1. Procrastinate. This is the one time that distracting yourself can help get you unstuck. By doing something else, you clear the clutter in your brain. Physical activity is a great way to focus elsewhere. Reading a novel, going to a movie, doing chores, or shopping also are good distractions.
2. Daydream. By letting your mind wander, it will take you places that reasoning can’t. This mental meandering will calm your thoughts, making way for feelings.
3. Set a time limit. When you push yourself to make a decision under time pressure, you don’t have time to think, only to feel.
4. Test your feelings. Once you make a decision, notice how your body responds to it. Are you anxious? Do you feel at ease?
Along with allowing space for our intuition to flourish, we also have to be willing to listen to the messages that are being sent. Here are 3 gut feelings that you don’t want to ignore:
1. “I DON’T FEEL GOOD.”
If something in your body doesn’t feel right, you should listen to this feeling before it gets any worse. Your body instinctively knows when something is off balance, and those initial warning signs warrant your acknowledgment and further investigating to find out what your intuition is trying to tell you.
On another note, pay attention to how you feel every time you interact with someone. Do you feel drained, anxious or depressed? These feelings have come to the surface for a reason – by listening to yourself intuitively, you can determine which people in your life suck your energy dry, and who actually makes you feel alive. Your intuition speaks to you in many ways, so never ignore any “off” feelings you get, no matter how subtle.
2. “THIS SITUATION SEEMS DANGEROUS.”
I bet you’ve had situations where your intuition was on high alert and you believe, in your gut, that you dodged a bullet—I know I have, without question. The fight-or-flight response in humans was designed to warn us of immediate danger, and move us to act on that feeling. While our gut instincts can have flaws, you should listen to them regardless – they might just save your life.
3. “I SHOULD HELP THAT PERSON.”
Gut instincts don’t always indicate something negative. Have you ever noticed how everyone scrambles to offer whatever help they can after a natural or man-made disaster? This strong desire to assist our fellow humans comes prewired in our evolution as a species. Offer help even if the person in question doesn’t ask for it – nonverbal cues can offer much more insight than words in these types of situations.
Like everything else, allowing a new skill into your process takes time. The great thing is, you have this skill built in—you just need to use it. Listen to your gut feelings instead of brushing them aside. Your intuition may not always steer you right, but it can be a useful first step in decision-making, reading people, and guiding your choices. Remember what Einstein said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. “