Posts Tagged ‘assumptions’

4 Ways Intuition Can Help You Make Better Decisions

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside for 24 years would dismiss intuition as emotional and irrational. Yet we all relied upon it to make good decisions when confronted with the unknown.

For me, intuition was often sensing the direction of a furtive movement during an arrest, knowing that someone was still alive under rubble, or feeling that there was something awry in a suspect’s answer.

It’s not only FBI agents who need to harness the power of intuition. Investors find the stock market a crapshoot, entrepreneurs are surprised by unexpected advances by the competition, and business leaders can never count on the bottom line.

We have been conditioned to believe that conscious thought is more important than unconscious knowledge.

The rules and principles that guide instinct and intuition are unsophisticated but surprisingly accurate. Gerd Gigerenzer, a psychologist at the Max Plank Institute for Human Development in Berlin, makes an important point in his book “Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of Unconscious” when he argues that instinct and intuition are not impulsive—they have their own brain-based rationale.

Here are 4 ways you can use intuition to make better decisions:

1. NOTICE NAGGING FEELINGS

Start developing your intuition by paying attention to clues in noncritical situations. For example, image that you are talking to another person and they make a “throwaway” statement, something that seems to be an afterthought, maybe adding some additional details for no apparent reason. And yet, everything is for a reason.

Pay attention to what your gut instinct is telling you about your friend’s throwaway statement. It must have meant something or they wouldn’t have mentioned it. Follow up with your friend and ask for clarification; then see how accurate you were in reading your own intuition about the matter. 

Many times we are so intimately familiar with the subject that we fail to notice a new clue. Be diligent and notice the niggling, small things that stick in your mind. That is your unconscious memory trying to bring something to your conscious attention.

How To Make It Work For You: Recall a time when you couldn’t get rid of a nagging feeling about someone or something. In retrospect, what was your unconscious trying to tell you? What did you do about it? Keep track of nagging feelings and notice when, and how, they helped you chose the best response.

2. PURSUE INFORMATION RIGOROUSLY

In my investigations, I had hunches. I couldn’t always explain why I thought pursuing a particular line of questioning would lead to results, but I trusted those instincts and went ahead.

Testing my hunch required a deep dive into the subject and the need to study numerous possibilities. As I continued, my gut instinct told me what was, or wasn’t, important.

Intuition requires you to do the legwork. You can’t sit in an armchair and expect to be enlightened by some mystical wave of understanding. The more you educate yourself about the subject, knowing the right answer becomes more about understanding what information is important and what can be discarded.

How To Make It Work For You: Intuition often shows up as a turmoil or disturbances in our mind. Hold back from making a decision based on these feelings until you’ve vigorously collected all the information you can about each and every “hunch.”

3. TEST YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

While you are holding back from making a decision, use this time to test the assumptions that support your hunches and gut instinct. 

In my investigations, I asked myself how the assumptions I was making about each of my hunches might be wrong. This allowed me to logically look at all possible outcomes without bias. In other words, I didn’t weigh one course of action with more heft than another one.

We run into trouble with intuition when we become so attached to what we think is the right outcome that we dismiss other information that points to another conclusion.

How To Make It Work For You: Remain objective by testing the assumptions that support your intuition. If you’re correct, testing will only confirm you’re on the right path.

4. TRUST YOUR DOUBTS

Intuition that has been noticed (through nagging feelings), fed (by rigorous pursuit of information), and properly vetted (testing assumptions) will ultimately lead to something that is more concrete.

We’ve all experienced the feeling of doubt, apprehension, and even fear when it comes to following our gut.

Acknowledge these feelings because they are ways your subconscious is trying to tell you that something is there. You may not always be in a dangerous situation, but it’s important to notice when, and how, feelings come up so you recognize them when it does matter.

The key in developing intuition so you can make better decisions is to constantly explore and discover why you are experiencing feelings of doubt. You need to make better decisions so you can avoid unfavorable outcomes, but intuition must be followed by action. Otherwise, it remains nothing more than curiosity.

How To Make It Work For You: Intuition fails when it’s loaded with inaccurate information. Its not magical knowledge to be downloaded upon request. Roll up your shirtsleeves, do the work, and use your brain.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

5 Ways To Train Your Mind To Think Like A Winner

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

One of the first things I learned as an FBI Agent was that to be successful, I would need to think like a winner.

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When I pulled a gun to make an arrest, there was no room for error. Not only did I need to be right, I needed to come out on the winning side.

My state of mind directly impacted my performance. I needed to be mindful and in the present moment. To remain in complete control, I had to control surging thoughts, even if I was nervous, stressed and under pressure.

To think like a winner is not rocket science. It sounds easy, but many entrepreneurs and business owners fail to do this because they are not consciously aware of their thoughts.

Without awareness of what we are thinking, we cannot control where the mind goes. And as we all know, the mind can sometimes have a life of its own.

Here are 5 ways to train your mind to think like a winner:

1. Run The Show To Think Like A Winner

Control your thoughts rather than letting your thoughts control you.

To do this, you will need to become more connected to them throughout your day. It isn’t easy to control our thought process. We don’t notice how little control we have over the way our mind thinks. One thought follows another, and out of habit, we let our subconscious take us through most of the day.

We arrived at where we are today because our thoughts have brought us here. But where we end up tomorrow depends a great deal on where our thoughts take us.

Meditation is an excellent way move out of your subconscious and be an observer of your own thoughts, even the ones that frighten you.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

As an investigator, I learned to continually question my assumptions about almost everything! By doing so, I trained my mind to be alert about everything going on around me.

Move out of your subconscious and intentionally choose to observe, question, challenge, or dismiss new pieces of information that come your way.

2. Stimulate Your Mind To Think Like A Winner

Introduce humor and play with ideas to stimulate your mind. Train your brain to seek out new information. You will no longer need to rely upon your external circumstances to provide mental stimulation.

This can be extremely important when we’re in a situation where we feel trapped or immobilized.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

My fellow FBI agents frequently used humor to defray tense and stressful situations. Humor helps our mind change the way it views our stressors. Laughter is a physical response that relaxes us.

If you train your mind to be playful, it will make it easier to take in new information. Then use this new information to help you think through problems.

3. Visualize Your Success To Think Like A Winner

The benefits of visioning our performance is based on solid science. If we give our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal, it ensures the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful mental toughness tool to steer us toward success.

It is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. It enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards.

A Harvard study has demonstrated that our brain cannot tell the difference between a visualized image and reality.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

Defensive tactics was an exercise in visualization because we were taught how to anticipate the movements of a person avoiding arrest. By visualizing what could go wrong, we prepared ourselves to be successful.

You can do the same thing: if you have a speaking engagement or a meeting, visualize what you will say and how you will say it.

4. Tap Into Your Inner Self To Think Like A Winner

Vicktor Frankl, a Holocaust and concentration camp survivor, described the source of his strength under extreme adversity. Frankl concludes that the most important trait of survivors is a strong sense of doing their best in all circumstances. The key is not to be primarily concerned with how to advance their own interests.

The actions of the survivors are motivated by an inner voice that taps into their sense of purpose—not by their external conditions. They had the mental toughness to keep moving ahead, regardless of their circumstances.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

While the FBI is not a touchy-feely group of people, they are able to tap into their purpose and passion. It’s what motivates them to chase terrorists and other criminals.

If your only goal is to make money and buy more stuff, you are thinking liking a loser, not a winner. You are one of the narcissistic people who fall apart when external conditions turn threatening. You’re only intrinsically motivated to help yourself. 

5. Get Specific Sooner To Think Like A Winner

Getting specific requires us to:

  1. Prioritize and make choices.
  2. Identify our unique message
  3. Become a master of a few things instead of a “know it all.”
  4. Be humble about the things in which we are not an expert
  5. Foster gratitude for the things in which we do excel

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU:

The shotgun approach works only if you are not sure of your options. A laser focused approach is what will yield the best results once a decision is made.

Smart people specify, prioritize, and focus on specific opportunities that they know will most likely lead to their success. These 5 steps outlined above are embedded in common sense and validated by top notch research and science. Discovering how to make them work for you is your own secret to success.

Training your mind to think like a winner is not always easy, and like anything else, it takes practice.

How have your trained yourself to think like a winner?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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6 Reasons People Don’t Listen To You

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Recently, I was talking to an individual whom I truly like, but we were in a crowded room filled with lots of people I knew. I wanted to listen to her but my eye wandered over her shoulder as I mentally prioritized those I needed to contact as soon as our conversation ended.

6 Reasons People Don't Listen To You

My friend tried to catch my eye and drag me back into our conversation. I nodded mechanically while my eye kept sneaking over her shoulder to take in the social patterns developing in the room.

Eventually, she said, “I’ve lost you. Let’s talk later.”

I felt terrible, but I knew she was right. I was pretending to listen as I recited a mental tally of whom I needed to talk to before the evening ended.

Situations like this can range from annoying to destructive. According to Pamela CooperVice President of the International Listening Association, “It takes hard work to really listen and it takes a great deal of concentration.”

If you want people to listen to you, you must have the mental toughness to be brutally honest with yourself.

Think about the way you listen to others,  or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a good friend or your spouse for their honest evaluation. To listen well, and be a good listener, it takes more than just hearing what the person is saying—it requires a conscious desire, conscientiousness, and practice.

People don’t listen to you because you don’t:

1. Stay Engaged

To be a good listener, you have to be present—which means not being preoccupied either physically or mentally. Dump the clutter from your mind and pay attention to what is being communicated to you now.

When you are distracted by other people or technology, it makes the other person feel unimportant.

TIPS:

  • If you’re in a busy room, focus on the person with whom you are talking rather than what is going on around you
  • If you’re talking on the phone, turn your back on the computer and give the person your full attention
  • Stop thinking about arguments, reports to be finished, or where you are going to dinner

2. Open Up Your Body Language

Body language communicates what you are thinking and feeling more accurately than the words you use.

No matter how interested you appear to be, if your feet are turned toward the nearest exit you are signaling that you are anxious to make an escape. Crossing arms or hands in pockets also exhibits nervous behavior. These small physical gestures can discourage others from approaching you.

TIPS:

  • Lean forward and nod occasionally
  • Face the person who is speaking
  • Open up your posture by uncrossing the arms
  • Make eye contact

3. Leave Your Assumptions Behind

If your brain thinks that it knows the answer, it will only accept information that confirms your beliefs.

Making assumptions and generalizations are hard-wired into our thinking. But, if you can generate genuine interest in the topic, or person, you can over-ride this tendency and create an open mind.

When listening to another person, it may help to assume you know nothing about what they are telling you.

TIPS:

  • Check your assumption out loud with the person with whom you are talking
  • Ask a question such as, “So you mean…” and let the person confirm or correct

4. Ask Questions

The two most powerful words in a conversation are: “Tell me.”

Questions are incredibly important in any conversation. People like to be heard, and when you ask a question, it signals that you are not only listening to them but that you are also hearing what they have to say.

If you take an genuine interest in the activities of others, they will return the favor.

Questions allow you to dig deeper and discover more about specific areas on which you are unclear so you can gain a better understanding of a person’s priorities, values, and interests. Because of this, it is easier to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships.

TIPS:

  • Open-ended questions provide great opportunities for people to elaborate on specific topics
  • Questions keep conversations flowing
  • Asking for clarification helps you understand someone’s point of view
  • Asking questions of yourself will keep you from becoming defensive

5. Create Empathy

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

If you can develop the ability to hunt out shared experiences, it is easier to take in the big picture and create empathy.

TIPS:

  • Suspend judgment—even if you have firm beliefs on the subject
  • Take in the entire message with no interruptions
  • Seek out bits of information with which you agree so you can find some shared ground
  • Place yourself in the other person’s shoes

6. Shut Up And Listen

There is a time to speak and a time to shut up and listen. Effective communication requires reciprocity. If you aren’t a good listener, do not be surprised when others don’t make listening to you a top priority.

TIPS: Shut up if: 

  • You don’t have something significant to contribute to the conversation
  • There isn’t something positive to say
  • You don’t intend to hold your part of the bargain
  • The only contribution is to whine and complain

How have you become a more effective listener?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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