Posts Tagged ‘gut feelings’

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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3 Smart Ways You Can Embrace Risk

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Effective FBI counterintelligence agents know that a basic question to be answered before a foreign spy can be recruited to work for the U.S. government is this: what kind of risk taker is the spy?

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By definition, risk means a situation involving exposure to danger. In the case of a foreign spy, the danger was getting caught and ending up in jail for treason—or worse.

Like many others, I tend to fear what I don’t understand. Taking risks has never been easy for me, whether it was getting married or applying for a new job. 

Our avoidance of risk is rooted from negative experiences that bruised our ego and are still lodged in our memory. Avoiding risks to life and health are common sense—most of the time. 

However, there is no success without risk. Risk-aversion is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.

A leader’s ability to make their own luck is closely woven into their ability to take smart risks, and their ability to take smart risks has a profound impact on happiness and life satisfaction. 

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark—Michelangelo

Here are 3 smart ways you can embrace risk and find true success:

 

1. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT FEELINGS

Smart leaders embrace risk by listening to what their gut instinct is telling them.

Research at the Brain and Creativity Institute has shown that gut-thinking is a good idea because there is a relationship between emotions, rational thinking, and our physical body. When we’ve accurately processed our emotions, they often accelerate our decision making process in the form of intuitions, hunches, and gut feelings.

For example, your brain can predict an outcome based on your perceptions (outside information) and your emotions (inside information). This combination of information results in a physical sensation—a gut feeling.

The quicker we get in touch with our emotions, the quicker we make our decisions. A good rule of thumb is not to just remember facts about past situations and their subsequent outcome—but also recall how you felt at the time.

Associating fact and emotion is critical to cultivating intuition, hunches, and gut feelings.

 

2. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR BRAIN

Smart leaders embrace risk by rewiring their brain to learn new skills.

Until recently, the brain was regarded as an immutable organ that did not change after early childhood.

Researchers Mike Merzenich and Norman Doidge have demonstrated that the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections—and this continues throughout life.

When we are faced with risk, we no longer need to revert to the same negative feelings that we once felt. If we take charge of our brain, we can train it to change its response to new situations and changes in our environment. 

We are no longer captive to the way we once thought about risk. Our memories, behaviors, responses, and habits are not our destiny! We have more control over the way our brain thinks than we once believed.

 

3. CHANGE THE WAY YOUR BRAIN LOOKS AT RISK

Smart leaders embrace risk by changing their brain to look at risk differently.

You can do this by focusing your attention on the things in life that are most important. Wherever your attention goes, energy follows.

Most importantly, what comes to the attention of your brain also molds your way of thinking. Mental toughness is controlling your thoughts to get the results you are after.

Start by intentionally noticing where your attention is at any given moment. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. What is happening in your body at that same moment? Are you feeling calm or a sense of panic?
  2. What is it about where your attention is focused that makes you feel this way? Is it a thought from your past that keeps playing in your head like a broken record? Or, is it exactly where you want to be?
  3. What do you need to do to shift your attention in a different direction?

Since we now know that the brain is constantly seeking stimulation and rewards, it’s easier to understand how our fear of risk and avoidance of failure impacts what captures our attention. 

A continuous molding of the brain is essential to knowing how to take smart risks. As with any skill, the more you practice and do it, the more natural it becomes.

Smart risk-taking can become a habit, like anything else. The simple practice of noticing where our attention is and bringing it back to where we want it to be plays a vital role in rewiring the way our brain looks at risk and uncertainty. 

By repeating the three steps above, you will begin to develop the habits necessary to take small, smart risks. Once we identify habits that add value to our decision-making process, we can take a closer look at the ones we struggle with, and the ones that are holding us back from having the life we want.

The risk not taken is the opportunity lost—LaRae Quy

What risks have you taken that have brought you satisfaction in life and business?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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