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:


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.


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.”


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.


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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7 Ways Smart Leaders Embrace Risk

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

To embrace risk means to move into a situation that involves exposure to danger. In the case of an FBI investigation, it could mean a drawn weapon. For entrepreneurs, startups, and business owners, it could mean how to evaluate the competition or start a new business.

Risk - mouse in mug

Like many others, I tend to fear what I don’t understand. I have never liked to take risks and I bet most of you don’t either. But the reality is this: if you want to break out of the pack, you have got to make yourself visible, and visibility and risk often go hand-in-hand.

Our ability to achieve goals is related to how we embrace risk in all areas of our life. When we engage in any action where the outcome is unknown, we take a risk. We become smart at taking a risk when we learn how to analyze and assess the situation. Some risk is worth it, and some is not. The more competent and capable we are at making those distinctions, the more successful we will become.

Intelligent risk-taking is important as we start a new businesses but equally important as we grow established ones. Our ability to make our own luck is closely woven into our ability to be smart about the way we embrace risk.

As leaders, we not only need to be smart about the way in which we embrace risk, we need to be smart about the way we guide and direct our team. We need to help them embrace risk in a way that is productive and efficient.

Here are 7 ways smart leaders embrace risk themselves and help their team:

1. Listen To Gut Feelings

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 accurately process 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.

Tip: You will never develop and trust your gut feelings, hunches, and intuition until you can associate 1) facts about past situation with 2) the feelings you also experienced at the time. Threading the two together can give you invaluable insight but it takes hard work. It’s not too late to start. Take notes on events throughout your day and then reflect on the emotions you experienced. What was the correlation?

2. Rewire Your Brain

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 embrace 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.

Tip: This research reminds us we are no longer captive to the way we once thought about risk. Remember that 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

Since we now know that the brain constantly seeks 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 if we to learn how to take a smarter risk. 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.

Tip: Intentionally notice where your attention is at any given moment. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. What happens in your body at that same moment? Do you feel 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 plays 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?

Repeat the three steps above and 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.

4. Go Public So Everyone Is On The Same Page

Smart leaders distinguish the areas in their company or organization where risk is encouraged from the areas where it is not.  There will most likely be specific areas, such as customer service or financial commitments, where it’s not a good idea to embrace risk. If these areas run smooth and do not need to be tweaked, make sure everyone knows.

Tip: Draw clear boundaries around those areas where innovation is not needed (at this time) and those areas where new solutions or approaches are welcome.

5. Use The Right Words

Language drives behavior and creates a mindset about what is acceptable and what is not. Risk implies the potential for failure. When we focus on words like failure and unsuccessful, we look at the situation in the wrong context. Failure and mistakes do not lead to success—smart choices in the way we embrace risk leads to success.

Tip: Use words like experiment or explore to describe the way you want your team to embrace risk. It will create a more open attitude toward risk and innovation. When you use words like failure and unsuccessful, you imply a correlation between risk and mistakes.

6. Make Sure Risk Is Small And Nimble

When it comes to innovation, it needs to move fast. It has a better chance of success if the risk is small and nimble. It can be shut down, or, amped up sooner. Small teams are faster than big ones because there is less bureaucracy and layers of management.

Tip: Create teams that can move ideas and decisions with speed and accuracy. A sense of urgency tends to encourage smarter ideas.

7. Establish Clear Criteria For Funding Projects

There is nothing more disruptive to a team’s moral than a lack of clear communication from leadership. Everyone gets pumped up about a project only to learn later than there is no funding to take it to the next level.

Tip: Fund each defined phase for the project so every team member knows the terms of the deadline. If the idea doesn’t pan out in the designated timeframe, the team is disbanded. There are no surprises for the team.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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