You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. — Steve Jobs
When I look back at the most important things in my life: choosing jobs, friends, a husband, getting pregnant, letting go of jobs, friends, a husband, moving house, buying a house, launching important projects, making decisions on important crossroads in life, there always was ONE huge element that made them right or wrong: my gut feeling.
Trusting my gut turned those decisions into the right decisions. Trusting facts and figures, opinions of other people, my head, my heart, over my gut, turned those decisions into the ‘wrong’ ones. I put ‘wrong’ because even the wrong decisions turned out to be good decisions, because I learned a lesson. But for me, the biggest lesson was that I need to and can trust my gut feeling.
What is a gut feeling?
It is made up of the cognitive, emotional, and social repertoire we call intuition, a suite of ‘gut’ feelings that have evolved over the millennia specifically for making decisions. It is unique to you. To some this is a tingling in the stomach, others feel a flow going through the body, for others again it’s just an inkling, a thought, a little voice.
It is that feeling that you know, without knowing why you know. This knowing is based on
- your past experiences,
- your personal needs and preferences (how you want to feel), and
- things that are happening in the present (feelings, situations, people…).
Make sure that you always follow your heart and your gut, and let yourself be who you want to be, and who you know you are. And don’t let anyone steal your joy. – Jonathan Groff
Fear or intuition?
Both fear and intuition are felt in your gut. That is why they can be easily confused.
To know the difference, there are two things to consider:
- Intuition is about the NOW. There are no worries about the future or from the past.
Fear reflects past wounds or future worries.
- Intuition is neutral and un-emotional and feels expansive.
Fear feels restrictive.
If you want to trust your gut when buying a new house and you have this feeling about ‘oh but will I have enough money to pay for the house plus the renovation?’ or ‘I am not sure I can take this decision alone’ that is FEAR talking.
If you get a fuzzy feeling however, that says ‘and my couch could go here’ or ‘ooooooh, this is it…could this be it…? it can’t be it…?! seriously?’ that’s your GUT talking.
Why you need to make decisions based on gut feeling
A study revealed, that in the business world, gut feeling is an important element in decision making among business leaders, even when plenty of data is available.
And even in the non business world, i.e. the normal lives you and me lead, more facts and data don’t necessarily mean better decisions. It just means more data.
Did you have a better holiday just because you researched every corner of the web to find THE right hotel? No.
Did having more facts about the house give you a warmer feeling about living there? No. Sooo…here’s:
How to make the right intuitive decisions
- Make a list of all the things that you are afraid of. Don’t go too dark here, no need to get all depressed.
- Next time you think you have a gut feeling, compare it to that list. Is your gut feeling referring to a fear on that list?
The wonderfully creative Marie Forleo has an excellent video about this topic right here.
I’ve only ever trusted my gut on everything. I don’t trust my head, I don’t trust my heart, I trust my gut. — Bryan Adams
Rollercoaster fear. Huh?
Sometimes, actually very often, there is still a little (or a lot) of fear in the gut feeling that feels right! But it’s a good kind of fear. It’s the excited kind of fear (not the ‘I just want to run away from this thing’ kind of fear).
I compare it to rollercoaster fear.
When my son was 4, he absolutely wanted to go into a rollercoaster that to me was ‘too big’ for him. He insisted. I took him. While riding the thing, I looked at him and he was terrified, almost panicked and close to tears. I regretted my decision and was glad when we got off and I could hug him and calm him down.
Half an hour later, he wanted to go again. I said: ‘But you were so afraid!’ He answered: “Yes Mommie, but it was good fear!’ with a big smile.
That’s the difference between fear and intuition rolled into one sentence of a 4 year old!
So next time you dither and sway, ask yourself that one single 4 year old question: is it good fear?
And then hit that rollercoaster that is life!