Throughout life we are often advised to trust our gut instincts – and with good reason. After all, when’s the last time you made a decision you regretted while doing so? The danger of not listening to your gut, on the other hand, is something we can all relate to from personal experience. Despite this, we sometimes ignore our instincts because, as Albert Einstein once pointed out,
“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.”
It’s time we value the power of our gut instincts more, and actively work to connect with them to improve our lives.
Trusting your gut doesn’t mean ignoring reason; it just means allowing yourself access to more information before making a decision. There are two types of memory in the brain, explicit and implicit.
Explicit memory requires work for the brain to store (like knowledge you acquire while studying for an exam), while implicit memory flows effortlessly (like remembering a song lyric or knowing not to touch a hot stove). In order to make great decisions in life, we need to be sure not to disregard our implicit memory, as this is what empowers our gut instincts to guide us in the right direction.
Here are three strategies I recommend to help you tune into your inner truth and empower your decision-making.
Here are 3 sure-fire ways to tap into your instincts:
1. Free Your Mind
“We need to create space to listen to what our gut is saying,” professor of human behavior Melody Wilding advises. Hopefully, you’ve already incorporated some type of ‘free space’ into your daily routine; this could mean practicing traditional meditation or any other activity in which your mind, body and spirit are free and clear of distractions (e.g. running, walking, yoga). Studies have shown that repetitive movements also have a way of calming the cognitive mind and opening our intuition. So whether it’s meditation, a sport, chopping vegetables or simply standing in the shower – take time to do something that allows your mind to drift freely.
2. Reflect on When It Worked
Take a moment and think about instances when you’ve listened to your gut and it has paid off. Use these positive experiences to instill confidence in your ability to trust your natural instincts. If it is helpful, also consider past experiences when you’ve disregarded your instincts and later regretted it.
3. Set a deadline.
As important as it is to free your mind, you also need to set a clear time frame for making important decisions. It shouldn’t take long (less than an hour) to come to a decision once you have all of the relevant information. Imposing a deadline will eliminate the risk of overanalyzing things and will help you avoid being misguided by the ‘noise’ around you.
“Don’t out-smart your initial gut reaction. Don’t let your rational mind out-think your raw intuition.”
The Good News: The more we practice tapping into and trusting our gut instincts, the stronger their power becomes and the more willing we are to defer to them. “Your gut just gets better at doing what’s right for you.”