Our ability to make decisions at the “gut level” is a valuable resource.
When it comes to decision-making, the line between listening to others and following your gut instinct may be fuzzy, and it can be hard to know when and where to draw it. Important decisions can require a thoughtful process, which includes seeking the opinions of others.
However, in the end, the decision is ultimately yours to make. What happens when your gut instinct contradicts what others are telling you? Which do you follow?
As a life coach and mental health expert, I’m often listening to people tell me stories about things that didn’t turn out the way they expected. Upon further inquiry, it is not usual for individuals to share how they wish they’d follow their gut instead of overriding it. Our ability to make decisions at the “gut level” is a valuable resource.
Psychologist James Windell says, “Instincts do not really just spring up in our minds; they are typically based on past experiences. It is important to trust your instincts when—and only when—your past experiences with your gut feelings have been shown to be accurate and valuable. Based on what we know about ourselves, our instincts may be signaling us to take some action, or refrain taking some action. That gut feeling should be listened to if it has served us well in the past. Our rational mind may be telling us one thing, but our gut may be telling us something else.”
And that “something else” could be the message that you can’t trust the person long-term or the project isn’t all that successful. Yet, without outside verification, how do we know our “gut instinct” isn’t a false alarm? Windell adds, “If it has led us astray before, then, obviously, it should not be trusted.”
Understanding that our intuition and gut level responses are intertwined when it comes to making decisions is important. Intuition can generate specific feelings to help guide us.
However, not trusting your gut may be a sign of low self-esteem. Best-selling author Caroline Myss, PhD, writes in her book, Anatomy of the Spirit, “Intuition, like all meditative disciplines, can be enormously effective if, and only if, one has the courage and personal power to follow through on the guidance it provides. Guidance requires actions, but it does not guarantee safety. While we measure our own success in terms of our personal comfort and security, the universe measures our success by how much we have learned. So long as we use comfort and security as our own criteria of success, we will fear our own intuitive guidance because by its very nature it directs us into new cycles of learning that are sometimes uncomfortable.”
Learning to trust your gut won’t happen overnight, but starting to do it with small things is significant. The ability to listen to yourself and to do so with confidence will help you show up for yourself and others in an authentic and optimal way. Taking action may seem challenging. Here are some things you can do to help yourself learn to trust your gut.
PRACTICE MEDITATION AND YOGA
Both offer opportunities to connect with yourself at the gut level. Both foster the empowerment of our mental and physical well-being. The literal and physical space in which yoga and meditation take place is one of healing. In recalibrating our bodies, we can slow down racing thoughts and calm our mind.
WRITE IN A JOURNAL
Journaling is another way to connect with our inner-voice. Simply writing down thoughts about a situation, using a non-filtered, non-judgmental approach, can provide insight into our fears. It may be that we are more afraid of what others think than we are of being wrong. Writing has the ability to help release what is bothering us.
GO FOR A WALK
Walking outside with the intention of simply gaining clarity about a decision can give your body the ability to shift the nervous energy into something physical. The outdoors offers a new environment to see things and a chance to release the angst.
SEARCH WITHIN YOURSELF
Delve deep within to ask yourself some important questions. You may want to sort some of these things out with a trusted friend or a trained professional. Questions to ask yourself: Why am I afraid to follow my intuition/ gut? Does my intuition compromise my integrity? Does listening to my gut strengthen my relationship with self? What does showing up for myself look like?