Why is it not only cheesy but also useful to ‘follow your gut’
We live in a world overflowed with ‘big data’, filled with endless opportunities and a complete overload of information. How to deal with the complexity of it? How to decide what to study, where to live, whom to love, which job to apply for, where to invest our energy and resources?
There are rare times when you reach a decision straight from the heart, without analysing things, and these are the times when you begin to live your truth.
I personally found out that rational, logical decision-making strategies are surely helpful, but not always right. There is more to an important choice that only an objective list of the ‘pro’ and ‘contra’, and a straight cost-benefit analysis.
For me the important decisions happen more or less like this:
I have a vague idea floating somewhere at the back of my head. It seems absurd or impossible or too scary, so I do not really acknowledge that it exists. Especially not in front of myself. The idea stays in the back of my head.
Then it comes to the point when it slowly shifts, without me noticing, from the back to the front of my head. I start to pay attention. The crucial moment for me is always articulating it. Once I actually said it out loud, talking with a friend or having a walk by myself, it is done.
Those ideas never let go of me, it is just a matter of time till they come to the front of my conscioussness and make it impossible to ignore them. What I know for sure is that I must execute those wishes. Even if they turn out to be terrible failures, I need to try them out anyway, or I will never convince my mind to be peaceful again.
It is intuition and not just pure coincidence that drive us toward the right choices.
Those decisions were always the good ones. Sometimes they seemed irrational at the beginning, like when I went to Paris all by myself without speaking French at 17, when I moved to Madrid for the first time without speaking a word of Spanish or when I quit my fancy job in Germany to move back to Spain, to be a poor artist and a struggling freelancer. All of those ideas, I had carried them in my heart for a long long time before I actually acknowledged their existence.
My subconsciousness knew what I was going to do long before my reason and logical thinking gave it a green light. My thoughts always became actions.
There is also a different kind of intuition: I am sure that at some point in your life you thought of an old friend and suddenly received an email or a message from him. Or maybe you saw a weather foreacast that said sunny but you took an umbrella anyway and it did rain indeed. It might seem silly or just a pure coincidence but it is a tiny touch of your inner voice impacting your daily life. We all have it, but only few of us use it consciously.
Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel prize winner and the author of Thinking, Fast And Slow explains the idea that ourbrain has two operating systems:
- System one is our fast-thinking, subconscious way of operating where feeling and intuition dominate.
- System two is the slow-thinking mode that relies on logical thinking and objective information.
The scientific studies have found that our fast-thinking brain has known the right decision way before the slow-thinking brain has arrived at it. For example, one of the studies analyzed car purchase situations where it was shown that people who have made a quick, intuitive decision about which car to buy, were significantly more satisfied (65%) in the long-term than the ones who were analysing all the details, using a rational decision making process (25%).
Also successful leaders know that they need to trust their intuition just as much as their objective judgement. In order to invent something new, you always have to go beyond your existing knowledge.
How to use your intuition?
The good news are that you really don’t need to meditate in the morning, read self-development books, do yoga, become vegan, attend workshops, light candles or drink green juices to be able to use your intuition.
All you have to do is sit still from time to time, be honest with yourself and stop looking outward for answers that you already have.
Here are the three essential steps:
- Try to achieve clarity in your mind: take some distance to all the external information and sense how you really feel. Sort your thoughts in what you need and what you don’t need. Less is more.
- Be honest with yourself: If you are trying to live up to the expectations and norms of the society, and not your own, your intuition cannot really guide you. When I left my job in Berlin and moved to Spain my friends thought I was completely nuts. But it was my dream and I knew I had to do this or I wouldn’t manage to quiten my mind ever again. It was hard, lonely and really difficult at the beginning but when you do something that you really wanted to do, you stand behind it. Know what is it that you really want (not your parents, friends or collegues).
- Train it like a muscle: The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Just as in about everything else, practice is the key to mastery.
What is necessary is to shut out the noise — the background noise of other’s opinions and expectations, caring more about what someone else thinks than how you feel, and the noise that simply keeps us distracted altogether.
We have to stop asking others for directions to places they’ve never been. — Glennon Doyle
Living a life according to other people’s expectations is a terrible thing. Tuning into your intuition and hearing your inner voice can help you come much closer to the courage to live your life on your own terms.
Please make sure that you don’t leave your biggest superpower dusted under your bed.