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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

More by this author

Lucy Gower

Founder at Lucidity. Coach, trainer and consultant as well as a best-selling author and international speaker.

How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today How to Start Taking Action on Your Dreams Now 11 Killer Ways to Gain Confidence and Boost Your Self-Esteem Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

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Last Updated on February 16, 2021

Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Do you feel stuck in an area of your life, not knowing what to do next?

There are things you want to accomplish, dreams you’d love to fulfil, yet your current circumstances seem to be preventing you from reaching your goals.

Perhaps it’s your job, your career, major decisions, relationships, or just life getting in the way that’s preventing you from focusing on your true desires.You’re unhappy, maybe even burning out, and you want a change.You need some sort of breakthrough. Is this where you’re at in life right now?

Is there something bigger, something more that you’d like to do, but feel like you can’t at this moment for whatever reason?If you’re feeling this way, then I want to first assure you that you’re not alone. Almost everyone has experienced this feeling at some point in their lives, because humans are made to grow and mature and to develop into ‘better’ versions of themselves. Take the evolution theory for example, it shows how humans evolve through time to adapt, survive, and thrive better on Earth.

Same goes for each of our individual lives. We have different goals, dreams, and aspirations, but they all lead to the same outcome – becoming better than what we were before… whether it’s in terms of happiness, wealth, love, etc. So why is it that some of us have a harder time moving ahead? To answer that, we need to look at the limitations holding us back.

What are Limitations?

On the surface, limitations are things that prevent you from doing something; but, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that limitations are the things that keep you constrained inside a loop.

They keep you stuck facing the same problems, having the same choices, and taking the same actions over and over again. Limitations define your current circumstances, which also means that they define the quality of your life.

But, here’s another insight that we’ve found from people who consistently make breakthroughs: your reality is derived from your perception.

It’s not reality that’s important, but rather, how you see it. So being able to control how you look at things is the key to your breakthrough. 

Some people are able to move forward a lot easier than others because they’re able to control how to look at things better than others. They’re able to shift their mindset to look at even the most negative of situations, and turn them into something positive.

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And the good news, is that because all limitations start from your mind, it means that you can learn how to take control of the way you view your limitations. And, here is where I want to introduce to you the Breakthrough Framework.

The Full Life Framework

This Full Life Framework helps provide an overall paradigm shift for you to turn any limitation you may be having, into an opportunity that is achievable. 

With this framework, you’ll be able to transform yourself to achieve your goals and break free from anything that is holding you back.

You’ll learn how to use the Life Multipliers to help you through your transformation. These skills will help magnify your efforts and allow you to grasp your opportunities quicker and instill the changes permanently so that you won’t fall back into those limitations.

Step 1: Find the Hidden Opportunity

Step one is to find the Hidden Opportunity.When we’re faced with a challenge or setback, as humans it’s normal to focus on the negatives or the things that are missing. But, that’s life! There will always be some sort of constraint, so why not train your mind to think of opportunities instead of limitations?

With every obstacle, there is always a hidden opportunity waiting to be uncovered. So instead of fighting them or giving up, know that there are always two sides to every coin. This means that you can find an opportunity within any obstacle that you’re facing.

So, in order to find your hidden opportunity, try asking these guiding questions:

1. What limitation is affecting your quality of life right now?
E.g. “I’m limited by … [ the obstacle/constraint ]  Because …  [ why it’s a limitation ]”

2. What does it stop you from doing?
E.g. “It stops me from … [ the thing you want to do ]

3. What’s the turning point? A turning point is a key obstacle that, if overcome, would open new opportunities that weren’t available before. So you just need to find that turning point within the limitation you’re facing, to create a new opportunity.
E.g. If only I could … [ the achievement ] then I’d be able to … [ the new possibility ]”

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4. Create an Opportunity Statement.
E.g. I have an opportunity to … [ the new possibility ] by … [ the achievement ]

By writing an opportunity statement, it not only solidifies your intent, but it also provides a spark of motivation for you to finally come out of your limitation.

It can be a real mental drain to be faced with an obstacle; and the longer you stay stuck in it, the more effort and energy is taken away from you. So going through this first step of finding your hidden opportunity helps to re-ignite the flame of positivity that will drive you to take focused actions in steps 2 to 4.

Step 2: Plan Your Progression Stairway

Now that you’ve found a hidden opportunity, the next step is to plan your Progression Stairway.

This simply means that you should have a game plan of how you want to achieve that opportunity! And, it all starts with creating achievable goals.So the first secret to creating achievable goals, is to find your North Star.

Your North Star is what will guide you towards your outcome, and make sure your goals are focused within the bounds of what you actually want. Your North Star is the greater goal that all other smaller goals align themselves to.

The second secret is to set goals aimed at growth. This means that your success should be based on progress, and not just a single outcome.

The third secret, is to take bite-sized steps. In order to remain consistent, it’s helpful to break your ultimate goal into smaller, achievable chunks and work your way up from there – hence the progression stairway.

The clearer each bite sized step, the easier it is for you to keep making progress towards and eventually succeeding at accomplishing your goal.

Once you have your game plan sorted with goals in place, it’s time to start acting on them. And, here is where your actual energy and attention comes in. This is also the part where many of us fail or give up halfway because our energy and attention is limited. So we need to make sure we’re focusing it on the right tasks.

Step 3: Invest by Energy, Prioritize by Time

The third step of the Breakthrough Framework, therefore, is to Invest by Energy, Prioritize by Time. Breakthroughs require focused energy and effort above the level you’re currently using, otherwise it wouldn’t be called a breakthrough. So you can’t afford to waste it on distractions or scattered efforts. This is why focus is your ultimate weapon as it maximizes your effectiveness.

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And, since time is something we can never get back, we have to spend or invest in it carefully. We waste time when we allocate it on the wrong things. This may be due to poor planning or prioritizing. As a result, we don’t spend it effectively which is why focus is key.

So in order to maximize our efforts, we need to invest in our Energy and Time. 

Energy comes first because if you cannot focus, it doesn’t matter how well you manage your time. You’ll still end up wasting it because it’s not being productively spent.

Get rid of distractions, and do things in short bursts of focus as our attention span is short. Offload your brain by using support tools such as apps, journals, recording devices etc., so that your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed with information. Keep repeating this routine to build up your focus muscle.

Next comes time. Once you’ve learned to maximize your energy, it’s important to understand how you spend your time, set priorities and use the power of deadlines. Figure out which actions or tasks are more important, and prioritize those. Once you have your priorities listed, be sure to schedule them in weekly chunks so that they can be executed.

Now that you have established your opportunity, steps and focused actions, the last step of your breakthrough is to ensure this new you is sustainable!

Step 4: Make a Self-sustaining Engine

Most breakthroughs are not one off; therefore, a self-sustaining growth trend is needed. Along the way of reaching your breakthrough, you’ll encounter new challenges and obstacles that require the same mindset and plan of attack.

Breakthroughs require consistent input over time to guarantee stability; otherwise you might make a breakthrough but fall into the trap of sliding backwards again. And, just having willpower is not enough. You need a system to support and feed your momentum.

This is why we need what is called a self-sustaining Engine. And two elements form this engine: Motivation and Habits.

Motivation is formed from continuing growth and progress in your achievements. The more growth you experience, the more motivated you are to continue.

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And habits are routines that help you to generate momentum automatically. You can create a growth loop by having habits that anchor your growth. And, always incorporate a feedback loop so that you’re aware of your progress, and that will make your growth concrete.

Start by identifying keystone habits that can help anchor your growth, and be sure to work them in your daily schedule. Keep track of your daily or weekly progress in order to keep momentum going.

In a month, you should already see changes taking place. In 2 months, 3 months or more, you will be able to see milestones reached and progress made towards your ultimate goal that you had set out from the start – your opportunity statement.

Repeat and Grow

The four steps of the Breakthrough Framework that I’ve outlined can be used whenever you face any obstacle or limitation, no matter what situation you’re in. And mastering the Life Multipliers will allow you to carry out each step of the Breakthrough Framework effectively, as they give you in depth understanding of what should be done to get your desired outcomes.

Breakthrough’s are never one off. You may overcome a setback today, but face a new challenge 3 months later, and that’s normal because it’s how you know you’re progressing in life when you’re doing things that are harder than before to push you to greater heights.

With the Full Life Framework and the Life Multipliers, you’ll be able to break free from your current limitations and start pursuing the goals that truly matter to you, without risking or sacrificing your current responsibilities.

So don’t stay stagnant anymore, it’s time to see your breakthrough! Start your life-changing journey here!

Featured photo credit: Jeremy Bishop via unsplash.com

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