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The Ultimate Ranking of the 40 Best Indie Movies of All Time

The Ultimate Ranking of the 40 Best Indie Movies of All Time

There are blockbusters and then there are indie films which work with a limited budget and are produced independently.

But let me tell you a secret: Indie films are often the better movies.

Enjoy my ranking of the 40 world’s best indie movies:

1. American Beauty

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    “I don’t think that there’s anything worse than being ordinary.” —Angela

    American Beauty was one of the many fantastic movies of the 90s. Director Sam Mendes captures the struggles of Lester Burnham, a father caught in a serious midlife crisis, his daughter Jane, who finds love for the first time, and her beautiful yet lonely best friend Angela, played by the stunning Mena Suvari. When everything falls apart, the characters and the watchers start to find beauty in the little things.

    2. The Breakfast Club

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      “When you grow up, your heart dies.” —Allison

      The Breakfast Club is an 80s classic. Five high school students who couldn’t be more different have to spend a Saturday detention session together. During this time they slowly find that apart from all their differences, they can connect on a deeper level. All five actors do a great job by first giving a cliché version of their characters and then turning them into human beings. Everyone—no matter what age—can learn something from these teenagers.

      3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

        “We accept the love we think we deserve.” —Charlie

        Based on a novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows emotional unstable Charlie through his first high school year. He soon becomes friends with a pretty girl named Sam and her gay half-brother Patrick. They teach Charlie that it’s okay to enjoy life and to forget your troubles for a while. This book adaption is starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, and not only will you realize that we all struggle with life once in a while, you will also learn a lot about music and real friendship.

        4. Factory Girl

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          “Divorced as many times as she married, she leaves only good wishes behind.” —Edie

          This indie film shows the life of fashion icon and Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick. Edie travels to New York and leads a turbulent life in Warhol’s famous factory where art, love and lust play hand-in-hand. The movie captures Edie’s sparkling spirit and her tragic downfall in a way that will keep you on your toes until the very last minute.

          5. The Blair Witch Project

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            “It’s not the same on film, is it? I mean, you know it’s real but it’s like looking through the lens gives you some sort of protection from what’s on the other side.” —Joshua

            This horror movie terrifies its watchers because of the amateur filming which makes it seem like a real story. Three young movie makers set out into the woods to produce a documentation of the myth of the Blair Witch. Little do they know that the legend is still alive and waiting for its next victims. If you’re a friend of breathtaking and nightmare-producing movies, The Blair Witch Project by directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez is your way to go.

            6. Ramen Girl

              “Somewhere along the way, I just forgot what I wanted to do with my life.” —Abby

              In one of the last movies of the late Brittany Murphy, she portrays Abby who follows her boyfriend to Tokyo just to get dumped. In her crisis, Ally realizes that she has long given up going after her own dreams and decides to set herself a new goal: she wants to become a ramen cook. In this indie film by Robert Allen Ackerman. you can learn a lot about the Japanese culinary and spiritual world and see how it’s sometimes in your hardest times where you find your true strength.

              7. Ellie Parker

                “I remember when the future was a promise, now it’s like a threat.” —Ellie

                This is a widely un-known little independent movie by Scott Coffey staring Naomi Watts. As a young wannabe actress in LA, Ellie has to deal with many job rejections and a disastrous love life. The movie portrays LA and the movie industry as a tough business which will make even the biggest blockbuster fans see their stars in a different way.

                8. Pulp Fiction

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                  “Play with matches, you get burned.” —Vincent

                  This movie is a cult film. In Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman create a funny and exciting gangster comedy. The movie has many long dialogues, but Tarantino makes it work and ties all the different plot lines together for a spectacular finale. Seriously, if you have never watched this movie, do it now.

                  9. The Boat That Rocked

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                    “Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world.”  —The Count

                    This movie is guaranteed to make you laugh. Young Carl gets sent by his mother to live on a boat which hosts a pirate radio station. In the 60s, Rock’n’Roll was still frowned upon in Great Britain, which is why rock stations had to send from a secret frequency. On the Rock Boat live the funniest and craziest radio speakers who know how a lot about music and about having a good time.

                    10. Secretary

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                      “Who’s to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?!” —Dr. Twardon

                      This is a movie for those of you who like it sexy. When Lee starts her new job as a secretary, little does she know that her boss will soon not only be interested in her but also has some rather exquisite tastes in sexual adventures. Steven Shainberg’s erotic romance combines pleasure and pain in a classy way.

                      11. Requiem for a Dream

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                        “You’re the most beautiful girl in the world. You’re my dream.” —Harry

                        This famous indie film stars Jared Leto as a handsome but broken drug addict. Not only he but also his girlfriend, his best friend and his mother are caught in the downward spiral that is drug abuse. Requiem for a dream is a tough and often ugly but completely true movie. It will leave you with the need of never doing drugs.

                        12. Thirteen

                          “If everybody married someone from a different race, then in one generation there would be no prejudice.” —Tracy

                          Thirteen shows the life of normal but unhappy teenage girl, Tracy. When she meets the adventurous Evie, everything changes. For the first time in her life she is popular and cool and has fun. But her new lifestyle comes at a cost that will soon be to much for Tracy to pay.

                          13. Donnie Darko

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                            “Some people are just born with tragedy in their blood.” —Gretchen

                            Donnie Darko is a classic which combines romance, growing up and mystery. This indie film will make you want to watch it again and again, which is what you have to do in order to make sense of all the ambiguous events and plot twists of this movie.

                            14. The Virgin Suicides

                              “Obviously, Doctor… you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.” —Cecelia

                              Based on a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides director Sophia Coppola made this story into a movie in 1999. The Lisbon daughters were raised as good catholic girls who were never allowed to live their lives like other teenagers do. The situation escalates when 14-year-old Lux stays away a whole night. The sisters are forbidden to leave the house and become more and more depressed until they make a tragic decision.

                              15. The Runaways

                                “No guys, man. I want to start an all-girls rock band.” —Joan

                                This 2010 american movie tells the story of the 80s girl-rock-band the Runaways. From fame, over music to drugs—the movie has everything a rock film should have. Kristen Stewart gives a great performance as rock-legend Joan Jett who became famous with her hit “I love Rock’n’Roll.”

                                16. Poison Ivy

                                  “She might have been even more alone than I was.” —Silvie

                                  One of Drew Barrymore’s many great movies tells the story of nice teenage girl Silvie. As soon as the wild girl Ivy enters her life, nothing is calm anymore but she finds herself caught in one big adventure.

                                  17. 500 Days of Summer

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                                    “People don’t realize this. But loneliness is underrated.” —Tom

                                    In this romantic comedy, Joseph-Gorden Levitt and Zoey Dechanel show a great performance. As Summer and Tom, they fall in love and spend a romantic few months together until things start to fall apart. Through this movie you can learn a lot about relationships as well as about commitment issues.

                                    18. Moonrise Kingdom

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                                      “I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about.” —Sam

                                      At first sight you might think that Moonrise Kingdom is a children’s movie but I promise if you watch it you can learn a lot no matter how old you are. The movie shows the adventures at a scout summer camp and the beautiful friendship between Sam and Suzy.

                                      19. Run Lola Run

                                        “Man … probably the most mysterious specious on our planet.” —Narrator

                                        This is a fast independent movie which shows different possible versions of how the story might take place which all involve a lot of running. Run Lola Run is a German movie by director Tom Tyker which has become a must-watch for many film lovers.

                                        20. Being John Malkovitch

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                                          “Nobody’s looking for a puppeteer in today’s wintry economic climate.” —Craig

                                          This movie combines fantasy, comedy and drama while telling the crazy story of its unemployed anti-hero Craig. The plot line is well-written and the cast including John Cusack and Cameron Diaz all do a fantastic job.

                                          21. Reservoir Dogs

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                                            “It’s amusing to me, to torture a cop.” —Mr. Blonde

                                            Reservoir Dogs is another great Quentin Tarantino film featuring a crime story and many interesting dialogues. It is very popular and was even named “Greatest independent film of all time” by Empire magazine.

                                            22. Memento

                                            memento

                                              “I have to believe in a world outside my own mind.” —Leonard

                                              This psycho thriller is very popular in the independent film scene. Memento is a little disturbing but fascinating. Half of the movie is black-and-white and shown chronologically, while the other half is colored and shown in reverse order. In the end, both plot lines are combined.

                                              23. The Meaning of Life

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                                                “Hindu, Taoist, Mormon spill theirs just anywhere, But God loves those who treat their semen with more care.” —Mum

                                                In this film, once again Monty Python captures the world in an honest though slightly confusing way. If you’re hoping to find answers to all of life’s big questions in this film, I have to disappoint you. But what you will find are a lot of laughter and sarcasm and a sense of the fact that even if life can be cruel, you should never take it too seriously.

                                                24. Brokeback Mountain

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                                                  “I wish I knew how to quit you.” -—Jack

                                                  This cult film is one of the first gay romances which is neither distasteful nor full of cliches. It tells the love story of Ennis and Jack, played by Heath Ledger and Jack Gyllenhaal, who flee to the lonely Brokeback Mountain because it’s the only place where they can celebrate their love.

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                                                  25. No Country for Old Men

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                                                    “A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say: ‘O.K., I’ll be part of this world.'” —Sherrif Ed

                                                    This indie film is a western crime drama. The antagonist Anton is a serial murderer with mental issues. The conflicts between him and protagonist Sherrif Ed Tom Bell make the movie interesting. One thing you’ll learn from this movie is that nothing ever comes as you expect.

                                                    26. Before Sunrise

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                                                      “If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but…who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.” —Celine

                                                      Jesse and Celine meet each other on a train ride and decide to spend the night together in Vienna. They have a fun, crazy and romantic night but then have to go back to their own lives.

                                                      27. Before Sunset

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                                                        “Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them.” —Jesse

                                                        Also the second part of the heartbreaking love story is an ode to following your guts. Celine and Jesse meet each other for the first time in nine years and this time spend a day in Paris.

                                                        28. Juno

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                                                          “Can’t we just like kick this old school? You know, like I stick the baby in a basket, send it your way, like Moses and the reeds?” —Juno

                                                          This movie transforms the hard topic of teenage pregnancy into a funny and sweet experience. Regardless of the tough topic of the film, it leaves you with a warm feeling.

                                                          29. Happiness

                                                          HAPPINESS

                                                            “I know who you are and you are nothing.” —Allen

                                                            Despite the title, this movie shows the lives of several pretty miserable people who sooner or later find some happiness even if it’s small and unconventional. I have to warn you. This movie is only suited for people with a dark humor.

                                                            30. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

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                                                              “But had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected, nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.” —Narrator

                                                              Also an independent movie, this film is nothing for people with weak nerves. Director Tobe Hooper’s classic slasher film is a raw and pure horror movie and ideal for a scary night with your friends.

                                                              31. Submarine

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                                                                “Sometimes I wish there was a film crew following my every move.” —Oliver

                                                                After Texas Chainsaw Massacre I recommend watching Submarine in order to calm your nerves before you go to sleep.

                                                                32. The Science of Sleep

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                                                                  “Things will turn out the way you want, if you could just stop doubting that I love you.” —Stephanie

                                                                  In this movie you can learn a lot about dreams. The main character Stephane’s dreams are so vivid that they interfere with his real life. This french fantasy story is a definite feel-good movie.

                                                                  33. Lost in Translation

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                                                                    “My Japanese is getting better. We started speaking English.” —Bob

                                                                    This film, starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanson, is directed by Sofia Coppola. Charlotte has travelled with her husband to Tokyo but is soon left alone by him. A romance between Charlotte and Bob starts and the watcher gets an impression of Tokyo’s exciting and sometimes hilarious atmosphere.

                                                                    34. The Usual Suspects

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                                                                      “I’m the guy that’s gonna get you. I just wanted you to know that.” —Michael

                                                                      The usual suspects is a crime thriller which shows how a bunch of elderly gangsters get along. This film is widely popular but started out as a little independent film.

                                                                      35. Life of Brian

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                                                                        “Always look on the bright side of life.” —Jesus

                                                                        This is another Monty Python cult film which features in a humorous way the life of Jesus Christ. Though this movie will make most people laugh out loud, extremly religious people would do better if they stayed far away from it.

                                                                        36. The Terminator

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                                                                          “You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line, every curve… I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you. I always have.” —Kyle

                                                                          You may not believe it but the series that made Arnold Schwatzenegger famous started as an indie film. So if you’re into machines and wars and strong guys, you should definitely try out Terminator.

                                                                          37. Little Miss Sunshine

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                                                                            “Luck is the name losers give to their own failings.” —Richard

                                                                            Here is another feel-good movie. The movie of a funny road trip is the debut film of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. It quickly became popular.

                                                                            38. Night of the Living Dead

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                                                                              “Don’t you know what’s goin’ on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!” —Ben

                                                                              Night of the Living Dead is a plain and good zombie movie from the 60s. While the technology wasn’t that advanced back then, it still offers many good scares.

                                                                              39. Stranger than Paradise

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                                                                                “I’m choking the alligator.” —Eva

                                                                                Stranger than Paradise is a comedy from the 80s which revolves around Willie, Evy and Eddie and their crazy adventures in New York.

                                                                                40. Sex, Lies, and Videotape

                                                                                  “I remember reading somewhere that men learn to love the person that they’re attracted to, and that women become more and more attracted to the person that they love.” —Graham

                                                                                  In this classic independent fill, all three aspects of the title are combined in a beautiful but also dramatic way. The movie was directed by Steven Sonderbergh and has won the Golden Palm at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

                                                                                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                                                                  More by this author

                                                                                  Sunita Sukhana

                                                                                  editor, writer, student

                                                                                  The Ultimate Ranking of the 40 Best Indie Movies of All Time

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                                                                                  Last Updated on August 12, 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

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