How to Make Better Decisions by Improving Your IntuitionMar 23, 2021
In my work as a coach, I am often asked what I “think” about someone else’s work.
I believe that it’s my job to try as hard as I can to NOT simply answer the question that my client is asking but to truly think about the question in a deeper way and challenge my client to use his or her own intuition to discover an answer to the question that leads to the greatest result.
I don’t do this to be an asshole, or to withhold knowledge from my clients; quite the opposite, in fact.
I do this because I believe that INTUITION is one of the greatest tools at the entrepreneur’s disposal.
Often, when asking another person what they think, a person isn’t really seeking something new.
They’re just looking for validation, an affirmation of a choice already made. This need to be affirmed by others can often be masked as perfectionism or even pragmatism, but at its core, it comes down to one of two things:
- Our fear that we will make a decision that isn’t beyond reproach.
- Our shame that there could be a better answer than the one that we are offering.
Essentially we aren’t really asking for advice, we’re asking for validation. We want to be RIGHT. When it comes to solving our own problems, we usually know what must be done.
Often, it’s the very thing we’re avoiding, the hard choice we’re simply afraid to make. And what’s required of us is that one choice we almost always refuse to make: We have to change.
But we resist this change by “checking in” with others. We use the opinions of others as a gauge to help us decide if this change is worth making or not.
Instead of relying on our own measured experience and intuition to drive our decision-making, we defer this very important task to the generally uninformed opinions of others.
I was having a discussion about this with a coach friend of mine the other day and he led me through a little exercise to illustrate intuition. I’m happy to share it with you as I think that it really shows how beautifully intuition can work in our everyday decision-making.
- Pick a decision that you’re trying to make that pits two options against one another.
- Grab a coin.
- Assign option 1 to either heads or tails and option 2 to the other side.
- Flip the coin and catch it but don’t look at it. Keep it covered.
- What do you HOPE it is? Heads or Tails?
"That’s intuition at work," he said.
Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and subconscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.
As a culture, we have learned to believe that rationality is what should prevail when making decisions about anything from crucial business decisions to what to eat for lunch.
But what of that "inner voice", that gut feeling, that little something instinctual from within that tells us how we feel beneath those layers of logic?
We need both intuition and reason to make the best possible decisions for our businesses, our families, and ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us — even when we experience success using intuition-are uncomfortable with the idea of using it as a guidance tool.
We are embarrassed to say that we follow hunches, we mistrust the sometimes-cryptic messages that our instincts send to us, and consequently, we diminish our capacity to leverage the power of our own instincts when we need them most.
There are many things that get in the way of our ability to use intuition to our greatest advantage.
Ways of thinking that block our intuition:
When we are outwardly focused, we’re thinking about our behavior as it relates to the rules, preferences, and expectations that someone else has set rather than looking inwardly and allowing our own thoughts and needs to guide our behavior. “Shoulds” presume that there is a right answer to our question instead of accepting the fact that there are in fact very few rights and wrongs, only decisions that lead to more decisions.
Putting excessive thought into each and every decision that we make can lead us away from our gut instinct. This behavior can become paralyzing and overwhelm and confuse us leaving us with no direction. Constantly seeking the “right” answer often leaves us with no answer at all.
Need for Approval
When we look outwardly for signs that we are doing the right thing or making the right decision, especially from those we admire or look up to, we can become unable to think for ourselves. This inability can become paralyzing and cause us to seek answers that we believe are beyond reproach from these people.
Lack of Self Confidence
This is the big one. When we don’t believe that we are good enough we seek out opportunities to confirm this bias. On the contrary, when we are confident in our abilities we are less apt to second guess our own decisions and more likely to rely on intuition.
How To Develop and Rely On Intuition
Developing intuition need not be a challenging task. In fact, much like other behaviors, it can be developed over time using a simple method when faced with a decision.
There are very few decisions that must be made immediately. Taking the time to slow down and clear your mind before making a decision allows your sympathetic nervous system; the system that controls the fight or flight response, to relax and make way for your parasympathetic nervous system to respond. By slowing down and removing the urgency from the decision you are allowing your intuition the space to operate. The slower pace helps to shift your perspective and clear away distractions so that you can see and feel what truly does matter.
Listen To Your Body
Intuition is a sense - a feeling, and you have to learn to recognize when it’s active and trying to tell you something. These physical sensations are not just “butterflies” in your stomach, but real and tangible indicators that you can learn to recognize over time.
Focus on You, Not Them
As you make decisions, ask yourself, “What is important here for me? What do I need?” Ignore what others need and purposefully direct your attention to your personal needs. This focus on yourself is all about giving yourself full permission to consider the impact of your decision on JUST YOU. Concentrating on your needs is where you’ll find your intuition.
This is the critical step in developing intuition. You must take action. You must get to the point of no return and actually make the decision. Only then will you begin to realize that more often than not, what you believe to be the right answer is exactly what the situation requires.
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