gut feeling

Should We Listen To Our Intuition When Making Decisions?

Intuitive or Gut Decisions…

There’s a lot of chatter out there regarding intuition and gut decisions and how they play a key role in making right decisions.

Let’s talk about those. I was reading an article in Experience Life, and I came across a piece that I found fascinating relating to gut based decisions. Here it is:

According to many researchers, intuition is far more material than it seems. Hope College social psychologist David Myers, PhD, explains that the intuitive right brain is almost always “reading” your surroundings, even when your conscious left brain is otherwise engaged. The body can register this information while the conscious mind remains blissfully unaware of what’s going on.

Another theory suggests you can “feel” approaching events specifically because of your dopamine neurons. “The jitters of dopamine help keep track of reality, alerting us to those subtle patterns that we can’t consciously detect,” Lehrer notes.

This means if something in the environment is even slightly irregular, the speed of an approaching truck, the slightly unusual behavior of someone at a party, your brain squirts dopamine and you get that “weird” feeling. Whether you pay attention or not can make all the difference. You might meet your future spouse or meet your maker. Those signals carry a lot of important information, so it’s wise to listen up.

Judith Orloff, PhD, a Los Angeles–based intuitive psychiatrist and author of Second Sight, believes the benefits of listening to your instincts go far beyond making good on life-or-death decisions. “Living more intuitively demands that you’re in the moment,” she says, “and that makes for a more passionate life.”

But she also notes that gut instincts are far from infallible.

The right brain’s skill with pattern identification can trigger suspicions of unfamiliar (but not dangerous) things, or cause you to be especially reactive to people who simply remind you of someone else.

When it comes to intuitive decision-making how do you choose which gut feelings to trust? If intuition isn’t perfect how can you rely on it to make a right decision? And therein lies the problem.

I was having dinner at Outback Steakhouse not too long ago. I ordered the Prime Rib dinner. This 1-lb slab of meat plus sides (a dressed baked potato and classic blue cheese wedge salad) is the nutritional equivalent of having ordered three 10 oz. Ribeye steaks and three sides of garlic mashed potatoes at the same restaurant, and that’s assuming you only ate half the warm loaf of bread they gave you with a light swipe of butter.

It’s approximately 2,404 calories. After I finished my meal, I had a gut feeling that I should order the New York-Style Cheesecake, which clocks in at 1408 calories. That’s the equivalent of two Big Macs and a Filet-o-Fish sandwich from McDonalds, and this is after dinner.

Now if these are the type of decisions that our guts are leading us to believe are good, then there’s a faulty programming error in the gut decision hard drive.

Gut decisions are not the greatest compass to be guiding our life decisions although sometimes accurate. For example, Sports Illustrated estimated in 2009 that 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial stress within two years of ending their playing careers and that 60 percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retiring from the game.

 

This same statistic comes out year after year. Don’t they know this? Wouldn’t this information cause them to act differently? Do they think deep down in their gut that money is a never-ending stream of income? Is their intuition telling them “they’re not the ones that are going to get injured” or “they’re not going to cut you, you’re too good.” Logic and the experience of others isn’t playing into their decision making so it must be something, right?

 

Michael Jordan retired from basketball with the Chicago Bulls, played baseball with the White Sox, came back to basketball with the Bulls, retired again, then came back with the Washington Wizards and retired again in 2003. Was Michael’s gut telling him to retire, then unretire, and then retire again?

Isaac Newton, after losing his savings in the South Sea Bubble of 1720, complained saying,

“I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” 

The trust in intuition is understandable. People have always sought to put their faith in spiritual forces when confronted with earthly confusion.

But it’s also dangerous.

Intuition has its place in decision-making, you should not ignore your instincts any more than you should ignore your conscience, but anyone who thinks that intuition is a substitute for reason is indulging in a risky misunderstanding.

The stories are certainly sexy. Fred Smith has an insight into the transport business and goes on to create Federal Express.

Michael Eisner hears a pitch for a game show and, knowing in his heart it’s going to be a blockbuster, immediately commits millions to developing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

George Soros senses a big shift in currency markets and, acting on that hunch, makes a billion-dollar killing.

But our desire to believe in the wisdom of intuition blinds us to the less romantic realities of business decision-making. We remember the examples of hunches that pay off, but conveniently forget all the ones that turn out badly.

FedEx’s Fred Smith also launched ZapMail. Have you Ever heard of that one? Me neither.

Michael Eisner was responsible for the disaster of the EuroDisney opening, not to mention recent box-office failures The Country Bears and Treasure Planet. “I loved The Country Bears,” said no one ever.

George Soros lost a fortune speculating in Russian securities in the late 1990s and then promptly lost another one betting on tech stocks in 2000. He recently lost over one billion dollars on his hunch that Donald Trump would lose the election.

 

Believe me when I tell you that I don’t like spotlighting the mistakes of others. I understand it’s not the critic who counts. The man in the arena who puts himself or herself out there, risks what they have to make more and do more deserves all the credit, but I’m making a point here.

For every example of a great intuitive or gut decision, there’s an equal and opposite example of a terrible one.

In conclusion, listen to what your intuition is telling you, listen to your gut, but there’s other steps that you can take before making that intuitive or gut decision.

What are those steps?

You can find them in my new book here:  http://bit.ly/decisionsbook

Thanks for reading,

-Tom