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Me, Myself, and My Instincts

How many times have you juggled your own gut instinct with others’ opinions? Your heart says yes but other people say no, and this leaves you wondering which source to trust.

Trusting your own decisions is a powerful mechanism in life. Avoid solely relying on the opinions of other people, because odds are, if you feel strongly about something, or if your gut is saying no even when others are saying yes, there is a reason. Take your inner voice with a grain of salt, yes, but never discount your own instincts.

Psychology Today emphasizes this with its article “Listening to Your Inner Voice.” Here are a few helpful steps the magazine outlined on how to effectively listen to your instincts.

First, if you are uncomfortable and do not know why, pause. Do not presume there is no real reason to feel this way. “Try on different reasons to see if they resonate,” the magazine advises. “Often, you’ll know you’ve found the right one because discovering it feels like a eureka moment.” Even if the reason does not end up being too serious, at least now you can make a decision with “eyes wide open.”

Secondlisten. Not just to your inner voice, but to your body language. Discomfort with a decision can often manifest in “insomnia, agitation, nausea, and anxiety.” You may wave these signs away as general sources of discomfort, but if you take note of them, you may notice that you experience these physical reactions to ignoring your inner voice on other occasions as well.

Third“hone your instincts,” which means paying attention to the previously listed steps while also recognizing your own biases. Psychology Today explains, “If you find yourself consistently making the same thought error (for example, you transfer your distrust of your bearded father onto all men with beards), becoming aware of it will free you of its power and improve the accuracy of your inner voice.” Recognizing your unconscious biases will invalidate their influence over your intuition and make your reasoning all the wiser.

A real world example from “Listening to Your Inner Voice” was a man who held an upper-level management position and had to interview a candidate with charisma, vision, energy, and intelligence. After speaking with other management staff who also interviewed him, hiring the candidate seemed like the obvious option. However, the interviewer felt something was off.

Something made him hesitate; something that he couldn’t explain “rubbed him the wrong way.” The magazine continues, saying that the man did not feel “the usual enthusiasm he liked to feel about people he hired. But the candidate’s references were excellent and all the others wanted him hired, and the man’s own doubts couldn’t be explained. So he hired him.”

What happened next is extremely interesting. “Six months later, one of his female employees accused the candidate of sexual harassment, produced damaging emails revealing threats the candidate made to her, sued him and the company, and obtained a hefty settlement. Needless to say, the candidate was fired.”

Though there is no guarantee, one wonders whether listening to the original man’s intuition could have saved the emotional distress suffered by some employees and the waste of time and resources involved.

Although listening to our inner voice by no means guarantees 100% accuracy, there are moments like the one above in which a gut feeling steers us in the right direction. If we try and implement the steps outlined by Dr. Lickerman from Psychology Today and keep in mind that our inner voice is the one that should take the top seat when it comes to making personal decisions, we may come one step closer to fully utilizing our intuitions to our advantage.

The management worker pointed out that being wrong did not bother him nearly as much as the discomfort that came from not trusting himself. “Mistrusting his inner voice chipped away at his general sense of “confidence” and that, he thought, “was a worse thing to have happen than being wrong.”

At the end of the day, your inner voice talks to you for a reason. Addressing uncomfortable situations, questions, and even life-changing decisions should always involve your instincts.

Featured Image by Drew Osumi on Flickr
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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