It is important to learn how to listen to and trust your gut. It is also important to weigh facts to ensure you consider all the options. The voice in your gut is wise, and it can push you to do something that feels right when another option might yield better results. You need to listen to both your gut and head to calculate your next best move.
First, look at what you think is true to try to discern reality from made-up expectations. Then you can uncover the information your instinctual, automatic reactions are trying to tell you.
Just as you ride a bike or drive a car without thinking, you describe circumstances, other people’s motivations, and your own behavior using assumptions you choose to believe are facts without reflecting on your thoughts.
Normally, you won’t automatically see the assumptions that affect how you frame a situation. You won’t notice when you say words such as “never” or “won’t ever” or “it’s absolutely necessary.” You find reasons to believe what your brain is saying even when it talks in absolutes you can’t possibly prove.
The man revered as the father of American psychology, William James, said, “True beliefs are those that prove useful to the believer.” Few things are absolutely true forever. Science keeps discovering phenomena that debunk what we thought we knew.
What you believe at any given time is only an approximation of reality based on what you have learned in the past and what fits with your picture of right and wrong. When you are asked in court to, “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” you can only state what you believe to be true today.
Use these techniques to evaluate your logic:
To make the best choices, observe your sensations as well as our thoughts so you can read what your reactions are telling you.
When you have a reaction – changes in heartbeat, breathing, and muscle tension – stop, notice the reaction in your body, and be curious about why it occurred.
Take a deep breath in and put your awareness in the center of your body just below your navel. From this perspective, observe the chatter in your head. Listen when your brain is saying, “They are trying to undermine me,” “My boss doesn’t care,” or, “There is no way I can do that and make my family happy too.” Does your gut agree with this story or is there something else you need to consider?
List out what you most value in life, such as having a happy family, being healthy, making a difference, having peace of mind, autonomy, new challenges, and prosperity. Your gut wants you to have what you most value. Ask yourself if you need to muster the courage to follow your gut, or if your values conflict and you need to minimize your risk for now.
When you feel anxious, impatient, or confused, take these steps to interpret your gut reaction:
Consider both what you learned from your head and from your gut before you take the next step. You can’t know how everything will turn out, but you will at least be clear on why you made your choice. Then you can use the outcome of your choice to help you decide what to do next.
For more in-depth methods on how to deal observe how your brain is processing information, see Dr. Reynold's books, Outsmart Your Brain: How to Make Success Feel Easy and for more on how to listen to your gut, read The Discomfort Zone.
For additional resources, see Dr. Reynolds's website: www.outsmartyourbrain.com.