Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trusting Your Instincts

[Johnathan Clayborn]
Recently I've found myself in a situation that I would have never dreamed of finding myself in. It's a quandary with no real right answers one way or the other. It's not a situation that I would have asked for, and yet, despite that, it's one that I'm very glad that I'm in. And yes, I'm being deliberately vague, and no, I won't elaborate.

The point of this is that sometimes, you just have a feeling and know what you need to do. You may not want to do it, you might dread it or put it off, but you know what needs to happen. How do you know? Because you feel it in your gut. This undeniable inner voice from somewhere deep within your core speaks to you, telling you how it is.

It's kind of one of those situations that, had I explained the details you would most likely consider me completely crazy. And yet, I know more surely than I have ever known anything that this is the right path to take, even though it's not the easy path. How do I know? Because my inner voice tells me so. My psyche, or my subconscious, or my soul, or whatever you want to call it, it speaks, nay it shouts to be heard. To deny what my gut tells me is right causes me stress, anxiety and emotional and physical discomfort.

But what if you don't have such a strong feeling? What if you are faced with a choice and you aren't sure how to proceed? Are there other ways to tell? There are lots of tricks to help you. One piece of advice from LifeHacker is to pretend like you are giving advice to a friend who is going through the same situation. This is easier said than done in most cases. I'm very good at giving advice. Many of my friends seek me out because of my wisdom and insight. However, even knowing what I would tell them in that situation, sometimes it's difficult to take your own advice. So what other options are there?

Lifehacker also suggests limiting the amount of information that you take in. Sometimes taking in too much information can cloud the decision making process because you get hung up on the trivial details. Of course, in some cases this is not always possible, so what else is there?

Making a list of pros and cons can help some people who are very analytical or overly-organized see "the big picture". I've certainly done this a few times myself, but it doesn't work in every situation.

Some research suggests that there are many different factors that might affect your decision making including (but not limited to); time of day, how angry you are, your surroundings, the ambient music, etc. But if you are aware that these might be influencing your decision they are easy enough to counteract.

One resource suggests something called the "10-10-10 rule" for decision making. Ask how you will feel in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years about your choice. If you would still be happy with it, it's a good idea. The fallacy of this logic is that you don't know how you will feel in 10 months or 10 years; all you have to go on is how you feel right now.

Surprisingly there is a lot of research that suggests that quick, snap decisions, can be the best method. There was an article in Psychology Today that talked about this next premise, although I can't seem to find it, so I'll post the link to what is essentially the same concept on Lifehacker below. Basically, the PT article said to think about the question, and then close your eyes, push everything out of your head and then after you were calm, count to three and say your answer. Whatever you decide under the pressure like that is generally better and will make you happier. The LifeHacker method was a bit more involved and included a piece of paper and a long distraction, but it included the same basic gut response. One poster who responded to the LH article had a brilliant idea: to flip a coin; heads or tail and then take note of which side you hoped that it landed on. That would be the right decision.

The point of all of this? Some decisions can seem impossibly hard on the surface, especially if you think about and analyze them with your cognitive brain. But sometimes it's just best to turn that off and trust your gut instincts.



  1. This is very interesting. In my opinion, I think sometimes, people just do, without thinking. They l spontaneously, which is not always a good thing. But it also helps with decision making. Just do it and move on, or don't do it but also don't regret your decision. Just move on.
    I totally agree about giving advice, but receiving it in return is sometimes difficult to accept. But there are always those options to refer back to.

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