He blares warning signs to me (similar to what I think an impending nuclear strike warning would be like — alarms, flashing lights, people running and screaming in every direction). And then, when I don’t listen, he screams, “I TOLD YOU SO” at the top of his lungs until he loses his voice (then he has a cup of lemon tea to sooth his aching larynx and gets back to shouting at me).
I can almost hear him screaming, “You dumbass!” every time I work with a client who’s not a good fit, or when I agree to do work that isn’t in my niche or when I think someone has bad intentions but continue to engage with them anyway.
I’ve started to think that my gut is an asshole for another reason. If he’s so smart, and always right, why the hell is he holding out on me? What does he know that he isn’t telling my brain? Why does he know things that my brain doesn’t?
He’s somehow got all the answers. And he’s got them without seemingly scientific or logical reasons (which is why I don’t always trust him).
Whenever I look back on a horrible business decision, there’s one thing in common: I didn’t listen to that gut feeling I had. I ignored it, paid the price and suffered the consequences.
The reason I sometimes don’t listen is because although my gut is loud and clear in voicing his opinion on everything, he sounds a lot like fear and discomfort. And fear and discomfort are horrible reasons to guide choices (typically choices should be made in the direction of fear and discomfort, with them screaming at you the whole time).
Gut instinct is different though. It’s not that making a choice is scary or will lead to an unknown outcome, is that’s one option is the wrong one. Big difference.
My gut is an asshole because he cares. He doesn’t want me to make the wrong decisions, especially when I know they’re wrong and still proceed to choose them.
A study done by Marius Usher at Tel Aviv’s School of Psychological Sciences found that participants who let their guts choose an outcome made the right call up to 90% of the time. That’s because our brains are smarter than we give them credit for — and can take even subconscious pieces of information we’ve collected and weigh them against options.
So maybe it’s not my gut holding out on my brain, but my brain holding out on giving me the whole picture when presented with a choice where one option is totally wrong for me.
Maybe trusting gut instincts aren’t just for hippies or self-actualized, spiritual realists. Maybe those feelings happen because we’re smarter than we think we are. We all come wired to make better decisions if we will just shut up and listen to our guts.
This article first appeared on my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Dispatches.