Published on February 4th, 2021 | by Nancy F. Clark0
How To Harness Intuition And Make Better Decisions
By Renee Goyeneche—-
Decision-making is integral to life; we move from one moment to the next based on the way we respond as choices are presented. The process is scalable, of course, but it remains largely the same regardless of the weight of the decision being made, because we tend to follow the same series of steps each time we make a choice.
These steps are reflected in rational decision-making models, and although you might find minor differences, most models adhere to roughly the same pattern:
1. Identify the decision to be made
2. Gather relevant information
3. Identify alternative solutions
4. Evaluate the options
5. Choose a course of action
6. Implement the decision
This is a solid, by-the-numbers approach, but it fails to recognize that decision-making is not necessarily a linear process. If we want to include all available data, we must examine things from both a rational and intuitive perspective.
Rational vs. Intuitive
Our brains consist of two parts: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
When we approach a problem through a rational decision-making process, we access our conscious mind and work sequentially, following a logical progression that leverages the analysis of facts to make a carefully reasoned decision.
Intuitive decision-making comes into play when we experience what’s known as a “gut feeling”—one that often runs contrary to what logic might suggest. Instead of recognizing and integrating these intuitive flashes into the decision-making process, however, we often dismiss them as an “emotional response” and deem them immaterial.
In doing so, we limit the scope of relevant information we bring to bear as we make choices.
Why Is Intuition Helpful?
Throughout our lives, our brains constantly process information, storing it away in the subconscious mind for future application. This creates learning patterns called schemas that allow us to approach challenges with a practical frame of reference. When called to action, the brain utilizes schemas by engaging its predictive processing framework, comparing current information and experiences against previously obtained knowledge and memories.
So when you’re making a “gut decision”, it’s not based solely on feeling or emotion, but on the logic that’s been created from past experience. You just don’t identify it as such because you’re utilizing applied knowledge rather than immediate data.
Why Don’t We Listen To Intuition?
There’s a cultural bias that exists toward intuition, one that scoffs at the idea that humans have some sort of “special sense” that can help guide their decisions. People are uncomfortable with the idea of following their instincts, and afraid they’ll be called out for considering alternatives that don’t follow the data.
But let’s call intuition what it really is—a mechanism of pattern recognition. When refined and developed, it’s a key component of effective decision-making.
How to Develop Your Intuition
Intuition exists for all of us, but some people are better than others at accessing the information it provides. Here are 3 tips to help you recognize the signals intuition is providing:
1. Pay attention to physical cues.
We often have a physical reaction to decision-making, so when considering your options, pay attention to those responses. The adage “listen to your gut” has scientific validity, because there are neurotransmitters in your gut that help to maintain homeostasis within your body. Is that feeling in your stomach nausea or nervous excitement?
Another consideration: how do each of the alternatives impact your energy levels? Does the potential workload produce feelings of exhaustion… or exhilaration?
2. Document your flashes.
Intuition may come to us in small “aha” moments as we’re weighing alternatives. These flashes of insight may suggest resources that are not immediately evident but will support a less likely alternative and increase its chance of success. Be sure to write these ideas down and weigh them as part of your data package.
3. Take the time to listen.
Is intuition always right? No, but it’s a legitimate tool in your decision-making toolbox. Repress the urge to ignore a feeling you have about the decision you’re making and evaluate the foundation of your impression. Sometimes we mistake fear or apprehension for intuition (“I’ve got a bad feeling about this!), but sometimes, those feelings are rooted in the real, quantifiable evidence of past experiences. Put aside that part of your ego (or the ridicule you might face from others) to examine what intuition is telling you.
Decision-making isn’t an either/or situation; you can—and should—use both logic and intuition when making choices. These things aren’t opposites, they’re simply two sides of the same coin. Recognizing the value of both allows you access to the broadest spectrum of information and helps you make the best decision.
Featured photo by iStockPhoto.