Trusting your gut: the science behind your stomach butterflies

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Big data. It’s the motor of our digital economy and it plays a huge, undeniable role in how we run our businesses today – and our lives, for that matter. But sometimes we tend to forget to listen to our own big data within; our own body’s feedback loop. Our gut feeling. What does it tell us? And can we trust it? The answer is yes, you can. Especially at work – since it’s your best feedback mechanism.

More than ‘just a feeling’

At first, it might seem strange to make important decisions based on ‘just a feeling.’ Imagine your manager telling you during a meeting that she came up with a new business strategy based on her gut feeling – would you take her seriously? It would probably raise some concern, since – especially in the Western society – rationality always prevails. But there’s something to be said for not solely making pure rational ones either. Choices, that is.

For instance, we’ve all been let down once or twice by people who turned out to be quite different than we thought. Maybe at the moment, we couldn’t put our finger on it, but afterwards we often say: ‘I’ve always had this feeling that something wasn’t quite right.’

Well, that was your gut trying to tell you something. And we wished we would’ve listened.

What is it and can we trust it?

It’s actually always there, you know – your intuition. But we trained ourselves to ignore it, because how do we even know if we can we trust it? After all, it’s not hard, scientific data – it’s intangible.

We love ourselves some reassurance, and that’s exactly how we feel when science has your back. We get it, data analysis brings a lot to the business table, but your ratio doesn’t always win. Sometimes it’s your gut telling you that a person is not trustworthy, even though there’s no hard evidence to distrust that particular someone. Meanwhile, you – or better said: your gut – was right all along. How can we explain that?

It’s your second brain

If we were to scrape of the layers of scientific logic, what would be left? A hunch? An instinct? Forbes describes intuition as ‘the ability to know something without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind.’ And even though it is hard for researchers to measure human instinct and intuition, research has for a fact pointed out that intuition exists. So, there is such a thing as gaining unconsciously useful information, via our brain and body. And moreover, there’s a reason why intuition and gut feeling are used interchangeably: according to revolutionizing medical results our gut is considered our second brain; the enteric nervous system (ENS). “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results” writes Hopkins Medicine.

But, how to listen?

All fun and games, but how do we use it? How does one get in touch with their intuition? And how or when do you even know it is telling you something? The key to really connect with your gut feeling is getting yourself into a relaxing mode. When you’re relaxed, pressing thoughts go to the background and make room for actual feelings. Go for a walk around the block, meditate for 5 minutes, get out of your head and try to discover what your body is telling you. What are the signals? And how do you feel when you think about the dilemma or the decision you have to make? Do you feel at ease? Or does it give you a knot in your stomach?  For instance, next time when you’re hiring someone new, try to pick a moment for yourself and pay attention: what is your subconsciousness telling you?

It takes two to tango

Now, to be clear: we’re not saying you should throw out your rational thinking and your pros and cons lists right out the window all together. We’re saying: find a balance.

Little advice for your future decision-making process: in the midst of your rational, deliberate process of (over)thinking and analysing, you might want to try and weigh in a little subconscious feel and thought. It doesn’t need to be one or the other; intuitive or analytic thinking can appear at the same time. How about you make room for both and let them play together?

From time to time, ask yourself; what are those stomach butterflies trying to say?

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