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Four Strategies for Listening to Your Gut

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I recently wrote this post on how we need to rebrand the notion of a gut-instinct as being an individual’s “faster intelligence.” This gives gut reactions the credit they deserve (speed, accuracy, and moral astuteness). Rebranding the expression is only the first step, though. We need to develop mechanisms to make this faster intelligence louder, more lucid, and more pronounced. There are likely hundreds of ways that we can better listen to our more intuitive self. That said, to get the ball rolling, below are four examples of how to liberate your faster intelligence.

1. Flip a coin.

Need to make an extremely important decision that could change the course of your life for the months or years to come? An easy way to help make that decision is to simply flip a coin. Sound haphazard? Well, I’m serious. Teju Ravilochan, the fearless leader of the Unreasonable Institute, is the one who first led me to this decision making strategy. If you are torn between a binary decision (i.e. trying to decide whether or not to do something), flip a coin and assign tails to “yes” and heads to “no.” Then, when the coin lands on either side, listen to the immediate gut reaction you feel to the results of the coin toss. If you feel a sense of sadness or disappointment, then you know that you need to do the opposite of what the coin told you. Conversely, if you feel a sense of relief with the results of the coin toss, then you should go with what the coin demands. In short, that immediate internal reaction is your faster intelligence telling you which way to go.

We need to develop mechanism to make our intuition, louder, more lucid, and more pronounced.  Tweet This Quote

2. Drink beer.

The Foundry Group in Boulder has a simple value that I love. Before they will invest into a prospective startup, they ask themselves if the team they are going to invest in passes the “beer test.” In short, is it a team of individuals who they would enjoy having a beer with. If the answer is yes, then they move forward with looking at the deal; if the answer is no, they won’t place the investment and they discontinue exploring the opportunity. It’s a simple framework that I believe allows the partners at Foundry to easily listen to their faster intelligence when placing an investment.

3. Eat dinner.

An incredible team leader who I’ve became close friends with on Unreasonable at Sea, Caroline Whaley, once told me a simple framework for knowing if you are working with the right team or not. She asked me to consider that if I went to dinner with my team, are there people I’d rather sit next to and others who I’d hope I didn’t get sat next to? If the answer here is yes, that likely means you need to have a serious heart to heart conversation with the people you don’t want to sit next to as something is clearly off.

4. Surround yourself.

There’s a saying that you are the amalgamation of the five people who you spend the majority of your time with. If this is true, then I highly recommend ensuring that you spend a great deal of time with the type of people who will help give you permission to follow your intuition and listen to your faster intelligence. If none of the people you spend the majority of your time with encourage you along this trajectory, then I suggest seeking out a new friend or two, or immersing yourself into a new community, in addition to your current friends. Maybe you will even be able to find that community here, at UNREASONABLE.is.

If I can point to these four frameworks so quickly, there are likely many more out there. I’m excited to hear if you have any methods or have heard of any additional frameworks that help make your faster intelligence louder, clearer, and more grounded. Please feel free to brainstorm in the comments section below.

Daniel Epstein

About the author

Daniel Epstein has an obsession. He believes to his core in the potential of entrepreneurship to solve the greatest challenges of this century and he has dedicated his...

Daniel Epstein has written 21 articles for UNREASONABLE.is

  • http://Unreasonable.Is/ Cat George

    the beer test= brilliant. Fellow readers, any additional suggestions for strategies to effectively listen to your gut? Would love to know!

  • http://unfilteredagency.com/ Rustin Sage Coburn

    Love this !
    So it may sound pretty cliche, but I find that the more present I am in a situation…. I mean really being in the moment and listening…. my “gut” speaks out very loud and very clear. My ” faster intelligence” is cranked way up when I am fully present. Now to be more present, a few simple tricks are focus on your breathing and give the people you are with, or the parameters of the situation, your undivided attention. Rest, food, and exercise help too :)
    Thoughts?

  • Hanna Boyd

    The importance of “surrounding yourself” resonates with me the most. When family, friends and co-workers encourage me to “go with my gut,” I instantly feel supported. But perhaps even more importantly, I feel trusted. They trust that the life experiences I’ve had so far give “my gut” and “faster intelligence” the credibility it deserves. So, if I find myself questioning whether it’s irresponsible to make one decision over another, I’m not afraid to check in with my “faster intelligence” and know that if the decision I make feels a little irrational, I need to trust it (just like those who surround me do).

  • http://www.expat-journal.com/ Rob S

    I often use the coin flip method. In fact, I keep coins from different countries on my desk for that very purpose. I don’t use them often, but when I do, tossing a coin gets me unstuck very quickly.

  • Michelle Miller

    Based on results, I’ve found that the opportunities that arise spontaneously, my gut embraces the most. Trusting my gut is key as it has never let me down. Because even if things don’t “work out” as intended, I trust I’m capable to make it happen. Gut+Trust =Unstoppable

  • ryanhaberer

    Very interesting read. I find myself doing similar things when I am trying to make tough decisions. I often ask myself if I would feel comfortable meeting certain people in a social setting. If you aren’t comfortable with a team member or a particular person in a social setting you sure aren’t going to be comfortable with them when it comes to making serious decisions and you are going to doubt your decisions even more. I often like to exercise right before i have to make a big decision. Not only does it seem to relax me and calm my nerves, but it helps keep me more focused on that particular situation and help me think more clearly rather than having my thoughts scatter elsewhere.

  • atozzi

    Listening to that inner voice or instinct is very important. Very interesting techniques on how to tap into that little voice inside though. I thought they were very intriguing and interesting. I may have to put some of them to use, that is if I am at a stalemate. But that inner voice never steers you wrong so as long as you listen close enough you are in very capable hands.

  • Glassborow

    Thank you for writing this article, I actually found this more useful than I thought it would be! I’ve used the ‘flipping the coin’ strategy before and I know it’s definitely helped me make some tough decisions, you realize what you want when the coin is still in the air. I think these strategies are very effective and also convenient if you are in a situation with people and decisions need to be made quickly. My favorite strategy was the final one, I really liked how you said that you are an amalgamation of the five people you spend the majority of your time with, it made me think about who I am as a person and the type of people I am surrounded by. Do you ever think that your gut instinct could be wrong? Or do you believe that you should always stick by it?

  • Dena Keizer

    These are some good tips i think i will use in the future when dealing with people in my profession. My boyfriend is in the business world and i think this is some useful information i could pass on to him!

    Thanks for the four strategies!

  • d_millyy

    Thank you for this post, two of the four ways to listen to your gut I really agree with. I also agree that your gut feeling is the most powerful feeling and when we actually do go with it, I believe we find a sense of happiness and control in our life because we are making our OWN decision. However, I can not agree with the drink a beer and eat dinner strategies. My reason is because it’s too bland and doesn’t really incorporate ever example of people you may cross. Like there are going to be people in your life who impact your greatly and help make choices for you but you would never have a beer or dinner with them for maybe countless reasons. However, the flip a coin strategy is the most accurate and powerful strategy in my opinion. I believe that one really brings out your true emotions, and emotions are very powerful.

  • Evan Hibbs

    Thank you for the blog Mr. Epstein, this is very useful information that I never thought about. I consider myself to be very friendly but there are always certain people you have a better with than others. This blog makes that very true, why would you want to work with someone who you don’t feel all that comfortable being around? Have you ever worked with/hired anyone you had bad chemistry with?

  • Evan Hibbs

    The beer test was a great idea! I know it’s similar but asking yourself if you were trapped in a room with someone you work with, would it be horribly awkward or would it be a fun experience?!

  • altruax0

    This was a great read. I didn’t think of making discussions that way. It defiantly helps those who are indecisive and can potentially save time. In the future I will use this method to help decide on a few things that are a little hard to decide on. Thanks.

  • sgawinski

    I really like the idea of flipping the coin. It is a great way to really find out what you truly wanted deep inside. I think it’s a good idea to follow our gut sometimes rather than over-thinking things in our head and making a choice that we knew deep inside we probably shouldn’t have done all along. Flipping a coin also gets that result/answer right away and prevents taking forever going back and forth between the options. Great article