Successful people from all professions attribute much of their success to trusting their gut when faced with critical decisions in their personal and professional lives. Richard Branson CEO of Virgin Group is quoted in a Success Magazine article as saying, “I do a lot by gut feeling and a lot by personal experience. I mean if I had relied on accountants to make decisions, I most certainly would never have gone into the airline business. I most certainly would not have gone into the space business, and I most certainly would not have gone into most of the businesses that I’m in.” And that would have been our loss!
All people are intuitive to different degrees and the manner in which people access their intuition for decision-making varies from individual to individual.
Daniel Goleman states in Primal Leadership, a book that he co-authored, “Intuition is the essential leadership ability to apply not just technical expertise but also life wisdom in making business decisions.” Some people do the research first, analyze all of the options and then rely on their intuition to help point them in the direction of the best course of action. Not the case with Albert Einstein. He said, “I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” It was more like a flash of brilliant insight. Some researchers and thought leaders believe this immediate knowledge, otherwise known as gut instinct, is actually a combination of pattern recognition (referred to as ‘thin slicing’ in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink) and accumulated wisdom stored in our unconscious mind. This inner wisdom is brought to the conscious level in a split second when you need it.
The psychologist Carl Jung saw intuition as “a way of comprehending perceptions in terms of possibilities, past experiences, future goals and unconscious processes”. Many people seek creative inspiration for decisions through meditation, solitary time and stillness to help them ‘see’ possibilities. Many achieve clarity through their dreams. Ideas that surface and resonate on a gut level using these techniques are given further consideration and analysis. Intuition to these folks, is a process of coming up with the right answer and then using analysis to prove what they ‘know’ to be true.
Some believe that intuition resides in the heart and that gut instinct cannot be fully explained through cognitive/neurological processes. They maintain that a compassionate and open heart is necessary to receive the gifts of intuition. This theory implies the presence of a higher power. It is the soul or spirit that intervenes, guided by universal energy. They believe that insights surface when we open up our hearts to receive answers that align with our needs and wishes. There is a caveat … an overabundance of empathy for others and wishful thinking can cloud your intuitive wisdom. Most researchers concur that no matter which approach you take to access your intuition, stress, fear and fatigue (some also suggest alcohol and drugs) can diminish your ability to pick up these essential messages.
Branson is one of the richest and most successful people on the planet (universe?). Some of his best achievements resulted from acting on a hunch. It’s hard to argue against using intuition for decision-making given his track record of success.
Regardless of which approach you use to access your inner wisdom, do not ignore those gentle nudges or the big elephant in the room. This is your gut speaking to you, hoping you will take notice.
Written by Rebecca D. Heaslip – President of Leadership Insight Inc.
© Copyright Leadership Insight Inc. July 2012