When was the last time you regretted a decision you made based on “going with your gut?” Probably never. That’s why it’s time to think of “listening to your gut” as “listening to your faster intelligence.”

Don’t ‘out-smart’ your initial gut reaction. Don’t let your rational mind ‘out-think’ your raw intuition.  Tweet This Quote

A few months ago, I was fortunate to catch up for an hour with Alex Bogusky (the advertising legend and Boulder resident) at one of my favorite local coffee shops. Part way through our conversation we started to share some of the more significant entrepreneurial mistakes we’ve made over the past year. We both had made one or two decisions we regretted and we bonded over the realization that in both our experiences, these regrets were correlated directly to a time that we “out-smarted” our initial gut reaction.

In the spirit of sharing a conversation with an advertising legend, I am now convinced we need to rebrand the expression, “listen to your gut.” I think rebranding is the first step to preventing our rational minds from “out-thinking” our raw intuition. But first, I want to run you through a quick thought experiment.

The Thought Experiment
Have you ever talked to someone who said that they regretted making decision when they listened to their gut? Pause. Take just 30-60 seconds. Really, try to think if you have ever heard someone say this? If you are like me you will not be able to think of even one instance.

Now, take another 30 seconds to recall how many times you have heard people say they regret the decisions they made when they ignored their gut. Really though, take an honest 30 seconds to reflect on this. If you are anything like me or the handful of people I’ve been asking about this, you may be surprised by just how many times you’ve heard people express this regret. And I’m willing to bet that if you are honest with yourself, you can think of several times that you regret the decisions you made when you ignored your own gut instinct.

We need to rebrand the expression, ‘listen to your gut.’  Tweet This Quote

A Re-branding is Needed
I think that the reason we often ignore our gut is because it has been improperly branded. When we think of it as a gut reaction, it feels like our decision making process is nothing more than a fleeting feeling in our abdomen. In reality, as a good friend Eduardo Garcia recently told me, listening to your gut is your body’s millisecond reaction to a situation that is the result of all the decisions, experiences, and lessons you’ve had throughout your entire life. It’s your body making an intuitive response at the apex of all your life experiences. When you think about it in this light, you can start to see why listening to one’s gut is actually a reputable source for making tough decisions. It begins to feel less whimsical. If I were to re-brand the word I’d change it from “listen to your gut” to “listen to your faster intelligence.” If we see it as our faster intellect, I think it becomes a lot easier to be confident in making big decisions with significant ramification by listening to that soft but brilliant voice that is in all of us.

A gut reaction: your body’s millisecond reaction that is the result of all the decisions, experiences, and lessons you’ve had throughout your entire life.

A Prediction
Just a few weeks ago I was sharing this exact conversation with another good friend of mine, George Kembel (co-leader of Unreasonable@Sea and director of the d.school at Stanford). George told me that he believes in the years to come we are going to see a massive shift in how leaders, teachers, parents, designers, and entrepreneurs make their decisions. Instead of using complex rationalized frameworks and matrixes that places like Harvard are famous for, George believes (and I agree) that soon, listening to your gut is going to become a compelling reference for making hard decisions and for making strategic decisions.

So, I say let’s all get ahead of this trend and together, let’s re-brand the expression so that we give our gut-reaction the credit it deserves. If you call it your faster-intelligence you’ll give yourself that important permission, and the confidence needed to follow it. The second step to making this as mainstream as George suggests, I believe, is to start building simple frameworks around how we can more easily hear and listen to this faster intelligence. I’ll explore this further in my next post.

In Summary:

  1. As individuals and as a society we need to start listening to our gut intuition and giving it the decision making credit it deserves.
  2. To give ourselves this permission, we ought to rebrand the expression to something like “listening to our faster intelligence.”
  3. This is teachable and I’d predict that in the years to come, we will start to see the data around this that will lead to thought-leaders publishing dozens of books on frameworks that bring our faster intelligence to the forefront of our decision making processes. In a follow-up post, I’ll share a few simple tricks I’ve learned over the years to kick-start this conversation.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
– Albert Einstein

Daniel Epstein

Author Daniel Epstein

Daniel 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 life accordingly. He is the proud founder of the Unreasonable Group.

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