Gut Check: Don’t Analyze This Question (and Don’t Blink): Is Intuition Underrated?

Gut feeling is when we instinctively know in our hearts that something is right.  Our keen instincts are comprised of insights and perceptions- our take on the way things are.  Gut feelings are often well formed and informed even if we don’t realize it, although many people chalk intuition up to superstition.  In Blink: the Power to Think without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell it talks about how intuition is not only valid but that everyone should listen to their intuition.  Keen intuition is the power that we possess to recognize and understand the true nature and significance of people, places, things, and situations. It helps us to look at life in a different light, and to open our minds to new opportunities.Impossible to define, yet something that each and every one of us experiences, gut feelings are unique, personal experiences that we’ve been taught to be very wary of, especially in this day and age of instant, easily-accessible information.

But what exactly comprises a gut feeling? Otherwise known as intuition and instinct, gut feelings are when we just know in our heads, hearts, and souls, independent from our five senses, that that something is right.

This ‘sixth’ sense that we all possess is actually a product of our past – what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced, and what we’ve believed. In other words, our keen instincts are comprised of insights and perceptions. But because these gut reactions often come to us instantly, we’re often not conscious of how a thought came to us and why we feel as we do, and we’re at a loss to explain this to ourselves and others.

Richard Branson may have summed up everything that we need to know about intuition when he answered the question:”What do you look for in an entrepreneur?” by FT.com:

Sir Richard: “Restless questioning, the ability to ask the question ‘why not?’ rather than just ‘why?’ – and the ultimate determination to say: ‘Screw it, Let’s do it!’

However ultimately, the entrepreneur will only succeed if he or she has good people around them and they listen to their advice. My colleagues know me as Dr.Yes because I always find it hard to say ‘No’ to new ideas and proposals. I rely on them to guide me but ultimately. I’m also prepared to trust my intuition, as long as I feel it is well informed.” (emphasis added)

As I wrote above, keen intuition – as opposed to a devil-may-care, throw caution to the wind, overly emotional approach – consists of what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced, and what we’ve believed. What that means is that our gut feelings are often well formed and informed, even if we don’t realize it, not based on superstition as nay-sayers would like to have the concept defined.

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According to Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, a German social psychologist, and influential to Malcolm Gladwell’s popular book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, intuition is not only valid, but ordinary people can use it successfully.

SO … the ultimate question is: Are instincts really reliable?

Dr. Gigerenzer, in an interview with The New York Times, said:

“My research indicates that gut feelings are based on simple rules of thumb, what we psychologists term ‘heuristics.’ These take advantage of certain capacities of the brain that have come down to us through time, experience and evolution. Gut instincts often rely on simple cues in the environment. In most situations, when people use their instincts, they are heeding these cues and ignoring other unnecessary information. “

Ah, ha! you say. Doesn’t this contradict David’s entire Slow Down FAST philosophy?

Sorry. It actually compliments it. Keen intuition is the power that we possess to recognize and understand the true nature and significance of people, places, things, and situations. It helps us to look at life in a different light, and to open our minds to new opportunities.

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