THE BLOG
09/24/2014 10:38 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

How to Leverage Intuition in Decision-making

I knew it. How many times have you found yourself saying that, after the fact?

When you ignore your instincts, and go forward despite a slightly uncomfortable feeling in your gut, you almost always regret it.

Sadly, it's usually only after the fact that we can fully articulate why things didn't "feel right." Your money is gone, the deal has soured, your heart has been broken or your hopes have been dashed. The moment that you get concrete proof that your gut was right, you wonder why you doubted yourself in the first place.

We are exposed to millions of subtle messages every day, the body language clues our boss gives us in meetings, the shifting eyes of the person we're interviewing, the faint hesitation of the real estate agent when we ask about the smell in the basement. Your intuition, or gut instinct, is the sum of all your senses; it's your subconscious brain working in the background, taking in glances, smells, visual cues and tone of voice.

We can't consciously process all the information we receive, or we'd never get any real work done. So our subconscious mind scans the clues, to discern what's important and what's not.

Some people are more attentive than others and our own intuitive attention waxes and wanes depending on the situation. But as a general rule, your gray matter is fermenting lots of data that your conscious mind is unaware of.

The moment you get confirmation of your instincts, your brain spits back the movie flashback version of all the bits of information it's collected to date. Like the tight little smile your boss gave when you were talking about next year's leadership retreat. At the time, you thought nothing of it, but when you got demoted, your subconscious recording of his discomfort came back in vivid detail.

We're often told that we should make decisions logically, rather than giving sway to emotions. This is terrible advice. Ignoring your emotions cuts off your intuition, which is a critical tool for good decision-making.

It may feel safer to rely on logic or the opinions of others, but your gut instinct isn't just a willy-nilly mush of emotions, it's the sum of the subtle information that your brain has collected, but hasn't yet fully processed. It's your own inner wisdom.

So how do you learn to trust your instincts? Some of it comes with age and experience. Once you prove yourself right a few times, you feel more confident about the value of intuition as a decision-making tool.

Here are three ways you can leverage intuition in the decision-making process:

1. Create white space
You can't tap into your inner wisdom if your brain is cluttered with action items. If you're facing a big decision, go for a walk, listen to music, give your mind the opportunity to meander.

2. Ignore the facts
This statement makes many people nuts. But you're not ignoring the facts forever, just for one part of the process. Put your bulleted list aside and ask yourself how you feel about things. How is your body responding to your options?

3. Pay attention to your stomach
Many of us feel things in our gut before we know it in our brain. Play out the options and watch how your stomach muscles respond. Do they tighten? Do they relax?

It's challenging to break through the clutter and harness your inner wisdom. But the truth is you already have most of the answers you need.

Lisa McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestseller, Selling with Noble Purpose. She is a sales leadership consultant and keynote speaker. Organizations like Genentech, Google, and Kaiser hire her to help them grow revenue.

www.McLeodandMore.com
Lisa@McLeodandMore.com