I’m sure you would like to use more intuitive decision-making, learning to rely on your subconscious for wiser decisions. It’s more than just a gut instinct or quick reflexes. There’s an element of mastery when subconsciously noticing all the patterns and data without rationally analysing every detail.
Let me share with you an example I read about a few years ago:
In the Monaco Grand Prix, back in the 1950s, the race winner (Juan Manuel Fangio) braked as he came out of the tunnel on his second lap, which allowed him to avoid a mass pile-up. Other drivers accelerated rather than braked.
Why did he choose to brake instead?
Unbeknownst to him, his peripheral vision noticed that all the spectators were looking away from him rather than towards him. And while he didn’t make a conscious decision to brake, his body automatically knew that something was off.
Years of experience kicked in as the sea of faces was turned away and looking towards the accident rather than at the drivers exiting the tunnel.
This is intuitive decision-making: the ability to notice a subtle change in patterns (like the crowd looking another way) that guides you to a wise decision.
It’s possible to master intuitive decision-making in your life, career and business if you develop the skills.
The Benefits of Intuitive Decision-Making:
Your honed intuition requires neither reasoning nor perception: it’s an automatic feeling of immediate knowledge, understanding, or awareness. You “just know”.
It works because the human mind is naturally inclined to find and identify patterns. It can do this positively or negatively, creating limitations, boundaries, and self-sabotage or creating opportunities.
Using your intuition has these benefits:
- Speed – in complex and dynamically changing situations with high stakes, you can rely on your intuition for wise decisions.
- Your intuition can provide profound wisdom and intelligence. Rational decision-making is sequential, following a series of steps. You analyse the facts and figures and then rely on the conscious part of the brain to come up with the most appropriate decision. Your intuition can see beyond these facts and figures.
- This results in greater possibilities for creativity and thinking outside the box.
- Of course, your intuition is built on trust and self-awareness; it aligns with your core values and sense of purpose.
- Because it relies on your emotional intelligence, it helps you read the room and build stronger relationships.
Intuitive decision-making is not rational, emotional or random.
Intuitive decision-making is not dumb luck or the best guess! It’s a knowing “just because you know”. If you look at it on the base of competence, it relies on unconscious competence and mastery! You have to know it so well that you’ve forgotten more than what others have learned.
Gut instinct and intuition are not the same, either. Gut instinct is something you can trust, as you trust your intuition. But it serves a different purpose, and your somatic experience of it will be different. One of the roles of the gut is safety and boundaries – eighty per cent of your immune system is gut-based.
So, it’s hardly surprising that your gut kicks in to keep you safe in other ways. Your gut and nervous system will already have you moving away from danger before your rational brain even realises what you are moving away from.
But intuition offers a much greater breadth of wisdom and possibilities. While it might save you from bad decisions, it will also allow you to think outside the box and see opportunities that others miss.
How to hone your decision-making skills:
Like many other skills, wise-decision making and the use of your intuition can be honed and mastered. Here are some areas to focus on:
Experience and knowledge:
Juan Manuel Fangio won the Grand Prix of Monaco because of his experience and mastery! I have no idea how many hundreds or thousands of hours of racing he had under his belt before that fateful day! In much the same way, we might look at a concert pianist or Luka Šulić (cellist), marvelling at how easy they make it look. A magician is likewise well-practised in their tricks and slights of hand.
In the same way that an artist, musician or sportsman invests their time and energy honing their skills and experience to master their craft, focus on gaining as much knowledge and expertise in the specific areas of life you want to succeed.
Your intuition is most reliable in your area of expertise, not in an area where you are a novice. While many skills and knowledge are transferable from one speciality to another, avoid over-confidence if you move into a new industry or career path. At the same time, you need confidence in yourself to use your intuition, and imposter syndrome will have you second-guessing what you know.
Networks and relationships
One of the secrets of excellent decision-making is knowing who to ask for advice, feedback and alternative perspectives. Even Napoleon Hill, in his book, Think and Grow Rich, talks about the power of building a mastermind group “the group helps to organise useful knowledge, creating a virtual encyclopedia from which each member can draw information” (The Law of Success, Napoleon Hill).
If you are building a business and want to excel in making strides ahead, don’t spend all your time at the sports bar with friends talking about the latest football game! That’s probably not the network that will give you expertise and perspectives on business opportunities.
Similarly, build relationships with professionals that will amplify your knowledge and outlook and present you with new opportunities for growth and learning.
The importance of emotional intelligence
I write a lot about this little topic because it impacts many areas of life! Four fundamental aspects of this kind of intelligence will affect your intuition and decision-making abilities: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management.
- Self-awareness is your ability to notice your emotional state, triggers and responses.
- Self-management is essential if you want to sit quietly and tap into your intuition, despite whatever is happening around you. Can you bring yourself back to inner calm? How do you direct and use your emotional energy to get the best outcome?
- Social awareness is your ability to read the room. This is a powerful tool of intuition, and it comes with experience and knowledge.
- Relationship management is how you build your network, including with people who have opposing interests or conflicts of resources. Can you build great relationships with those you are competing with and maximise cooperation?
Learning to listen to the still, small voice of intuition
As with all skills, intuitive decision-making is something that you practice. While gut instinct might kick in with a gut-wrenching response, intuition often whispers.
You might consider keeping a journal of somatic experiences, noting any doubts that “pop up” and your gut instinct. Take note of anything that excites you as well as dreams and hunches.
Practice clearing your mind and just sitting mindfully. You want to embody inner calm and peace, creating an environment that invites the subconscious to do its best work.
Some simple tools when you are consciously competent:
As you work your way up from conscious competence to unconscious competence, you might consider some shortcuts for decision-making:
- The 37% rule is an excellent tool for decision-making and will help you hone your intuitive skills. The premise is simple: use thirty-seven per cent of your available time to explore options and study all the possibilities without making any choice or decision. Set your benchmarks and standards during this time. Spend time learning what works and doesn’t – what do you like or dislike? Once you’ve invested this time and energy, choose the first option that meets your criteria.
- Choose satisficing, rather than maximising, when making decisions: Satisficing contrasts with maximising — where you aim to maximise all of the benefits, and instead, you choose the option that meets all minimum requirements. Attempting to get the best of all may lead you not to choose at all, whereas if you have clarity on what will satisfy you and suffice, you may reach a better decision.
- Tap into your subconscious by “sleeping on it”. Do your study and analysis the night before. Write down in a journal a short list of questions that you would like your subconscious to address overnight. Don’t overthink the questions as you go to sleep; you are not meant to lie in bed analysing and dissecting all the angles. Instead, relax and trust all the parts of your mind to integrate the information for you. When you wake up, take a moment to sit down and (without overthinking) write down the first answers and thoughts that come to mind on the questions you asked. Notice what you noticed and the different perspectives this brings.
When to make the best decisions:
“On an important decision one rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.”
One of the risks of intuitive decision-making is that your data and information are incomplete. But these are not the only factors that impact wise decision-making.
You know that you shouldn’t make decisions when you are tired, hungry, scared or just after Thanksgiving dinner when you have brain fog! Each of us works with different highs and lows of energy – some are morning people, while others are night owls.
Part of your self-awareness is learning your best moments of the day to make the hard decisions. There will be moments when you will need to decide in a chaotic environment and circumstances. But where possible, ensure that you create an excellent decision-making environment.
Risk tolerance – the impact of hunger on your intuition!
As a lawyer in contract negotiation, I can’t tell you how often I intentionally set up meetings before lunch as a negotiation tactic. I always made sure I had a late morning tea before negotiations so that I was not working on an empty stomach.
Hunger can affect your preferences in ways you might not predict, and this is all happening subconsciously. When you are hungry, you are impatient and are more likely to accept a short-term gain rather than negotiate for long-term interests. You are also more likely to take risks that you would avoid if you were in a satiated state! Where possible, have a small snack (not a heavy meal) before you make impactful decisions!
Intuitive Decision-Making – what you need to remember:
Intuition is what you have when you are well-versed in a subject that you can easily read the patterns without consciously thinking about it or analysing. Intuitive decision-making is not a hit-and-miss or a lucky guess, and it’s even more than a gut feeling. It’s being able to trust yourself deeply to notice what you notice on a subconscious level.
You will find it has one striking limitation – you might not be able to explain to others the reasoning behind your decision. In the rational and data-driven world that we live in, others may second-guess your choices.
Mastery of any area of life (personal, career or business) is about domain knowledge and expertise. This allows you to do the subconscious pattern analysis rather than relying on rational thought and crunching the numbers.
If luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation, then intuitive decision-making is what happens when your growth mindset and mastery meet a deadline, time constraints, complexities and new opportunities! For outsiders, it will look a lot like luck!
Generative wisdom in making personal decisions:
Expertise in your personal life is having great clarity about your priorities, values and relationships. You won’t feel torn between competing priorities if you already have clarity on your hierarchy of values. If you already know what is truly important to you and how you are following your purpose, decision-making will be easier.
Excellence in your profession, career and business:
Irrespective of your chosen career path, aim for excellence in knowledge, experience and practice. There’s a saying in Spanish:
Más sabe Diablo por viejo que por Diablo.
A rough translation: The Devil is more cunny because he’s old than because he’s the Devil.
Become the expert in your field through learning, growth and experience. Do the extra training, study, and spend time meeting with colleagues and networking. Build up such proficiency that you can “do it in your sleep”. That’s when you can rely on intuitive decision-making.
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Some interesting articles on the impact of hunger and satiety on decision-making:
- What Is Wrong with Hungry Judges? A Case Study of Legal Implications of Cognitive Science
- Metabolic state alters economic decision-making under risk in humans
- Short-Term Fasting Selectively Influences Impulsivity in Healthy Individuals
- Making Major Decisions While Being Hungry is a Bad Idea