Intuition, gut feeling, instinct, sixth sense, clairvoyance, call it what you will. We all have intuition (at least I think so), but do we follow it or should we? When I don’t follow my first instinct, I often second guess a decision.
As a leader, I am taught to look at problems critically and objectively so that I make the best decision possible to fit each situation. The reality is that in the heat of a moment, I rely more on intuition than on negotiation skills learned in school. Decision trees are way too much work and take too long to complete for everyday verdicts.
On a personal note, life choices are often made the same way as professional decisions. If the decision is not life-changing, an intuitive solution is all that is required. Otherwise, I devise a list of choices and possible outcomes for an important decision, and usually I confer with my husband before a final resolution is met. In the end, the decision made commonly matches my first instinct. I just feel better about it because more thought was put into it than just throwing darts at the wall, hoping one will stick.
So here are the interpretations 0f the 3 questions we are to ask ourselves in this prompt:
- What are the costs of inaction? We all live in fear of something. My greatest fears are of abandonment and that I am not enough. Whenever a problem triggers one of these neuroses making a decision is more difficult. However, if I let myself become paralyzed with fright, I cannot move forward on anything. If I recognize that fear is skewing my judgment, it is best to emotionally and physically take myself out of for the moment and rely on more objective methods in which to base a decision.
- What kind of person do I want to be? This is a question I ask of myself frequently in relation to how I am perceived by others as well as how I see myself. Sometimes the decisions that frighten me the most provide the greatest opportunity to evolve into a better person. The outcome itself may not be what makes me better, but the fact that I can overcome fear in order to decide is a huge growth factor.
- In the event of failure, could I generate an alternate positive outcome? In business school I have learned about reaching a decision using different methods such as expected value and probability theory for an outcome, heuristics (good guessing really), and many others that I can’t remember at the moment. The point is that if I am faced with a monumental decision, I have weighed all of the outcomes and know what could go wrong with the choice made. The good news is that there should always be a plan B solution.
Like others, I am often anchored to an idea in that I already carry some bias towards a decision. I like to think that my judgment is correct, but that is not always the case.
For example, I got married too young the first time (20). What did I know about life experience or who I would turn out to be? It was not a smart choice to get married so young, but it was the best alternative that I could think of at the time. As a result of my decision, I later had a daughter who I love dearly and would not trade in for the world. In the end, it is all part of the journey.
When decisions are framed as there is no such thing a bad alternative, it makes life more bearable. There is nothing that cannot be overcome with perseverance. I may not always get the desired outcome, but it still holds value.
Facing (and Fearing) by Dan Andrews
Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough to-day to do right, and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Trusting intuition and making decisions based on it is the most important activity of the creative artist and entrepreneur. If you are facing (and fearing) a difficult life decision, ask yourself these three questions:
1) “What are the costs of inaction?” I find it can be helpful to fight fear with fear. Fears of acting are easily and immediately articulated by our “lizard brains” (thanks Seth) e.g. what if I fail? what if I look stupid? If you systematically and clearly list the main costs of inaction, they will generally overshadow your immediate fears.
2) “What kind of person do I want to be?” I’ve found this question to be extremely useful. I admire people who act bravely and decisively. I know the only way to join their ranks is to face decisions that scare me. By seeing my actions as a path to becoming something I admire, I am more likely to act and make the tough calls.
3) “In the event of failure, could I generate an alterative positive outcome?” Imagine yourself failing to an extreme. What could you learn or do in that situation to make it a positive experience? We are generally so committed to the results we seek at the outset of a task or project that we forget about all the incredible value and experience that comes from engaging the world proactively, learning, and improving our circumstances as we go along.
(Author: Dan Andrews)