Recognizing and listening to your gut is an important soft skill of a leader. Your gut in your internal “knowing” and guide. It taps your intuition and gives you 6th sense information. Sometimes hearing your gut is not as easy and as obvious as it sounds. Here are 5 steps to access this wisdom daily!
- Learn to recognize the voice of your gut. You have to learn to discern and hear this voice. Often we have other “voices” in our head, like our negative self-talk, fear voices, parent voices, etc. No, you don’t have multiple personality disorder and unhealthy voices in your mind. Humans have normal everyday thoughts that run in our minds depending on their mindset and mental conditioning. I believe we all have a few types of voices from:
- random thoughts in our mind,
- some level of cautious or warning thoughts that are more of a gremlin/saboteur/negative/fear voice,
- a sage or wise self-voice
- and finally your gut.
In graduate school, we were asked to do an activity and think about something we “knew”. We could not have proof or reason to “know” this item that we were going to pick, rather just a sense of “knowing”. This activity helped me to start recognizing my gut voice. You can develop recognition of the voice by doing this practice. Ask yourself what do I “know”. This can come from intuition / 6th sense and also as a faith person, I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to you in this way. Write it down and then look for that to come to fruition. It often takes time, so it is a practice to keep doing and being present to for about a year. This isn’t about putting a wish or desire into the universe, it is something that you have a sense of “knowing” or “confidence” about even though you do not have proof.
Additionally, you can access this voice by being aware of your body and listening to your body. Some people feel it before they hear it. You might feel a pit in your stomach or a lump in your throat. As you become aware of that and process the feeling, thoughts, and connections … the information comes to you. For example, “I just don’t trust this guy.” “I should call mom.” “It is time to go.” “Something is off.” “Don’t hire this person.” You usually can’t explain it and do not have any proof or specific reason, but there is something that feels off or strikes you. That is your gut.
As you grow, the more you develop an awareness of this voice, the more you will hear it when it has something to say. It is very important as a leader to grow your ability to hear this wisdom. It is a skill to cultivate because when we are running around, engrossed in P&L’s, tasks and meetings, it is easy to completely miss this quiet voice of knowledge. Heck, we can miss our stomach growling because we ran out that morning without breakfast and it is 3:00 and we still have not stopped to eat. This first step is important and accessed even more when you are intentional about regular practices of stillness, mindfulness and internal awareness.
2. Separate the noise and the fog from the knowing/gut. Next, is to become aware of what is busyness or the “saboteur” voice vs. fog vs. this gut voice of knowing. To do this, it is important to clear your mind several times a day. This can be done with daily habits like an AM and PM power hour to ensure you “brain dump” thoughts and actions. Additionally, being proactive with to-do lists, activities and spending some time focusing on vision, mindset and the big picture will help to sort thoughts and create clarity. As you have habits to help process the high volume of “noise” and “information” in your mind, you are able to clear it from the “fog”.
“Fog” are thoughts that hang around but are undefined and not downloadable. They are often emotions, things you are worried or concerned about, things you are quietly marinating on but there is no specific action. “Fog” can make it difficult to make decisions because it clouds our mind with a lack of understanding and weight that feels unclear or hanging there. It is important to be able to journal or process this “fog” so we are able to manage it and understand what it is. This helps to keep the “fog” from imposing on our gut voice and other things we are working on. When you can identify the “fog” and understand what it is about, you can name it and make a decision of how you want to handle it (i.e. plan a meeting next week to discuss potentially losing a large contract and make the decision is to talk to Jack about it and proactively create a game plan). Through this process of separating the fog, you can access your knowledge and gut better.
3. Ask questions After you have the awareness to listen for your gut and have cleared the noise and the fog, it is important to get information. Sometimes we are afraid to ask questions because we don’t have time, assume it is obvious, don’t want to look stupid or feel we should figure it out. Questions and curiosity are important. We have to trust that others have different perspectives and vantage points than we have and by asking questions we are expanding our ability to discern and assess situations and make decisions. Be curious. Who, What, How, When, Where are all good questions to ask. Starting with “I’m curious….” is a great way to just be present with a situation, not judging or making up a story, rather just listening, reflecting and noticing. It is useful to have others give feedback and share their thoughts, it gives you an opportunity to notice how your mind, heart, and gut respond to what they say. In this process, your gut collects more information and is able to process in a way only the gut does.
4. Sit with it to get clear After you have gathered information, it is important to allow a little time for abortion and reflection, 24 hours is a great rule of thumb. Notice your energy, body, and mindset as you reflect. Are you tense? Do you feel amped up? Do you want to talk to someone? Does it feel confusing or conflicted? So you want to run away? Has the flight, fight or freeze part of your brain gotten triggered? What is happening in your mind. Notice the noise and the fog again and download (write down) things clouding you from clarity… and then ask yourself again about your gut. What do I know? What is my body telling me? What do I REALLY notice about this situation? Not what everyone else says, but what you FEEL deep inside of you. As you sit with things, you can start to observe quiet knowing’s – these are your gut voice sharing… if there is something to be shared. You don’t have to make it up, if there is nothing there, there is nothing there. If there is a message when you ask yourself, you will get it… “should I hire this guy?” “is this the right decision?” “do I feel safe?” “should I trust her?” “should we go?”
5. Trust your gut and watch for boomerangs Trust that your gut voice has wisdom and knowledge. Make decisions in alignment with your gut (which is always holding your values and real priorities in the heart of your subconscious). After you have listened to your gut…. make your decision and move forward. Do watch for boomerangs. Boomerangs are when the topic and “decision” keep coming back up. Meaning, you keep second guessing, feel unsettled or backtrack. It is a sign that you might have sided with the noise, fog or external voices for the sake of peacekeeping, harmony, peer pressure, looking good or a slew of other things. In these cases, decisions come back to you, giving questions, anxiety, and unrest as your gut challenges you because you did not listen to it. It is an indication that you yielded to another voice that was in competition with the gut voice, and the gut voice stays strong and present showing up for you to reconsider and listen. While this feeling is uncomfortable, usually feels very confusing and can cause conflict if you backtrack or change your mind, it is your gut trying to hold the higher knowing and intuition that is sometimes not popular and as loud as other voices that are weighing in. If this happens, go back to step #4 to get quiet and clear. Try and ask yourself, “what is my gut telling me?” “what is it picking up on?” “what is not sitting right?” “why am I questioning this?” “what do I know to be true?”
Your gut voice is a gift and the more you learn to hear it, the more intuitive you will be with your inner values and wisdom. It does not side with what is popular or the fears… rather what is consistent with who you are and what is true to you. As a leader, again, it is imperative to be able to access this voice. Doing so will help you be more clear, intuitive and a stronger decision maker, acting from clarity, conviction, and truth.
We have changed our subscription service and will be sending all of our subscribers our new blogs when they are posted. We hope that you will enjoy these weekly strategies to “Increase Productivity and Performance through Great Leadership.”