Journal

The Art of Making the Right Decisions: Listen to Yourself!

It is a human phenomenon and our silent adviser: the gut feeling. It subconsciously shows us the right way – if only we’d listen to it better. How do we tune into it? Read on.

From a positive flutter to gentle pressure in the stomach: our body signals are usually clear. But we often punish our gut feeling, intuition or sixth sense by ignoring its warnings. And it’s no wonder – we’re racing through the world, making many big and small decisions every day. We are surrounded by impressive images, strong opinions, constant evaluations, and perfect visions of life. We get carried away with routine decisions, and are often so influenced by our environment that we derive our opinions from it. After all, we should be able to decide what’s right for us, instead of listening to twinges or tingles in our gut, right?

Not at all. In the long run, this leads to possibly the biggest loss of our lives: ourselves. “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become,” Steve Jobs sums it up in one of his stirring speeches. In order for us to lead our lives in a self-determined way, we have to learn to listen to ourselves again. This is the only way to get closer to personal happiness.

The best thing about the gut feeling? It often has a decision ready for us, before our mind is even aware. When we make a decision based on our gut feeling, we subconsciously and automatically compare our experiences and perceptions to the current situation – while our mind is still busy writing lists of pros and cons. The best decision is evident in the form of body signals in the abdominal region.

These are also ‘somatic markers’. If our subconscious decision is in favor of something, we speak of ‘positive somatic markers’: our body reacts with a pleasant tingling sensation, perhaps we get heart flutters or feel a warm sensation in our belly. If our belly is against a situation, this shows up in ‘negative somatic markers’: we might then experience a constricted feeling in the chest, and pain in the stomach.

Practice makes perfect: how we understand ourselves better

The gut feeling cannot be explained rationally and still puzzles science, but one thing is clear: we all have it. We need to understand that our gut feeling is a communication channel from our inner voice to us, and learn, once again, how to identify the signals being sent. This works only if we train our self-perception. You do this with the following three exercises.

001 Interview yourself

If you’re faced with a decision, and no longer understand your own gut, it usually helps to break down the general feeling. Ask yourself these questions:

Is there a squeezing sensation in my belly or does it feel soft?
Do I feel colder or warmer?
Is the feeling darker or lighter?
Do I feel lighter or heavier?
Is something hurting me or do I feel a positive tingling somewhere?

002 Meditate

When we are stressed, we’re often not able to hear our inner voice. It’s muted by thoughts and emotions. We need to calm down, so that we can listen again. This can be achieved through meditation, which, at the same time, trains our self-awareness:

Set aside 5-15 minutes each day for meditation. Breathe deeply in and out through your nose. Follow your breath the whole time. This kind of mindfulness is already an effective and simple form of meditation. End your meditation with a deep breath, pause for a moment, then exhale forcefully.

003 Test your intuition in everyday life

Routines mostly dominate our day. Try to break them, and let your intuition guide you for a whole day. Where it leads us is usually very interesting and often unexpected.

Take a day off, and no matter what you do, before every decision, small or large, ask yourself one question. For example: should I stay in bed or get up? Coffee or tea? Should I go for a walk, or stay home and read a book?

Stress is drastically reduced when we set boundaries for ourselves.

Listening to our inner voice and really getting to know our limits help establish these boundaries. It also involves frequently saying no to friends, family and colleagues, which can be difficult. But once you learn how – and realize it will give you more free time to do the things that are important to you – you will become your authentic self. Our free digital course, Set Healthy Boundaries, will show you how.

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