The 'Magic' Trait You Already Possess That's Key To Making Better Decisions

Photo: Lana Veter, Юлия Здобнова, Ozan Çulha | Canva 
listening to your intuition

I walked alone into the posh party not looking nor expecting anything specific. Leaning against the fireplace was a short, dark man. He stared at me cockily. What an arrogant gaze, I thought.

In another instance, on early morning duty as a foreign service officer at the Department of State, I was summarizing key incoming information about Latin America for the Secretary of State and a young guy covering Europe who seemed callow and awkward worked at the next desk. It turned out, he was four years younger.

It may surprise you to learn that I spent about a decade of involvement on and off with the first man and almost married the second one later.

I wonder how I would have used that nonrenewable time and energy devoted to each imprudent relationship if I had listened to my original intuition about each one, as I described above. My ability to understand something immediately without conscious reasoning is usually right on, but I ignored it because of the unfolding chemistry and experiences with each one.

How many situations and complex motivations related to work and love have distracted you from listening to your well-founded intuition?

I hope the following will help you appreciate the seeming magic of your internal knowledge, which is expressed as intuition.

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Why we so often dismiss our intuition

You may not appreciate your intuition because it seems automatic and immediate. Why trust something that comes so easily? But you have done the preliminary work by accumulating experience, observation, and learning, consciously or not.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman writes that “intuition is nothing more and nothing less than recognition.” This relates to Herbert Simon, another Nobel laureate, who wrote on expertness and intuition:

“We have seen that a major component of expertise is the ability to recognize a very large number of specific relevant cues when they are present in any situation, and then to retrieve from memory information about what to do when those particular cues are noticed.

Because of this knowledge and recognition capability, experts can respond to new situations very rapidly—and usually with considerable accuracy. Of course, on further thought, the initial reaction may not be the correct one, but it is correct in a substantial number of cases and is rarely irrelevant.”

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How to capture your expertise for decision-making

Maybe you wonder about your level of expertise, and perhaps doubt your intuition due to this. The solution involves becoming an expert not only on yourself but in observing others and your reactions to them.

I think that opportunity and enjoyment are present in many aspects of your life if you are willing to notice what’s around you. Interestingly, a 19-year-old friend just told me she thinks the world is divided between people who notice and those who do not.

How willing are you to notice what’s happening within and outside yourself?

It takes little time to create such an encyclopedia for effective living to access whenever you wish. Then, you can pull up the chunks of information you’ve noticed, organized within your mind as Simon says, for appreciation, review, and use.

Research confirms that intuition significantly benefits decision-making while adding that unconscious information can increase decision-making accuracy, speed, and confidence.

Relying on your own accumulated knowledge and understanding is so much better and reassuring than “eeny, meeny, miny, moe, as the New Yorker cartoon described a “great decision maker.” The challenge remains, though, to consider it further in the light of the present, what you want now and what’s possible.

An exercise for learning to trust your intuition

Certainly, all your direct and indirect schooling and learning about analytical thinking is relevant to decision-making as well. Then I suggest you briefly use it by describing any relevant situation, interpreting it, and evaluating it.

This exercise can give you a basis for comparing what you know intuitively with what you know cognitively through thinking and reasoning.

Keep your decision-making tough-minded and gentlehearted. Together, intuition and analysis will help you be tough-minded in a way that serves your short and long-term interests, choices, and actions.

When you add a gentle-hearted aspect, that tenderness will help you express the richness of empathy, an important aspect of deeper, balanced relationships, as you know.

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Refresh your intuition by asking yourself these questions:

1. What have you lost by not heeding your intuition?

2. What can you gain now by noticing what’s emerging within you and around you?

3. How you can add additional insights with analytical processes to your intuition for effective decision-making?

4. In what circumstances does bringing empathy into the process become beneficial and appropriate?

5. What valuable relationships and situations do you want to cultivate that will make combining intuition, analysis, and empathy worth your efforts?

Final encouragement to use your intuition: There’s a good reason why sometimes intuition is called a “gut feeling.” You have a second brain there with 100 million neurons! You’ll make even better decisions when you engage all your powers.

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Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making viable visions for current and future work and life situations. Benefit from the first chapter of her seventh book Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future available without charge.