Perhaps like many of you, I consistently have these feelings. My tendency is to sometimes ignore them and regret it later. So a few weeks ago I decided to do something about it. I picked up a book called Gut Feelings The Intelligence of the Unconscious by Gerd Gigerenzer and powered through it.
When I initially read a review about this book I thought - Great! I'll read this book and right away learn how to optimize these feelings and thereby increase my effectiveness and accuracy in making decisions. Don't we all want to make the right choices more often?
Gut Feelings The Intelligence of the UnconsciousI thought - Wouldn't it be great if I could come up with a way to consistently capitalize on these feelings? I figured the benefits and opportunities were limitless. Think about it. If I could look at three investment opportunities and consistently pick the right one or simply increase my percentages over time that would be awesome. The applications in the capital marketplace and Vegas are obvious but what about everyday life? What about relationships? Ever meet someone and have a funny feeling about them? Did your gut feeling turn out to be correct? What if you could eliminate the wasted time of nurturing a bad relationship or avoid the complications of involving yourself with shady characters or people who only want to take advantage of you? If you look above at the photo (it's actually the cover of the book - Gut Feelings) It shows a man deliberating over a decision to go left or right. The implication is that his gut feeling is to go right and avoid the masked man with the knife who is hiding around the corner to his left. Will he be smart enough to go with his gut feelings? Can your gut feelings keep you out of dangerous situations? What would you do when faced with a similar choice? Would you feel confident trusting your gut feelings?
These were some of the questions I asked myself in an attempt to understand and feel comfortable with my own intuition. So in an effort to better understand these little voices and improve my quality of life through this understanding I critically examined Gigerenzer's writing. I figured even improving the little things like avoiding traffic jams and picking the right line at the grocery store would be helpful in my life. Ultimately, I suppose, I wanted to be more like Thomas Magnum on the series Magnum P.I. Do you remember Magnum? He was always hearing his own little voice and he listened to it. His voice generally influenced him in the right direction. I wanted to perfect this technique so that I would more likely say "I'm glad I made that choice" instead of the alternative "I wish I had listened to my gut feelings."
Thomas Magnum usually listened to his "gut feelings" or his little voice. When he didn't - There was generally trouble ahead.
So here we go, I picked up the book and started reading. My first observation was that the book read more like a college text book than a "how to" book. My preference would have been for a step by step process with examples and someone to hold my hand and lead me to the promised land but that was not in the cards. It wasn't quite as bad as college Thermodynamics but there were times when I thought about skipping a few chapters. It's easy to understand why the book was written in this manner when you consider who the author is - Gerd Gigerenzer, who was a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. That definitely adds credibility to the book but doesn't make it read anything like a Louis L'amour novel. I read on..... I was impressed at how the author drew parallels between catching a fly ball and gut feelings. He would go on to describe and define the "gaze heuristic" in which an outfielder uses a technique of gazing at a fly ball to predict where it will come down. He later introduces the "recognition heuristic" as a tool that people can use to make decisions. He cleverly used cute anecdotes to highlight his points and somehow keep me interested and waiting for the step by step process that I was looking for. He proved to me that "less information can be more" and often produces the best answer or decision. Without delivering to me the pass key I'd hoped for to consistently make accurate decisions based on my own gut feelings, he finally got his point across. In summary, this book is about gut feelings and the intelligence associated with the unconscious mind. The author's theory is that these feelings, hunches, inner voices or whatever you may use to describe them are not based on random or capricious thought. Contrarily, they are based on information that may be hidden in the subconscious mind or observations and mental processes that you may not be cognizant of. That's my take on it.
Every day we make hundreds if not thousands of decisions. Some people are indecisive and have a difficult time making decisions. Sometimes the correct answer is right there in front of them and they still deliberate and ultimately make the wrong choice. At times I've personally had to make decisions when the answers were not clear. I have a history of not going with my gut feelings and using logic or reason to talk myself out of the intuitive answer. I think now I've taken a proactive step in my life to try to finally tilt the odds in my direction. I'm not sure if I'll be successful but I know I've at least armed myself with some more information. I can now be comfortable in knowing that perhaps there is some science or logic to this nebulous decision making process. Now all I have to do is be smart enough to listen to my inner voice and hope it continues to be right more often than not.
Good luck with your Gut Feelings.....
I hope my ranting has been helpful!