The secret to trusting your instinct

Written by Martin Lucas

Hands up if you don’t trust your instinct?

Despite instinct being an incredibly powerful tool, we often don’t trust it for reasons that we believe to be valid.

We think to ourselves, ‘my instinct can’t be trusted ALL the time, can it? It is just one point of view to a situation, a snap judgement. How can we trust such things? It might feel right….but….no….I can’t.’

There is some good news. By understanding the practical science of your instinct and how it works inside the brain, you will open doors of new ways to think and trust your instinct. We will then explore the secret blockers to be aware of and finally why your instinct can help you make better decisions.

What is Instinct

Instinct is a raft of calculations based on your personality, life experiences, beliefs and mindset. To say it is a ‘raft’ is a mild understatement; what sits behind your instinct is the most powerful computer in the world – your unconscious. Let’s look at an example of how it goes down.

Scenario: Imagine you are sitting at home; it’s Saturday morning, you are chilling and shopping online for a <pick your style preference> summer dress / polo shirt / scarf that you’re checking out Boohoo. Your budget is all good as everything on the site is under £25. Easy.

Conscious actions: You see one you like, look at some others and just think – THAT one. Order it, job done.

Unconscious actions: Our brain works at a crazy rapid rate of knots behind the scenes. As soon as you decided ‘I’m going shopping’ the unconscious gets warmed up by analysing your past experiences and then when you’re looking online it’s a storm of activity. You – the conscious you – is unaware but here’s what occurs:

Don’t go yellow; remember what your mum said that time.

Like that, but not good for your skin, remember that putdown at that party?

Blue is good. That’s too wide!

Purple – yeah we like that but have that favourite purple jacket… too much purple going on.

Medium will do it, as long as you stay off cake as you said you would.

That one, change the colour though. Boom!

Send signal: choose THAT one.

It is only when said item arrives and you wear it that a friend says ‘Oh, new top?’ and for the first time you give a response that your unconscious mind has already filed away ‘Yeah, it goes with my new shoes’.

Your instinct is awesome. It’s not one thought; it’s the result of hundreds of calculations filtered down to get given just the end result.

Shopping is a little easier to understand when the item is under £25 as the brain works in different places depending on the value and thus importance of a decision. If it was, say, a £200 polo shirt it would have been a more conscious decision-making process and more front of mind analysis but still leveraging the unconscious in a similar way to give you the information.

Now shopping is easier to trust as you generally do it often but the same way is true for all decision-making. Our instinct is the output from a machine of mass analysis.

Why don’t I trust it?

Trust of instinct is inherent to the trust of self. It is easier to shop for possessions than it is to make decisions about life, love, career and friendship.

Our mind has a number of blockers in place. There is very little in the brain that works on good or bad; it’s actually our psychology that affects our ability to trusting our instinct. Here are some common blockers:

Love of self – Self-belief is a fucker. If you expect to not be good at something then the brain will find ways to prove this to yourself. It sounds mental because it is; your mental health is based on beliefs and again, this is neither good or bad, it’s simply based on how you feel about yourself. In this case, if you don’t love yourself then you won’t trust your instinct. Why would you?

Trust of self – There is a difference between trust of self and love of self. Trust is about your skillset – can I do this? Do I believe I can make this a success? Lack of self-trust is often manifested because we fear failure and thus it’s easier to reject instinct because we are frightened to try.

Snap judgement – Judgement of other humans has a deep psychological effect for us all. We don’t want to make a fool of ourselves and thus it is often easier to reject instinct as that keeps us safe by not doing more. Secondary to this – as noted earlier – is that we don’t understand the powerful analysis going on behind the scenes in our own brain. Instinct is not a single snap decision; it’s the output calculation from hundreds.

How to make better decisions

Your instinct is a good judge of other humans relative to what you need as the unique person you are. We can trick ourselves by not trusting our instinct and yet our instinct is the inherent intelligence we are born with which enables us to read people not just in what they say but also how they say it by interpreting micro-expressions and body language. We are good at it; we all are.

If you want to improve how you make decisions then it begins with knowledge and increased self-awareness, both of which you just picked up in this article. The final point is to teach yourself to pause. Don’t rush judgements; a pause can be a second or two and what you are pausing to check and remind yourself is this:

My instinct is a powerful machine. Trust it; let me decide.

It takes only a little practice and you will have more control, belief and love of self simply by recognising the power you have inside. Trust it.