by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA
“Trust your gut,” is a saying you’ve probably heard throughout your life. If you have ever felt a knot or a pit in your stomach, a sinking feeling, a nervous pang or an excited fluttering then you have experienced the brain-gut connection that your body possesses. It’s not just a myth.
Did you know that scientists call this your “second brain”? It is the part of the nervous system that controls the gastrointestinal system. “Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback [to the brain],” according to an article in Scientific American by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg. This information influences your emotions, among many things.
“Although its influence is far-reaching, the second brain is not the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making,” writes Adam Hadhazy in Scientific American. Your gut is not capable of writing a Personal Planning Analysis (PPA) or conducting the complex thought processes that your brain is. It does possess about 100 million neurons which, “enable us to ‘feel’ the inner world of our gut,” explains Hadhazy. This gives you access to even more intelligence.
Here are several reasons to trust your gut:
- It has been collecting information and subconscious experiences for your entire life that it’s weighing in when you’re getting a signal, according to Melody Wilding, a licensed therapist and professor in an article in Fast Company.
- The gut is much faster than the mind! It can, “send messages that something just feels right—or it doesn’t. The more you pay attention to the outcome of trusting your intuition in combination with facts, the better your future decision-making can become,” according to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in an article in Fast Company by Lydia Dishman. One of his studies showed that the body was giving a physical reaction of anxiety far before rational thought kicked in.
- There is just too much information for your rational brain to keep up with. Your brain can become overwhelmed with irrelevant facts. Your gut cuts through the data clutter and allows for intuitive decision-making to be an option.
- You may not be able to access enough information. Your hunch is all you have.
- Test it. Here are questions that entrepreneur Angela Jia Kim developed:
- "Do I feel good around this person or choice?"
- "Does this person or situation give me or take my energy?"
- "Do I feel empowered or disempowered?"
- "Am I going toward an adventure or running from fear?"
- "Am I listening to my lessons learned from the past?"
- "Would I make the same choice if I had a million dollars in my pocket now?"
- "Do I feel respected and valued?"
- "Am I trying to control the situation or am I leaving room for expansion?"
How do you access your second brain? The only way to ignore all of the outside forces that have likely dominated your decision making is to become still. Step away from the meeting and the constant commotion and spend some time scanning your body and allowing yourself access to your feelings. Spend some time reflecting by closing your door, going for a walk or when you are driving. Allow your body a chance to “speak” its own language.
If this information feels right, trust your gut and follow your instincts in the office (and in life) and see what can unfold. I have a hunch you will be more insightful, make more efficient and profitable decisions and be an even more powerful source of guidance for your clients.
Coaching Tip If you have long avoided your instincts, ease in slowly. First, just tune in. Spend 5 minutes per day just scanning your body and noticing what feelings and non-verbal information shows up. Next, experiment with trusting your gut. Reschedule the meeting when it feels wrong. Phone someone when it seems right. Go with it and see if it ever steers you wrong. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.