Updated: Dec 18, 2019
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Instincts, self confidence, gut feelings, self belief. What ever you call them, it's time to take proper notice.
You might not have faith in your own instincts but as studies have shown, they are more of an effective way of understanding the world around us than you may think. Researchers at Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences found, in an experiment, that 90 percent of the time, candidates would make a correct judgement based purely on intuition.
How do we gain confidence in our instincts and act on them to employ them successfully in our everyday lives? The answer is not easy. But here are a few tips you might consider.
Why to trust your instincts
As found by psychological studies, your instincts are a useful tool to lead you to the right conclusion. They are based on a huge amount of information built up over time from all the life experiences you have been through. In the split second you employ them, you will form an opinion on seemingly nothing because you don’t slowly go through and remember why you feel this, you just do. But it doesn’t come from nowhere. In some extreme cases, you might have nothing but your instincts to go by. This can also be the case in everyday situations. Your instincts are your innate human survival tool. They will help you distinguish friend from foe. Trusting your instincts can help you to avoid great dangers. Our earliest ancestors would use their instincts to avoid poisonous plants and other hostile humans.
Today we use them to distinguish unsavoury work colleagues or decide who to trust most amongst your friends. Although they seem to be a weak link to the truth, your instincts are a powerful tool to leading a good life and trusting your instincts is an important part of self belief.
When others tell you you’re wrong
It can be especially hard to trust our gut feelings when others tell us we are wrong. Build up a backlog of information to critically assess your own opinion against theirs. Imagine you suspect a friend;s boyfriend of cheating. You confide in another friend about your concerns and they tell you you’re being silly and there is no way he’d be cheating. Before you feel like a total doofus pause to think. Did you see something your friend didn’t notice? Have you had experiences that would make you more attuned than they are in this situation? Who has more knowledge of the situation and people at hand? Is there any reason they’d lie? Take some time as well to let things go on as usual. If you notice something else that confirms your belief, investigate further before you decide to tell anyone what you know.
Think of when you were correct in the past
If you have trouble trusting your instincts, think back to when you guessed correctly about something or someone in the past. It might have been about the smallest of things. We tend to use our instincts all the time. They are not irrational or imaginary. We will make judgements based on all the relevant information ever given to us. A lot of this will be clouded by bias. But a huge amount will come from reality as well. Maybe you decided not to walk down a particular road only to find out that a friend was robbed there later that week. Perhaps you chose to turn down a potential date to hear that he had a history of bad relationships later on. Thinking carefully about all the good decisions you made in the past based on instinct alone will reinforce your faith that you can use them successfully again.
Investigate your instincts
When you doubt your instincts you might investigate the information they’re giving you. If you find you are correct you are more likely to trust them later on. You could write a list of interview questions for yourself, expressing all your doubts. Obviously you won’t immediately know the answers. But over time you can seek the answers to those questions through observation or research. Eventually you will know whether or not you are correct. If you aren’t it doesn’t matter and if you are you know you can act on your instincts more confidently in the future.
Think about how you see the people you know
Another way to judge the power of your instincts is to think about how you assess the people you know and compare this to their behaviour. Do you anticipate their actions correctly? Do others agree with your assessment of them. Is what they say a surprise to you? You are likely to find that you are a reasonable judge of character.
Remember what you know
Instincts are based on huge amounts of information we’ve taken in throughout the whole of our lives from every passing moment. By thinking back to your most important and life-changing experiences you might understand where some of what you call your ‘instincts’ come from.
Importantly, instincts are an integral part of our lives. We use them more than we think because sometimes decisions, based on our instincts, are made so quickly that we don’t even notice them. Rather than deny we could be correct, allowing our instincts to guide us can be a useful way to navigate new situations. We have them for a reason so let them do the positive work they were designed to do.