Just “follow your instinct”? Maybe not.


Not treating your instinct as the be-all and end-all can help you make better decisions
about when to change direction. (photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Most of us make the bulk of our decisions based on instinct. How many times in your life have you found yourself saying, “It just felt right”?

But here’s the thing: your intuition might be wrong. It just might be your obstacle to action.

In a recent Brainpickings blog post, editor Maria Popova dissects the marvels and flaws of intuitive thinking based on the findings of psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Drawing from a series of studies he did in the ’70s, Kahneman encourages us to keep our intuition in check.

How? By being aware that it’s our brain’s default to jump to conclusions based on scant information.

That will very often create a flaw. It will create overconfidence. The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence [but] of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct. Quite often you can construct very good stories out of very little evidence. … People tend to have great belief, great faith in the stories that are based on very little evidence.

But you can use your slippery instinct to your advantage. Maria smartly writes:

In other words, intuition, like attention, is “an intentional, unapologetic discriminator [that] asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that” — a humbling antidote to our culture’s propensity for self-righteousness, and above all a reminder to allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.

So the next time you’re in the midst of a project and “feeling” that something is right (or wrong), you might want to think again.

When has listening to your instinct worked for you? When has it not?

Tags: ,

Comments (1)

  1. Charlie writes:
    November 20, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Great article. It’s amazing how many times your “gut” leads the way. This is definitely gonna make me think more the next time something comes up.

Sorry, commenting is now closed on Idealists in Action.
Check out our new blog and join the Idealist Network conversation on the Connector Hub.

Like what you're reading?

Subscribe and get fresh daily updates from Idealists in Action.