The A Word: Don’t doubt your “Gut Instinct”, it’s your Superpower

We still haven’t exchanged on our new house in Hampshire, it’s so slow! As the property is a complete rebuild of an old house there’s one outstanding point on the planning document to be resolved which we hope will be early next week.

We’re also having some work done on Beech cottage here in Cornwall. When we bought our little gem last year, we had a detailed survey carried out which recommended a new roof.  As we had a leak during one of the storms last Winter we decided to get it done sooner rather than later so that project will kick off in the next week followed by a full repaint of the outside so our little cottage will look lovely after its makeover.  We’re also stocking up on firewood and logs for the Autumn and had the chimney swept so we’ll be fully prepared.

We’ve settled really well into the village and we love our nights sat outside the pub chatting to everyone.  Jamie is playing cricket for the local team now and this Sunday players and supporters are being transported in the St Agnes mini buses so we can have a drink or two and stop at a few pubs on the way home!

As my readers know, I write my blog to raise awareness of autoimmune disease and this week I wanted to talk about “gut instinct” as it played a big part in my diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis and personally, when it comes to health, I trust mine implicitly.

Gut instinct is a deep feeling that you’re right, there’s no need to think it over or get another opinion—you just know. I knew there was something wrong with my body before my diagnosis.  I also know that there are other things brewing that haven’t yet being diagnosed, it’s just a “feeling”.

Interestingly, Richard Branson once said, “I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics.”  However, “gut instinct” does tend to get a bad reputation as something that’s flaky and based on no evidence. Would a careful analysis of all the options be more likely to give us the right answer? Not necessarily. Our gut instincts are not always as random as they seem. They can be based on a rapid appraisal of the situation. We might not always realise it, but the brain is constantly comparing our current situation with our memories of previous situations. So, when a decision feels intuitive, it might in fact be based on years of experience.

During my career I have often trusted my “gut instinct” ahead of other factors but relying on it totally goes against all the sales training and coaching I’ve ever had.  It’s a discussion I still have today when we’re working with smaller organisations who are just starting out and building their sales teams for the first time.  

There are many small companies who make their decisions without putting enough thought into it, especially around their sales and marketing strategies.  The necessary research that’s required to determine whether or not a new strategy will be successful is often completely discarded for a much quicker, less structured approach using “gut instinct”.  This means that the new salespeople they hire often fail as they don’t have the right strategies in place to support them.

So how can you combine your “gut instinct” but still do the important analysis in a short a time as possible?

Personally, I think technology plays a big part.  We all now have access to powerful decision-support tools that can help us quickly sort through vast amounts of information.  These tools don’t just apply to making business decisions either.  They can apply to buying a new house, a new car, a holiday, and many other aspects of our daily life.  When combined our own experience and insight, these analytical tools can offer both companies and individuals consistently sound and rational choices even in the face of complexity—a capability that our “gut instinct” will never match on its own.

So yes, in summary I think gut feel can be really useful and we should trust it implicitly in highly uncertain circumstances where further data gathering, and analysis won’t sway you one way or another. Trusting your gut also allows you the freedom to move forward quickly too, instead of procrastinating.  However, if data and analysis are available and applicable, then use those tools too.  Our overall objective is to assess the probability of any outcome with reasonable confidence so we can make better decisions and life choices.

Finally, this week I want to talk about tourism as Cornwall is really busy at the moment.  Here in St Agnes and all over Cornwall the local people say it’s a lot busier than normal and its wonderful for all the businesses who rely on these busy months during the Summer.  In fact, a third of Cornish households depend on income from tourism so its extremely important all round.

However, I’ve also seen lots of reports on social media that fed up locals are unhappy about the influx of visitors and I think it has something to do with the fact that it had been really quiet for a long time beforehand whereas usually in March, April, May and June tourism would have gradually ramped up, but because of lockdown Cornwall went from zero to thousands of people very quickly!

Being brought up in the Lake District I’m used to living my Summers with an influx of tourists and have always seen the positive side, but I do have one real gripe!  Jamie and I see so much litter when out on our walks – discarded picnic rubbish, cans, coffee cups, tissues, face masks, it’s just terrible.  The coastal path and the beaches are left in an awful state.

I saw one sign in a beach coffee bar offering a free coffee if you collected a bucket of rubbish off the beach and buckets were supplied! 

Every litter bit hurts, until next time, stay safe xxxx

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