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When you should go with your gut instead of logic

How often—and when—should you listen to your intuition?

When you should go with your gut instead of logic
[Photo: Paper Boat Creative/Getty Images]

Ever wonder if you should go with your gut instead of what seems like the logical choice? From time to time, we all question that inner instinct that tells us what to do—because it’s fallible, right? While your analytical mind is good in certain circumstances, there are also times when it’s important to override its logic and go with your intuition, says leadership coach Hortense le Gentil, author of Aligned: Connecting Your True Self with the Leader You’re Meant to Be.

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“Your inner voice, your intuition, your feelings—all can be harnessed in the service of progressing personally and professionally, and in making your company and team members improve performance,” she says.

While this sounds counterintuitive, it’s precisely the opposite, she says. “It is counter-analytical, says le Gentil. “The intuitive mind faces off against the analytical mind—the one that reasons and pores over data—every day. Should, as is often the case, the intuitive mind take a back seat in making decisions? Experience shows otherwise.”

Intuition versus analytics

Our intuitive mind is more rapid, more complex, and more imbued with emotional intelligence than our conscious mind, and we downplay it at our peril, says le Gentil.

“Analytical ability is wonderful at understanding the past; intuitive, at sensing the future, which, in our present-day world of business volatility and change, is an invaluable asset,” she says.

Does this mean we should charge headlong in obedience to every hunch we harbor? No. We need both our analytical and intuitive minds, says le Gentil. “Balance the scales between the lightning-fast, profound, and creative insights that can come only from your intuition and the higher functions of your conscious intelligence,” she suggests. “Recognize when your intuition is speaking to you, and listen.”

For example, if after an exhaustive analysis of a course of action, such as exploring a company strategy, investment, or hiring decision, you still feel that something is wrong with the result of your deliberations, then there probably is. “We should not dismiss our inner voice out of hand,” says le Gentil.

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Our gut is built from our setbacks, pain and pleasure, building an experience bank from which we strengthen our intuitive muscle. “Scientific experiments have confirmed that while conscious deliberation produces better outcomes for simple choices, complex decisions involving multiple factors are better served by subconscious deliberation while one’s attention is directed elsewhere,” says le Gentil. “Take a mental step back and let the intuitive mind do the heavy lifting. In other words, judge if the choice requires the counterintuitive or the counter-analytical.”

Good leaders use both

Former Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, who le Gentil features in her book, is an example of a leader who understands numbers and analytics but made decisions based on his gut. “The only way to feel what is needed was to be in the store and trust his intuition,” she says. “To make changes not based on facts but taking a risk on making strategic decisions.”

Leaders should listen to their intuition every day but with caution, says le Gentil. Allow the emotional part of your brain to step in when making future-focused decisions to find a balance. “When you make a decision only based on the analytical, you cannot see the future, you are stuck in the moment,” says le Gentil. “Intuition allows you to predict the future and is the important piece to stay aligned with other people. Asking questions to others based on your gut after seeing the analytics is key, as they can help solidify your gut feelings.”

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