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How to Tune In to Your Intuition

Big decision? Let your gut instinct help you make the call with these two techniques.
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Listening to your gut sounds like the most natural thing in the world. Intuition, by definition, doesn't involve any conscious thought and should arise spontaneously. For many of us, however, it's easy to second-guess our instincts or let conscious stresses drown out what our gut is telling us.

But your gut instincts can be one of your most valuable resources as an entrepreneur (though not in every situation, of course). Just ask Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter, and Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.

What business owners need is a direct line to their most valuable instincts that lets them bypass the static and get a clear message of what their intuition is telling them. Daniel Epstein, CEO of Unreasonable Institute, thinks he has found just this sort of megaphone for your gut instincts. In a recent blog post, he offers various techniques to tap into your subconscious and hear what it's telling you loud and clear. Here are two of the coolest.

Flip a Coin

Nope, you're not letting random chance decide. The idea here is to edge as close as possible to a decision and closely monitor how that possible choice makes you feel. It's sort of like an artificial creation of the situation where you're torn between two dishes in a restaurant and realize which one you truly want only the second after you order the other.

"If you are torn between a binary decision (i.e., trying to decide whether or not to do something), flip a coin and assign tails to yes and heads to no. Then, when the coin lands on either side, listen to the immediate gut reaction you feel to the results of the coin toss. If you feel a sense of sadness or disappointment, then you know that you need to do the opposite of what the coin told you," explains Epstein.

The Dinner-Party Test

When what you're trying to evaluate isn't a yes-no decision but a choice regarding the people you're working with, Epstein suggests a technique he learned from Caroline Whaley, general manager of creative development at Nike Foundation. In essence, it amounts to doing an imaginary seating arrangement for a dinner party.

"She asked me to consider that if I went to dinner with my team, are there people I'd rather sit next to and others who I'd hope I didn't get sat next to?" Epstein writes. "If the answer here is yes, that likely means you need to have a serious heart to heart conversation with the people you don't want to sit next to as something is clearly off."

What techniques do you use to better tune in to what your gut is telling you?

Last updated: Jun 27, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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