Everyone's felt it, some people are better at listening to it than others, but what exactly is that feeling?

"Gut feeling" is actually aptly named, since within the intestinal lining is the enteric nervous system. This is where millions of neurons are hiding, and they "talk" to your brain via the vagus nerve. This nerve connects the abdomen (or your gut) to the brain's base and also travels through the chest (which is why "listen to your heart" is also truer than you think).

You gut instinct evolved as a means to keep you safe from danger--think woolly mammoths and saber toothed tigers. That's why our ancestors could "sense" when there were predators around well before they could see them. That gut instinct is a sensor that taps into stress, anxiety and fear. It's why your gut usually tells you something is "wrong" instead of "right": It's designed to safeguard you from things you're afraid of. However, it's your brain that has to actually take action but sometimes you either don't listen or your brain reacts in a way that's not optimal.

Risk-Taking: Not Always the Entrepreneur's Best Move

What does this mean for the entrepreneur? Your gut might be telling you not to bring on that new employee, keep talking to a certain investor or stick with a launch date (we've come a long way from being afraid of only tigers!). However, humans have also evolved to tune out that instinct or override it--much to your (and your business') demise.

Humans have the Five F's when it comes to reacting to fearful situations: Flight, Fight, Freeze, Food, and Fornicate.

From an entrepreneurial standpoint, you're probably not going to go with the last two (food and fornicate), unless of course you use them to distract yourself from fear and anxiety. If your brain goes with fight or flight, blood is sent to your limbs so you can do either option to the best of your ability. Even if that "fight" is with your co-founder and no blows will be exchanged, your body still reacts the same way as if you're about to physically battle with a predator.

However, what's important to bear in mind is this: Your intuition is helping you make decisions that are based on either defense or fear. If you have a gut feeling about something, it's a huge red flag that the situation is making you feel this way.

Intuition Times Two

While intuition is largely based on fear/defense, don't forget about the second kind that encompasses all kinds of emotion. This stems from your heart, which has its very own nervous system separate from anywhere else in the body. There are over 40,000 neurons in your heart, which is the same amount tucked into a number of the brain's subcortical centers. From this nerve center, your instincts show you ways to expand who you are instead of just focusing on avoiding pain or fear. This is where you can "listen" to really grow who you are as a person and business owner. It's also important to note that in the next 5 years millennials will make up 30% of the mobile workforce. If you know how to work with this demographic of users and know how to market best to these decision makers and emotions.

Dubbed "heart-based decision making", if you listen to your heart, you can make better decisions faster, enjoy less stress, and build trust.

What are your instincts telling you about your next business move? Listen and you can avoid a lot of pitfalls and mistakes.

Published on: Mar 16, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.