There is a lot of uncertainty in entrepreneurship. And you may never be entirely sure that your instincts are right; we live in a world of uncertainty, after all. However, learning to trust your instincts is vital to sustaining your business (and sanity), and it’s an essential skill because there’s scientific evidence that your intuition is a valuable guide. A study led by Florida State University shows that gut-to-brain signals can powerfully influence emotions, mood and decisions, and these signals are usually a response to something that feels threatening. So when you’re offered feedback that just “feels wrong,” your body is essentially sending you red flags.
Cultivating the ability to know when to listen to your instincts doesn’t need to be daunting; one tactic you should already be employing is trial and error. Additionally, learning to be flexible and open to new ideas will help hone your gut. A study from the Journal of Translational Medicine & Epidemiology shows that researchers who are more open to other disciplines and worldviews published significantly more interdisciplinary research articles that had a bigger potential impact on society, as judged by independent raters. In other words, immerse yourself in ideas outside your industry, and your work output may affect more significant change in the world.
One of the best ways to learn to trust your gut is by engaging in mindfulness. Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He began this eight-week program in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts to help participants reduce stress and pain while improving focus, resilience and the capacity to recover more quickly from challenges. Sounds like a boon for business, right?
Many studies show that the practice of mindfulness is quite effective; one study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that participants in MBSR reported reduced psychological distress, including lowered depression and anxiety; higher levels of empathy; improved motivation and a better ability to approach stressful events as challenges instead of threats. They also noted feeling able to let go of things they can’t control and a heightened sense of trust, closeness with other people and the environment.
But you don’t have to join an eight-week program to reap the benefits of this practice. Pick one form of connecting with yourself that you know you can stick to. Maybe it’s journaling, writing down how your body and mind react to different situation and what your gut “tells you" at specific points in your day. Perhaps it’s taking a yoga class twice per week, which, by reducing the impact of stress responses (known as “fight or flight”) will also help combat the effects of burnout and depression, which costs businesses billions of dollars per year. If you prefer getting out into nature, a hike will also reduce stress levels. Even just going to a park will increase your well-being and get you more in tune with your inner self.
Taking a “whole body” approach helps you pick up on more information at faster rates than your conscious mind can handle, according to Rick Snyder, CEO of Invisible Edge and author of Decisive Intuition: Use Your Gut Instincts to Make Smart Business Decisions. When we listen to our body’s cues and signals throughout the day and over time, Snyder says, we can make the best decisions possible. And that’s all you can ask for in business, isn’t it?