Once you learn something, you’ve often got that skill for life; you can tuck it into your pocket and call on it whenever you need it.
But here’s something I’ve learned again and again and AGAIN and still cannot seem to remember: my gut is always right.
Whenever I regret a decision I’ve made about my business, I can almost always look back and pinpoint a time when my gut told me to act differently — and I ignored it.
These regrets really sting. They sting far more than making a mistake when I didn’t know any better. Mistakes are bound to happen when you experiment and learn. They help you grow, so they’re not worth regretting. But when you have a feeling you should do something differently and you don’t, that’s a mistake on steroids.
My mistakes on steroids happen when I force myself to make a decision based on rationale rather than emotion, when I defer to my mind rather than my feelings. That’s what strong leaders do, right? Put emotion aside to make good decisions?
Whoever came up with that advice overlooked a crucial part of the decision-making process: your gut knows things you don’t.
If you have a feeling in your gut, it’s for a reason. Even if you can’t put your finger on that reason or articulate it to a friend, it’s there, ready to guide you. And so long as it doesn’t stem from fear alone, you should do exactly what it tells you. Your gut always wants the best for you.
Why, then, am I so bad at following my gut? Why is this a lesson I have to learn again and again?
Am I bad at listening to my gut because of a lack of confidence? Is it because I’m learning as I go? (If you’re not learning as you go, by the way, move onto something else. Quick.) Is it because I feel pressure from other people? Is it because I try to give others the benefit of the doubt?
Sometimes I even wonder: Is it because I’m a woman?
Women are notorious for ignoring our guts. It’s ironic, really, because we also tend to be highly in tune with our emotions, and yet we push them below the surface rather than use them to our advantage.
Here’s an example, one that haunts me even now, years after first hearing about it. In The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker writes about a woman who came home to her apartment with her arms full of groceries. A man in the lobby walked her up to her room, insisting on helping with her bags. The woman felt like something was off, yet she didn’t want to hurt the feelings of someone she kept telling herself was just a nice guy trying to help — so she gave in to his offers.
You probably have a sense of where this story goes: he got her inside her apartment, raped her, and likely would’ve killed her had she not tiptoed out of her front door in a sheet when he went to the kitchen to get a knife. She found safety in a neighbor’s apartment, yet the lesson here is clear: Your gut is always right, and ignoring it can have grave consequences.
Women, the author goes on to explain, ignore their gut because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. They want to give that person a fair chance. And that is exactly the mistake I make, again and again. I usually have a sense from the first or second conversation with a new friend if they’re not trust-worthy, but I give them just one more try. I can often detect red flags early in discussions with potential clients, yet I push those feelings below the surface. I might get the sense that a new team member isn’t a good fit during our first day of orientation, but I ignore it and press on, telling myself they’ll become a better fit once they get up to speed.
All of those situations take time to play out, but in the end, my gut ends up being RIGHT.
So this is a reminder, both to you and to me, that your gut should hold more weight than your brain. Your gut should get priority. Your gut belongs up there on that pedestal, and you should do whatever it tells you.
Whether you’re walking into your apartment with an armful of groceries or building a business for the first time, remember that your gut has stamina and wisdom. It’s on your side. Let it guide you.