Many entrepreneurs have difficulty using their instinct or their gut reaction to guide them in business and on their path to success. It stems from our childhood when we were told to think before we do, to study the problem first, to weigh the options, and to formulate a plan before taking action. All of these involve a thinking process, and in business, sometimes instincts are better than analytics.
When we were young, we were asked to perform a task or complete a project. It was a problem with a known answer and our instructors knew the solution. It had been done before. We were being asked to learn what our teachers knew by doing it ourselves. However, for many entrepreneurs, finding a definitive answer isn’t possible. Entrepreneurs must perform in an ambiguous, uncertain, and dynamic marketplace. The answers aren’t always known by someone else, who can guide the entrepreneur. Further complicating matters, there may be more than one viable solution to the problem, and weighing the merits of each may not be obvious.
This is where instincts and gut reaction come in handy. It takes time for a new entrepreneur to reach this conclusion. Before they gain enough experience to realize that the thinking and analytical process may not lead the way to every answer. Being able to understand what your instincts are saying and knowing when to listen to them over your brain just goes against what we were taught in school.
We’ve all heard it sometime in our lives, “listen to your heart”, but how do you do that? Let’s look at some ways out instincts are leading the way.
Envy is considered to be one of the deadly sins, but is it? If you are jealous of someone, then that’s your instinct telling you that is what you want and it’s a goal that’s really important to you.
The amount you smile or frown tells you a lot about a situation. If think about your day at work, do you smile a lot? If you are happy with what you do, you will be smiling. If you are frowning all the time then you should consider finding a new job. What’s your smile to frown ratio?
We are all faced with choices in life, in order to do one thing, we can’t do another. Many people have difficulty choosing. Think about what you do first because that is your gut making the difficult decision for you. Here’s a simple example. People wanting to lose weight have a choice between many diets and programs. Should they try the lo-carb, protein, raw foods, or vegetarian diet? Imagine going to dinner at an upscale restaurant, the waiter brings your dinner, which is the food you eat first from your plate? This is a good indication of which diet will be viable for you because the key to weigh loss is consistency and dedication. Given a list of things you need to accomplish today, which do you do first?
Impatience and short temperament are indications that the situation isn’t right for you. I see this often when workers are assigned to tasks and doing them grudgingly. These tasks will not be done well, but be done just well enough to check off that they are done. The workers become short tempered with their colleagues. What tasks do you dread? When someone speaks to you while doing the task, are you irritable? You should consider hiring or outsourcing these tasks, and spend your time doing the things you do well.
When you have lunch with someone and talk about your experiences, do you harp on the negative aspects or the positive? If someone asks about your job, and you think about all the great things you’ve learned then it is a worthwhile experience. If all you can do is dwell on the negative aspects then you aren’t doing yourself any good by enduring misery.
We have been trained in school to “think” and told we shouldn’t let out emotions rule us. But this doesn’t mean we should ignore the signs from our reactions and emotions. You meet a potential business partner and they have a great written proposal, but you are repulsed by their staff.
Don’t ignore your reaction. It’s your instincts telling you there is something wrong with the situation, and the partnership is likely to end in an ugly divorce. Even though we may not be in any actual danger, we should still listen to our fight or flight reactions. Wanting to run out of the conference room is just as valid as wanting to run away from the bear.
One observation I’ve made about the people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet is when they started out, they didn’t know where they’d end up. There wasn’t a grand master plan on day one. It was their ability to make good decisions along the way that got them to where they are today. If you want to grow your career or your business, stop over thinking and trust your instincts.
Recommended Books on Using Your Instincts in Business:
- The Entrepreneurial Instinct: How Everyone Has the Innate Ability to Start a Successful Small Business
- Business Leaders and Success: 55 Top Business Leaders and How They Achieved Greatness
- Powered by Instinct: 5 Rules for Trusting Your Guts
- INSTINCT: Tapping Your Entreprenurial DNA to Achieve Your Business Goals
- Confessions from the Corner Office: 15 Instincts That Will Help You Get There