Have you ever accepted a job that didn’t feel right and later realized it wasn’t a good fit? Or said yes to a date with someone that you knew deep down wasn’t compatible because they looked great on paper? Those are a few examples of ignoring one of the most powerful tools we as humans have: intuition. Intuition (also known as “sixth sense,” “inner voice” or “gut feeling”) can be especially powerful when it comes to making business decisions. If you’re an entrepreneur, tapping into your intuition can play a critical role in helping you reach your goals. I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs who have built multimillion-dollar businesses from the ground up. Without exception, one key factor that has contributed to their success is listening to that inner voice.
The science behind intuition
Intuition refers to a brain process that gives people the ability to make decisions without using analytical reasoning. One study actually devised a technique to measure intuition. Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study found that people can use their intuition to make faster, more confident, and more accurate decisions. The experiments also proved that the participants became better at using their intuition over time. Joel Pearson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales and lead author of the study, said, “It’s all about learning to use unconscious information in your brain.” Ultimately, you can train yourself to use your intuition, and the more you use it, the better it gets.
Your secret weapon
Trusting your intuition can be an entrepreneur’s most powerful secret weapon. Barbara Corcoran, the first female shark on the show Shark Tank, knows a thing or two about intuition. She says, “Don’t you dare underestimate the power of your own instinct. Many entrepreneurs who ignore their instinct regret it later.” According to Carol Ward, author of Find Your Inner Voice, “When people allow instinct and intuition to be part of their decision-making process, they experience less regret and feel less conflicted when they make important decisions.” Even the military has recognized the importance of intuition, which is why the U.S. Navy invested four years and $3.85 million in helping Marines and sailors hone their instincts.
Here are three ways that you can tap into that inner voice to ultimately make better business decisions:
1. Balance data with instinct
These days, business leaders have access to more data and business intelligence than ever before. This can be an asset, but it can also be a hindrance and lead to analysis paralysis. Remember to weigh the data with what your intuition is telling you. In some cases, your intuition may decide to trump the data, and that’s okay! Look at world-recognized business and life coach, entrepreneur and author Marie Forleo. She recently announced the upcoming launch of her new book, Everything is Figureoutable. It turns out that the cover she chose went against some sound testing data and the advice of a few people on her larger team. That’s because according to Marie, “a lesson I’ve learned time and time again is that you have to trust your gut, even if it goes against the grain and the advice of others.”
2. Protect your vision
Your vision is your “why” and your purpose. When you create a meaningful vision for your business, be confident, and protect it. Vision drives entrepreneurs forward. Successful entrepreneurs have achieved their goals by setting a strong and clear vision and pursuing it with passion. While researching his book, Hearts, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, venture capitalist Anthony K. Tjan interviewed hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and found that 70% of them didn’t start with a detailed business plan. Instead, they began with a well-defined vision and began implementing it one step at a time. Also, if you have a higher purpose for your business than just making money, you’re going to be more likely to succeed. Tony Hsieh, CEO and founder of Zappos, suggests that entrepreneurs “Chase the vision, not the money. The money will end up following you.”
3. Practice stillness
Trusting your gut means being able to relax and listen to what your inner voice is telling you. According to Rick Snyder, author of Decisive Intuition,
When you allow time to slow down in order for your intuition to find you, you arrive at a decision more quickly. By relaxing your mind and accessing your deeper consciousness, the answer is already there waiting for you. Steve Jobs was famous for walking around his neighborhood barefoot whenever he was pondering a big change.”
So whether it means practicing meditation, taking nature walks, or just finding some quiet time, try to find some stillness in your day. To access your intuition, train yourself to be more self-aware. Pay attention to how it feels when you have a strong gut feeling about something. Do you have a physical reaction in some part of your body? Do your hands get sweaty? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Or, maybe like Marie Forleo, you experience what she calls a “full body, YES!”
The most successful entrepreneurs gather as much data, information and advice as they can and then ultimately make a decision based on intuition. Even Oprah Winfrey says,
For all the major moves in my life…I’ve trusted my instincts. I take in all the information I can gather. I listen to proposals, ideas, and advice. Then I go with my gut, what my heart feels most strongly. When you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Get quiet so you can hear the still, small voice—your inner GPS guiding you to true North.”
Don’t underestimate that small inner voice; it can make an extraordinary impact on your business and your life.