Do you ever find yourself in situations where logic cannot help you? You might feel as if you don’t have enough time or information to develop a coherent plan. Have you ever wondered what to do in these situations? Do you trust your first instincts, or do you stay put?
No matter what you go through, your body will give you specific signs. You will have hunches regarding everything you do. And it’s very tempting to listen to those hunches. But it’s not always recommended. Sometimes you have to resort to logic and rationale. Sometimes, there’s no better way of getting through life than following your instincts. If you want to learn when to let instincts lead and when to be cerebral, keep reading.
How Do First Instincts Manifest?
In most cases, first instincts can manifest either physically or emotionally. Depending on what your gut is trying to tell you, your body will behave differently. Thus, the signals you will get will take on different forms. There are two sides to the whole first instincts story. They will either alert you to be cautious or confirm the choices you want to make.
When feeling like you should be cautious, your hunches will evoke sensations similar to those associated with anxiety, including the physical ones. You might feel dizzy, sick to your stomach. You might sweat or tremble. On top of that, uncertainty will hover around your mind, nagging and stressing you out. When you react this way, you better run as far as possible from your situation.
On the other hand, you might feel confirmation from your instincts. An overwhelming sense of calm and confidence might take over you for apparently no reason. While there is no identifiable logical reason, it’s your body telling you to pursue a particular course of action. Feelings of affirmation are less physical. Often, you have to be in touch with your emotions to distinguish upbeat hunches. Some people even seem to “hear” their gut talking to them and guiding them through decision-making processes.
How exactly do these gut feelings work, and why do they manifest? Though they seem to come out of nowhere, they aren’t actually all that random. As the name might suggest, gut feelings (instincts) have some connection with the gut. But what is that connection? And how can emotions be connected to a physical part of the body?
While these feelings don’t originate in your gut, they are related to the gut-brain connection. The brain and the heart connect through an axis. That axis is a physical and biochemical link between the organs. Because of this connection, emotional experiences emerge as gastrointestinal distress. Anxiety, fear, concern might lead to pain, stomach spasms, and nausea. Even the positive feelings are expressed outwards in specific physical ways. Again, twinges, known commonly as “butterflies,” are a widespread expression.
So, instincts aren’t just some abstract concepts. They have a physical manifestation that can be observed and cataloged. But you always have to look out for certain fallacies. The one that can hurt you the most is the first instinct fallacy, introduced by Justin Kruger in 2005. He found that if you always stick to the first option, you are at higher risk of being wrong. Be careful and don’t listen to your first instincts because they were the hunches you got first. That’s fallacious thinking. Instead, use those hunched combined with logic to reach a decision. It would help if you learned which situations can be solved with logic and in which you can lean only on instincts.
3 Times When You Should Trust Your First Instincts
Now that you understand why we have gut instincts and spot them, you need to know when to trust them.
1. Trust Your First Instincts When Forming First Impressions
In situations where you’ve just met someone, you won’t have enough data to decide what you think of the person accurately. Is it worth seeing them again? Would it be to your advantage to spend resources trying to build a relationship with them? How exactly should you approach the situation?
In relationships, especially new ones, you should lean on instincts to guide you. When people use logic to analyze whether to pursue a relationship with someone new, they might use fallacious reasoning. Because of the sunken cost fallacy, people will tend to distance themselves from new people. They don’t want to risk investing resources if they don’t guarantee a good outcome.
Your hunches will guide you in these situations. Don’t lean on logic, as you will stumble over the fallacy. Instead, listen to your emotions. If someone you’ve just met makes you feel uneasy, even though they are praised by mutual friends, it’s better to back off. Your logic might tell you to pursue a relationship because you have heard many good things about them. But that will not turn out well. Your gut knows better. You don’t have enough information to decide rationally, so there’s no other tool you could use but instincts.
When you need to form a quick impression, resort to gut instincts. Don’t listen to others, don’t try to make logical assumptions. Take a step back and understand what you feel, and work from there.
2. Trust Your First Instincts When You Need Confirmation
Sometimes, you have enough data to make a logical and reasonable decision. But that doesn’t mean you are sure about the validity of what you’ve decided.
The anxiety caused by not being 100% certain can even make you turn back on your decision. It can make you procrastinate, put you under a lot of pressure. There are some situations in which no amount of logic will boost your confidence. If that’s the case, you can rely on instincts to give you the boost you need.
The brain registers everything you’ve ever done. Subconsciously, you have a significant amount of experience. But you aren’t aware of that knowledge. Based on events that have happened, your brain can guide you through the best plan possible. If you’re ever in doubt, listen to your instincts. The subconscious will show you what’s right and what’s wrong by giving you signals. If your decision is the right one, you will feel no anxiety. Your instincts will make you feel secure and comfortable. But, if the decision is wrong, you will feel nothing but fear regarding your plan.
Be aware that you can decide whatever you need to fix. Understand that your life experiences sharpen your instincts and guide you along the way. If you become aware of this fact, you will learn to listen to your instincts. That’s not to say you should make decisions based only on instincts. Instead, create a logical plan first and only use instincts to confirm if that plan is correct or not.
3. When You Need To Make Quick Decisions, Rely On Your First Instincts
In the previous point, you’ve just read how instincts shouldn’t be the foundation for decision-making. And that is very true for cases in which you have time to decide. But the reality is that sometimes you don’t have that time. You can’t sit around for hours on end to craft the perfect course of action. It would be best if you decided on the spot. You have at best a few minutes and at worst a split second. What do you do in that case?
Research proves that in those cases, you should base your decisions on intuition alone. If you’re in imminent danger, it’s useless to try to think your way out of it. If you’re going to fall off the bike straight on your head, thinking will do you no good. Instead, your instincts will rightfully tell you that you should jump rather than break your neck.
Instincts are the best way to find the right path in a time crunch. And, as a bonus, instincts will get you in touch with your needs. When you don’t have time to sit back and analyze the context, you won’t logically identify them. But your decisions need to take your needs into account. If your instincts tell you something, the chances are that’s what’s best for you.
The first thoughts your brain will have will always be the ones that bring you the most benefits. When your instincts tell you to jump off the bike so that you don’t break your neck, it’s because it’s best for you. Even if you risk hitting someone, your instinct will still tell you to save yourself.
And even in more minor extreme examples, the situation stays the same. If you need to decide on an answer to a proposal in a couple of minutes, your instincts will have your best interests at heart.
Instincts have had a pretty bad reputation in the past. People who follow them have been accused of being irrational and flaky. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Though logic is vital in all aspects of life, instincts have their role. So yes, you should trust your first instincts. It would help if you didn’t base every decision you make on your first instincts. But, in certain situations, instincts are the critical aspect.
Instincts, or gut feelings, are clear signs. They create physical, or at least emotional, reactions. So, there’s no way you won’t be aware of your instincts in every situation. There are three main times in which listening to first instincts is recommended.