Why feeding your intuitive gut means you can trust it more

intuitive gut

Let me tell you a story about Clarivale, a metaphorical village encircled by tall mountains with a secluded pool known as Gwyneth’s Gut.

For generations, the villagers drank from the pool whenever they were troubled by a problem. They believed the pool helped them gain unmatched clarity. Over time, however, the water became stagnant and murky, and those who drank from it became slow to respond and made increasingly poor decisions.

A curious young villager named Elara ventured beyond the mountains and found that people living in the neighbouring village were thriving. The neighbouring villagers’ responses were agile and their minds were sharp. Elara noticed they drew and stored their water in a large tank. The water came from different springs, each with its own taste and beneficial attributes.

Returning home, she encouraged the villagers to build a system of aqueducts and introduce the waters from other springs into Gwyneth’s Gut. The pool’s water began to clear, and with the addition of each new source, the water provided greater clarity of thought and enabled the drinkers to take more agile action.

Elara’s discovery taught the village that embracing varied streams enriched Gwyneth’s Gut. As a result, new thoughts and perspectives enriched the villagers’ ability to analyse problems and use their intuition to respond and adapt as the need arose.

When we shut out differing viewpoints, we’re setting up our intuitive gut to be faulty.

Isolating ourselves from new ideas or challenging perspectives create an echo chamber. It skews our insights and constrains our ability to make informed decisions and respond effectively.

Like many others since the 1960s, I had thought this was due to confirmation bias, i.e., our tendency to search for data that confirms our beliefs instead of looking for data that challenges those beliefs.

However, Dr Gary Klein has written about why the concept of confirmation bias no longer holds up and suggests the problem is related to seeing anomalies but not reacting to them because we are fixated on a specific belief for too long. 

Dr Klein proposes that an effective strategy is to notice when you’re fixated, despite hints to the contrary, and then use your curiosity to overcome the problems of: 

  • Being captured by initial beliefs 
  • Failing to test those beliefs, and  
  • Explaining away data that is inconsistent with those beliefs. 

Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society says, “Being deeply knowledgeable on one subject narrows one’s focus and increases confidence, but it also blurs dissenting views until they are no longer visible, thereby transforming data collection into bias confirmation and morphing self-deception into self-assurance.” 

Not feeding your gut with a range of perspectives is like playing poker while only looking at one of your cards. You have some information, but it’s hardly enough to bet confidently. 

Feeding our ‘gut feelings’ a diversity of experiences and perspectives leads to more accurate insights and decisions because we have a greater chance of noticing and then questioning the pieces that don’t fit our beliefs.  

It’s no different to how our physical gut thrives on probiotics. Being open to a wide range of opinions ultimately fine-tunes our intuitive capabilities. 

If this has made you curious about what you could do to keep your intuitive gut healthy, I highly recommend reading Dr Adam Grant’s book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know 

It’s full of practical suggestions for learning how to question your opinions and open other people’s minds.  

It’s also a great listen as an audiobook.

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