How to trust your gut

Have you ever had a gut feeling? Or made a decision based on instinct? How did it work out?

Trusting your gut, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. It’s also on occasion stopped me from doing things. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

How to trust your gut

The key to learning to trust your gut is when making any decision is to take a minute to listen to yourself. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own.

Tune into your body

Learning to trust your gut is about paying attention to your body. Some people will experience an actual ‘gut’ feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself ‘what’s really going on here?’ and explore what’s happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

Sometimes we’ll get this ‘something’s not right here’ feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion.

You have to have a clear head to trust your gut

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case – and it may sound obvious – do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important decision.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain, which is where terms like ‘butterflies in the stomach’ and ‘gut-wrenching’ originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings. Ignoring them might do more harm than good.

Say what you think and feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, ‘put your own oxygen mask on first,’ and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the ‘safe’ option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, or trust your gut and go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

You’ve still got to do your research

As well as listening to your instincts, it’s also important to do your research. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run the Lucidity Network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research and crowdfunded for the set up to test the concept.

Challenge your assumptions

When you look at the assumptions you’re making, this could also be a clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, ‘What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?’

Identify your biases

Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colours our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed.

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favouring people who we see as belonging to the same ‘group’ as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favour people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

Trust yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself? Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it.

Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean that you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The bottom line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. Trusting your gut is part of your decision-making process. It’s about slowing down and listening, being aware of your assumptions and bias, doing your research AND listening to what you’re your gut is telling you. Tune into what your body is telling you, trust your gut and start making sound decisions today.

A version of this blog as first published at Lifehack. 

Is working from home affecting your creativity?

At the start of the year, if you were used to working in an office, working from home was a bit of a novelty.

As time’s gone on we’ve learned and adapted.

Flexible and remote working is here to stay and it brings with it a mix of opportunities and challenges. It means saving time and money on commuting, being home to meet the kids from school and with the right leadership and culture, it should provide you with the flexibility to work at the times of day when you’re at your best.

There’s a definite downside though. Flexible and remote working means that we miss out on the social part of working in an office, learning from others and bouncing ideas around. It can also be hard to know how colleagues are really doing if we can’t pick up on visual and non-verbal cues, if we can’t just casually say ‘hello’ as we’re passing their desk or hear about what’s going on for them over a cuppa.

Boundaries between home and work are easily blurred when your desk is the kitchen table. It can be difficult to switch off when work and home are the same places. To un-merge work and home life I’m an advocate of the fake commute – a journey signalling the start and end of the working day. Whether it’s just round the block, or longer it doesn’t matter. It’s your signal to start and stop work, which is going to be even more important in the future as working from home is here to stay.

Is working from home affecting your creativity?

I believe that one of the downsides of flexible and remote working is that learning and creativity will take a knock. It’s often those casual conversations while we’re waiting for the kettle to boil, the small talk before a meeting starts or the chance conversations that we have in passing that build strong working relationships, encourage learning, and spark creativity.

Creativity is often sparked by curious and random conversations and in my experience it’s less easy to have those sorts of accidental conversations on Zoom. We don’t pick up on nuances in the same way, informal chats with colleagues are less common and as a result so are the connections that form new thinking and the exchange of ideas.

When working remotely or from home we need to be more deliberate about creating those moments when creativity can flourish.

3 tips to help foster creativity when working flexibly or remotely

  • Build travelling time to your Zoom meetings. Allow time in your agenda at the beginning for the casual chat.
  • Have walk and talk meetings. Get up and moving about. If its raining walk about inside, it doesn’t matter where you go, just get away from your desk and from your screen.
  • Flex your curiosity. Go and learn something outside of your working life; a new skill, read a book, visit a gallery, (yes watching something different on Netflix does count….and I urge you to step away from a screen if you can) go metal detecting, foraging or bird spotting. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re interested in it and you’re learning something new.

If you’d like some help to keep creativity thriving in your team get in touch.

You could also join them up to the Lucidity Network. They’ll get learning and connected to some brilliant people who can motivate, support and inspire them. There’s more information about the Lucidity Network here. If you’d like to join your team, get in touch for a group discount.

Is it time to pay attention to your leaky bucket?

leaky bucket

When did the standard response of ‘fine thanks’ get replaced by ‘busy’ or ‘really busy’ or soooo busy’? If you don’t say that you’re busy do people think you’re lazy? Or boring? Or both?!

Everyone is busy. It’s like a rite of passage. But why? Hasn’t life got easier, more automated? What are we all so busy doing?

Are we busy photographing our lunch for social media? Or multi-tasking across multiple apps and web platforms to stay up to date with the latest news and trends? Or are we just expected to live at a faster pace – to achieve more?

Where are you on your ‘to-do’ list? Is it growing rather than shrinking? You are not alone. In the Lucidity Innovation Leadership Launchpad report, the top reasons that people didn’t do ‘innovation’, or any kind of strategic thinking was because they were too busy, too stressed and they just don’t have enough time.

Is stress catching?

If everyone you surround yourself with is in a state of stress it becomes a problem. It begins to self-perpetuate, we start to feel that we have to be busier or achieving more than our stressed-out friend’s family and colleagues.

Tim Ferris author of The 4-hour work week claims that, ‘you are the average of the 5 people you most associate with’. Think about who those 5 people are. If what Tim says is true, what does this mean for you stress levels?

The problem is, if we spend our time being too busy to look after ourselves our stress levels increase to such a level that we reach burn out. A physician called Hans Selye defined a three-stage reaction to stress called General Adaption Syndrome or GAS. In stage three he said:

The body’s resistance to the stress may gradually be reduced, or may collapse quickly. Generally, this means the immune system, and the body’s ability to resist disease, may be almost totally eliminated. Patients who experience long-term stress may succumb to heart attacks or severe infection due to their reduced immunity.’

This is serious stuff. To live healthy lives, we must learn to reduce our levels of stress and build our resilience. When we are striving to do our best, to deliver work for other people, to look after our family and to climb a career ladder we often forget that to do all these things we must be OK.

I heard a quote recently ‘You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm’

To get the results we want, it’s important to take a step back and recharge, otherwise we’re just like a leaky bucket, constantly on the go, our energy draining out through the holes. We need to do two things:

  1. Plug the holes – get the root cause of the stress
  2. Refill the bucket – replenish our energy.

Tips to help you keep your bucket full

  • Reframe your thinking – stop telling people you’re busy as your default. When you tell people you’re busy, it often makes you feel more stressed.
  • Take time every day to prioritise. It might just be 10 minutes, for example, at the end of the day to plan your priorities for the following day.
  • Take time every day to list and then reflect on what you’ve achieved that day. Write them down.
  • Get a mentor or a coach; a trusted person to help you focus on what’s important and make progress and help you to manage the feelings of being really busy.
  • Start to notice what triggers your stress, is it a person, a situation? What physically happens to you when you are experiencing stress? Feeling hot or cold, like you can’t think straight, agitated? Start to notice your stress triggers and your response.
  • Next time you feel your stress triggered, try and manage it, for example, go for a walk or phone a friend.
  • Say ‘no’ more often. If you are really busy and taking on something else is too much, then say so. You could offer a different solution, e.g. is there someone else that could help, or negotiate deadlines, could it be done next month when you have more time rather than immediately?
  • Make time to do the things that you love, whether that’s spending time with friends and family, the movies, theatre, reading a book or going for a run. All these things are your fuel – they refill your bucket. Don’t wait until your bucket is empty before you do them. Do them regularly and keep your bucket full.

Let me know how you get on.

If you’d like some help with making time to think, upping your productivity, and reclaiming your ‘me-time’ you might benefit from joining Charly White and me for our next one-day online training to build your resilience, confidence and creativity on 18 May – 9.30 am – 4 pm. Learn practical tips to lower your stress and build your resilience in order to think clearly, combined with practical tools to help you think creatively to solve problems.

At the end of this one-day training you’ll have:

  • A toolkit of techniques to help you notice your stress and anxiety triggers
  • Practical tips and tools to lower your feelings of stress and anxiety, and help the people around you with this too and avoid the fight, flight, freeze state.
  • A set of tools to help you think clearly and creatively to solve problems
  • Confidence to put your learning into action and keep momentum even on the tough days.
May 2021 Resilience and creativity workshop
https://lucidityinnovation.lpages.co/may-2021-resilience-creativity-workshop/

This resilience, confidence and creativity training webinar is for anyone who is responsible for leading and motivating a team, and who would like to build their resilience and creative problem-solving skills. Book now!

 

My top 3 tips to help you be happy and successful at work

For the vast majority of people, being successful and happy at work relies on the strength of the relationships with our colleagues, managers, clients and customers. Research shows that we get results faster when we know, like and trust people. We can’t fake that. We earn it. Whether we work in the same location or are working virtually here’s my 3 tips to build strong relationships.

Ask open questions

Ask people about them (what’s your favourite topic? Yep – you got it ‘you’). Listen carefully to their response. Ask them more open questions about their answers. Listen again. Find things in common. Sounds obvious I know, but when we’re busy or stressed out, simple things like asking and listening can easily get forgotten.

For example, a great taste in shoes, knowledge of a local area, a football club. It doesn’t have to be work related; you’re looking for any topic where there’s a common interest.

We get results faster when we know, like and trust other people. And building genuine rapport about common interests builds trust.

Have a give first attitude

Whether it’s online or face to face, go to your meeting or networking event with the mindset of helping others; how can you add value to conversations? Can you help to unpick other people’s problems and be a go-to person when others need help?

Be the person that gives first, invests in relationships, asks and receives and builds on others ideas and conversations. Make ‘How can I help?’ one of your most used questions.

Take an improv class

I’ve saved my most valuable (and scary) tip for the last in this list.

I took improv classes a few years ago, because I wanted to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to be better at thinking in the moment when I was presenting. I didn’t want to be afraid of being asked something that I couldn’t answer. It was scary and also one of the best things I’ve ever done. I use so much of the rules of improv in my working life.

We’re all guilty of over thinking and over complicating things. Many awkward or fractious work situations involve some over thinking or over complication at some point. This overthinking is often the result of fear. Improv forces you to be in the moment. Instead of thinking about yourself, you have to spend all your energy on listening, building on what others have said and making sure the other people on stage with you look good. And in turn, they do the same for you.

You can’t prepare or overthink because it all happens in the moment. If it all goes wrong, it doesn’t matter. No one is judging. You get to laugh at yourself.

The only failure in improv is not stepping up and giving it a go. You could argue that is also true of life and work.

What are you not giving a go because of fear?

A couple of years ago I set up the Lucidity Network – it’s a place to get training, support and connections. It’s a safe space to build your confidence and overcome the fears that are holding you back. It’s a network designed  to help you be happy and successful at work.

If you’d like more success and happiness at work, then  join a network of friendly, non judgmental, successful people who are not afraid to reach out for help or admit that they don’t know what to do, or feel in control 100% of the time. Check out the Lucidity Network today.

Do you ever wish you could put the clock back?

Turn the clocks back

Do you ever wish you could put the clock back and go and give yourself some good advice, knowing what you know now?

A few weeks ago I asked the brilliant brains in the Lucidity Network ‘What advice would you have given yourself on 1 March 2020 – knowing what you know now?’

There were too many responses to list them all, so here’s my pick of what they said.

Stop, breathe and take time to settle. This will be a long process and there is no hurry for anything.

Just. Slow. Down.

Stop judging yourself by ‘normal’ standards. We need different measures of ourselves for these different times.

Don’t leave your favourite cardigan in your locker at work.

Go and hug a lot of people. (Even the random lady down the park with the barky dog)

Go visit everyone you know and love and spend a lot of time with them – appreciating everything (even your sisters annoying habits) as you don’t know when you might see them again. Make time every day to get out in the fresh air and enjoy your surroundings, it’ll make all the difference.

Always have a plan B (maybe a C and D as well).

Buy flour (who knew!?)

Don’t rush to fill up your car thinking that there will be a disruption in supply. What will actually happen is text book economics: no one goes anywhere so demand goes down, the world is over supplied with crude oil and prices fall to their lowest in decades. NOW go fill up

Remind yourself to stay calm. Many times.

It might not seem possible at first but there will be positives, parts of it will actually be enjoyable. Find the positives and appreciate them.

Finish as much client work as possible and enjoy the quiet time in the house before schools shut!

Be kind to yourself and build up your resilience.

Take an office chair home from work – kitchen chairs will hurt your back.

Treasure the joy in spending time with loved ones, hug them a little bit longer as you’ll need it to keep you going over the weeks ahead.

Cut yourself some slack and don’t judge yourself for any emotion you feel over the next few weeks. This is going to be a rollercoaster. Some days you’ll feel ok. Others days you’ll be worried sick. Some days you’ll feel guilty that you’re finding it so hard when you know other people have far more to deal with, and some days you’ll battle between your desire to be productive and your lack of action.

Don’t waste your energy judging others for their actions, just concentrate on you.

The stuff you’re stressing about now will not be important in a few weeks.

Remember you have others who want to help you that you can delegate to.

Buy more printer ink and garden furniture you like.

Strap yourself in and just roll with the feelings rather than fight them.

Tomorrow will be the same but different.

Stop trying to plan too far ahead, you need to focus on getting through today.

It’s going to be mentally exhausting so use the coping strategies that work for you to look after yourself, so you can keep going and help others.

Look for all the positives that come out of the situation. There are many, but it will be hard to notice them at the beginning.

Give all your elderly relatives a crash course in technology.

Adjust your own expectations of yourself. Stay at home parent, working 37.5 hours a week and teaching are three separate full time jobs.

Don’t focus on what could happen, focus on the here and now. Be kind to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.

We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat!

What would your advice be? Feel free to comment and share your advice below. And if you’d like to join this brilliant group of brains, then you can. Learn more about joining the Lucidity Network here.