Making Decisions from the Gut

A friend of mine is trying to make one of the biggest decisions of her life right now: when and where to retire.  She could retire where she feels comfortable and where she's got her circle of friends, or in Eastern Canada where her children are.  Understandably, she's torn- how do you choose between the two? 

Last night, we talked about making decisions with the head, heart, and gut, and how they each have different voices, speeds, and energies.  The head and the heart tend to come up with the logic, math, and reasoning,  and the dream, vision, and the aching respectively.  The gut is the centre of action.  It recognizes opportunity or danger and springs the body into action. 

Everyone operates primarily from one of the centres, has secondary access to another, and has trouble getting in touch with the third.  So for example, you could be a head type, a heart type, or a gut type and be completely literate in that centre's vocabulary, but then you could have real difficulty deciphering what one of the other centres is saying, which can have you unconsciously flying in long, slow circles over the bird sanctuary of your life with a clipped wing for years on end. 

Jim Treliving.  Image from CBC.ca

Jim Treliving.  Image from CBC.ca

Jim Treliving is a Canadian entrepreneur and investor, known as the RCMP officer-turned-owner of the international Boston Pizza franchise and now a fixture on CBC's the Dragon's Den (like the US' Shark Tank).  He's possibly a lusty, gut-driven, tough yet self-effacing Enneagram Type 8w9 (although I'm not positive on that), but one thing is clear in reading his book Decisions- he accesses his gut to make decisions over and over again in his business deals.

 

My RCMP training taught me the most crucial business lesson there is: Always do something.  That's the one thing that sets successful people apart from not-so-successful people-- the ability to actually make a decision.  Unsuccessful people freeze in the face of choice.  Why does this happen?  It's fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck.  Or fear of making the wrong decision.  Sometimes it's easier to continue doing things the old, familiar way, even if that way is all wrong.  But a big change will take you to a whole new place in business, and in life.

Joanne Wilson, an entrepreneur with a powerful presence whose gut decisions have served her well.

At a workshop a few years ago with Enneagram teacher Ginger Lapid-Bogda, she had a participant come up to the front who was trying to make a major decision in her life.  This woman - a heart type- was trying to decide whether or not to pursue her passion by opening a Body Shop-type of business.  The purpose of the exercise was to "hear" from all three centres, and she was to put her hands on each of the three centres in turn, picturing that body part in her mind's eye, and talk about her business idea, as if she was in that centre.  It was interesting to notice how her voice changed when she spoke from each of the centres.  Sometimes the words had the ring of a parents' dissaproval, or betrayed desire with the way the breath carried the words.  The voice from the gut was meek, but there's something about the gut- how it knows things.  (Actually, we now know from neuroscience that it literally knows things, as nerve fibers from the nervous system surround our hollow internal organs [ie. our visceral organs] and are the first point of contact for our internal sensory perceptions that get sent up to the pre-frontal cortex in the brain via the insula, hence the expression, "a gut feeling".)

A lot of us don't listen to the gut and turn the volume way down because we're afraid of action, and we get stuck in the head, or start stewing in the heart.  It can get really sterile in the head or stinky in the heart if we don't get out to the other centres.  I'm reminded of a Kaballah principle for those with a weaker connection to the gut: "When challenges appear overwhelming, inject Certainty. The Light is always there!"  I'm not sure how reliable this is, but Rav Berg says the Israelites fleeing from the Egyptians had to walk into the Red Sea until the water reached their nostrils before the water started parting for them.  That's injecting certainty into a difficult situation!

"You know what my favorite quote is?  It's right here:  'I seen my opportunities and I took em.'" Mr. M, a gut-type.

"You know what my favorite quote is?  It's right here:  'I seen my opportunities and I took em.'" Mr. M, a gut-type.

On the other hand, some lucky people have immediate access to their gut and can act instinctively.  Those are the people who get things done in a self-assured decisive way- they tend to be society's leaders; later in life, however, they may find out they've neglected the head or heart centre and have to make corrective action at that point.

We all have to make corrective action- the question is how long does it take us to recognize that we're slightly out of balance?  For most of us, 50 years or so.  Less for some people.  More for others.

Whatever your main intelligence centre, getting into that third, under-utilized "brain" is the spark that lights the match, the redirection of the flow of energy that brings our lives into a balance heretofore unattained.

 

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