Can You Improve Your Gut Feel?

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gut feel

Can You Improve Your Gut Feel?

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I asked the question, “Do you ever follow your gut?” Whenever I ask this in a seminar I get many heads nodding to the positive. A gut feel is an interesting dynamic, is it correct? Can you improve your gut feel?

Our instincts are powerful, but are they really instincts or lessons learned? Touch a hot stove and we learn to fear it. Is that instinctual?

Judgment Call

Meet someone for the first time and we may pass judgment. We look at clothing, hairstyle, and shoes. We listen for language, slang, and education. Sometimes we assess the location, the time of day, or the car they drive. Are we making our determination based on our gut or stereotypes and bias?

People will often suggest that sometimes you have to go with your gut. Is going with your gut a skill? Does it get better over time?

Perhaps we can learn to train our gut. We can examine stereotypes, biases, and affirmations. Will this examination lead to developing the skills that give us a competitive edge? It probably can, but it could also invite false perceptions.

In fact, this examination could lead to a self-fulfilled prophecy. Our gut tells us something is wrong and sure enough, we find things that go wrong. Instincts suggest the new product isn’t ready for market and sure enough sales are slow.

Improve Your Gut

If you want to train your gut or improve your instincts you’ll need to approach it with an unbiased mind and carefully examine the results.

What should you do? You may consider:

  • watching sports and picking the winners;
  • observing the new employee and predicting his or her organizational fit;
  • and, privately assessing the outcomes of meetings, decisions, and the path for new directions.

You should commit to your gut, write it down, observe the outcomes and mindfully note your success. Do this again and again. Establish some data.

Are you getting better, worse, or is your success staying about the same? Ask yourself, “What is the best predictor of future performance?” The likely answer is past performance. When you don’t know the past performance you go with your gut.

Gut Feel

Our gut feel and instincts are important but chances are that our true success in this area is conditioned by learning the behaviors, patterns, and predictable actions of the subject involved. If we don’t know past performance we assess what we do know and guess at the rest.

Sometimes our gut feel is really just an assessment of the data we’ve stored over time. It may include our attitude towards the situation.

At least that is what my gut tells me.


Originally posted on January 16, 2018, last updated on November 24, 2020.

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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