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Trusting your gut at work

From Kate Lorenz
CareerBuilder.com editor

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(CareerBuilder.com) -- What to do? What to do?

Many of us spend hours agonizing over which job to take or what project to propose.

We believe that if we only gather enough information and deliberate long and hard enough, we'll arrive at the right answer.

But does the quality of a decision directly correlate with the time and effort you put into making it? Cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience says often-times not.

In fact in his book "Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking," author Malcolm Gladwell contends there are many situations when our snap judgments and first impressions offer a much better means of making sense of the world.

Traders, firefighters and soldiers all operate in high-stakes environments, where they have just seconds to make vital decisions. Neuroscientists say what goes on in those moments is intense, rational thinking -- but at warp speed. Psychologists call it "thin slicing" -- defined as the ability of our unconscious to arrive at a conclusion by recognizing patterns in situations and people based on very narrow "slices" of experience.

Executives who practice this kind of decision making, like Donald Trump and Jack Welch, call it "thinking with your gut." And neuroscience shows that there may indeed be such a thing as visceral wisdom.

Deep in our bellies lies a "second brain" called the enteric nervous system. Containing more than 100 million nerve cells and mood-altering neurotransmitters identical to those in the brain, the enteric nervous system is connected to our brains via the vagus nerve.

According to Emeran Mayer, M.D., professor of medicine, physiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, "There is such an intricate relationship between emotions and the GI tract, you can feel what is going on in the gut if you train yourself."

Of course, your emotions can fool your gut, too -- as Gladwell points out in "Blink." This happens mainly when a situation is highly charged with panic or fear -- as was the infamous Amadou Diallo shooting in the South Bronx in 1999, where police killed an innocent man because they mistook the wallet he pulled from his pocket for a gun.

Many times, though, Gladwell says that the capacity of peoples' intuitions is so powerful it's almost hard to believe. Christiane Caparelli of Costa Mesa Calif. makes a living off hers as an intuitive consultant. Caparelli works with Fortune 500 companies as well as individuals, sharing her intuitive insights and teaching others how to sharpen theirs.

Caparelli believes that while many of us become afflicted with paralysis-analysis, everyone has the power to be intuitive (even psychic) if they can only get in touch with their innate wisdom or "knowing."

If you're trying to decide between two job offers, for example, Caparelli suggests going to a quiet place, imagining taking one job offer -- and then noticing what is happening to your body. After that, shift to the other choice and see what your body tells you.

"If one choice isn't right for you, you'll feel it," she says. "Many people notice a tightening of the gut or an uneasiness in the chest and shoulders."

From there, Caparelli suggests gathering and analyzing information about the two jobs to see if the evidence supports your intuition.

"Ask yourself what your gut says first," Caparelli asserts. "Then see if it checks out.

"Learning to listen to,and trust, your instincts takes practice," she adds. "But, over time, you'll find they are an accurate and invaluable guide."

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com. She's an expert in job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.


© Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority


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