05 Nov

Why we should listen to our tummies and how to do it.

Think and be honest with yourself when answering this question: Did you ever end up in a situation that was not good for you after ignoring the warnings signs? Something was telling you to get out, but you still stayed. Your intuition was to hold back, but you went ahead.

I refer to the warning signs as “the tummy” because, for many of us, this is where the signs show up.

I’ve been in this position several times. Looking back, I can say that there was a strong signal that I should have paid attention to, yet I didn’t. While hindsight is 20/20, having the foresight to listen to those signals would have been better. I’ve been exploring how to leverage those signals in a timely manner.

First, let’s figure out the potential motivations behind the choices we make. Next, we’ll discuss how to be mindful and ready next time “the tummy” reaches out. Regarding motivations, my list of “perhaps I went ahead because” includes:

  • Ego talk: Sometimes we are presented with a shiny object—a nice title, a desirable organization, a cool project, and the like. Everybody will think I’m cool if I go ahead with this. But what do you think?
  • Financial consideration: This is often connected with the first point, ego talk, especially when it comes to work opportunities, as there could be a financial upswing in it. What is the non-financial cost of this?
  • Confusing fitting in and belonging: As humans, we have an innate need to belong. It is easy to confuse fitting in with belonging. When we fit in, we adapt our behaviors in order to be accepted. When we belong, we are welcomed because of who we are. Where do you belong?
  • Not wanting to disrupt: Saying no may disrupt other people’s plans, and many of us have been raised to please—especially women. What disrupts you?
  • Peer pressure: Everybody thinks this is a great idea. Who is “everybody”? Accepting someone else’s logic without questioning it can be risky.
  • Socially desirable and conventional path: Most of us have been raised and educated in a manner that prescribes “the right course” and what “we should not be doing.” What is your path?
  • Risk tolerance: A decision involves a risk assessment. Are you clear on your own risk tolerance? Can you stretch a bit?
  • Lack of self-confidence: This one is especially true for women. There is no need to settle. Repeat after me, “I am enough.”

There is neuro-scientific evidence emerging confirming that our “gut feelings” are not to be dismissed, as they are a response to something our body deems unsettling. There is still a lot to discover about the phenomenon, so how do we deal with these warning signs now? How do we get equipped to handle them in a timely and productive manner?

First things first, do not ignore the tummy tingle. Do not dismiss it. It’s trying to tell you something.

Next, run the situation (or opportunity) through a personal evaluation grid that you create by figuring out the following:

  • Know your values: Be clear on your own personal values. Does the situation you are dealing with fit with your values?
  • Nurture your self-worth: You are enough and you are worthy. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. You do not have to settle.
  • Have a square squad: The notion of a square squad references the work of Brené Brown. It is a short list of people whose opinions you trust. The list is short enough to fit on a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper. These people love you enough to be honest with you and share their opinions, which you respect. What does your square squad think of the situation?
  • Be clear about your risk tolerance: The threshold is different from one person to the next. What is yours? Where does this situation fit on your personal risk continuum?
  • Trust that there is a way forward that brings joy and fulfillment: Many of us have been raised to believe that life (and work) must be difficult, demanding, and not a source of enjoyment or fulfillment. We know better. It’s time to get rid of the underlying assumptions that we should not be having fun.

With practice, these guiding posts will make your decision-making process easier. However, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never stray again. Should you end up in the wrong place, don’t beat yourself up and don’t agonize over it. Be clear on why this is not right for you. Tweak your personal evaluation grid if needed, then course correct and push onward.

Yes, it’s that simple.


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