I really do trust my gut instincts. Even to me, that sounds like an odd thing to say. I'm a very logical and procedural person: a lot of the troubleshooting and problem solving I do is step by step, this follows from that, flow-chart, check-list, cause and effect all the way. And yet.. I trust my gut.
My Unix and Linux Troubleshooting Book has a lot of the procedural stuff in it - first you check this, then you check that - but even there I talk about intuition. For example, I mentioned solving a "network down" problem once by shutting down a server. There was no logical reason to shut it down. I hadn't even put my hands on its keyboard and I was 30 feet away from it when my "gut" decided it was at fault. I hadn't even had time to think about why the network was down because I had literally just walked into the room. All I knew was that I had a very strong feeling that something was wrong with that particular machine.
In the e-book I said:
It turns out that some scientists think I'm right. At That gut feeling may actually reflect a reliable memory, a report from a Northwestern University study says:
While this study may provide some validation, plenty of people have recognized the reality of instinct and intuition. There was the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, but did it really take that and a scientific study to convince you? No, if you are a "gut instinct" type person, you already know that it works. And if not?
Well, that's the odd thing. My wife doesn't trust gut feelings - or at least she says she doesn't. I think she actually does, but she realizes that there are limitations. Your gut reaction is probably worth trusting if you think someone is lying to you but it's less valuable when the decision involves math.
In that "Troubleshooting" book I mentioned that I often have dreams where I notice that my dreaming mind can't add up simple numbers. It doesn't know what 5 plus 7 plus 8 is. It barely comprehends two plus two. However, it never seems to be unsure of its answers: if I have to add three small numbers together in a dream, I'll get an answer. The answer won't make sense - it might even be smaller than one of the numbers being added, but that doesn't bother my dreaming mind a bit. I think that's important to remember when deciding how much to trust your gut. I said:
The scientific studies seem to agree. If the decision involves simple math or the weighing of two or three variables, it's probably good to take out pencil and paper and do the math or write down the "good points/bad points" chart. But when it gets more complicated, when there are unknowns and it's hard to know how to weight some values, it's time to let the gut tell you what to do.
And if it's wrong? Well, you make mistakes with math, too. Procedural rules don't always lead to the best answer either, so don't get too upset about it.
Now quick, what's 5 + 3 + 8? My subconscious just said "Nine". Great..
Got something to add? Send me email.
More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2011-03-20 Anthony Lawrence