Your Gut Instinct Is There To Help You

Your Gut Instinct Is There To Help You

You know more than you know that you know.

Humans evolved quite a bit, over the years. About 6 million years ago, we were walking upright and making simple tools, and our brains were mostly the hind brain, or lizard brain.

It controls our automatic body functions, and contains the Medulla Oblongata, the Pons, and the Cerebellum. The Cerebellum controls voluntary body movement, like dancing or sinking a ball into a basket from half-court. This part of the brain controls sleep, and how alert we are. With this, we got by, but we weren’t writing many novels.

Starting about 2 million years ago, we started developing the Limbic system, which contains the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, the Hypothalamus, and the thalamus. These control emotion, memories, learning, and memory.

About 800,000 years ago, we brought the Neocortex into play – Frontal, Parietal, Temporal, and Occipital Lobes, and Broca’s Area. Reasoning, problem solving, interpreting visual input, hearing, speech, and control of the facial expressions happen here.

They’re all still on the job, but the only part that we hear consciously is the Neocortex. The Limbic and Cerebellum are still there and working, but our waking mind doesn’t hear them. We call that part of thought the subconscious mind. And it sees everything, and can tap into our memory centers, so it remembers everything, too.

The title of this post is a tad misleading. Humans have very few instincts, and they mostly control infant behavior, and they fade away before we’re 12. We have behavior that seems instinctual, because our conscious mind isn’t aware of the decision-making process behind it, but it’s the hindbrain and limbic system at work.

They remember everything, and control our emotions, and are largely responsible for our survival. Those are the parts of our brains that know the things that we don’t know that we know. They make far more decisions for us than we realize consciously.

Visiting an area that you’re not familiar with, looking for your next meal, you’ll see a restaurant and decide ‘that looks like a good place’. Most times, you’ll be right. The food and service are good, and you enjoy it. But you don’t really know why it looked like a good choice, nor do you wonder about it. That decision wasn’t made in your neocortex.

We usually think of such decisions as instinct, or a hunch, but they’re not. They were made by a portion of our brain that’s been keeping the species alive for millions of years, based upon cues that we don’t consciously notice. Most of the time, these decisions work out well for us.

This happens in business, as well. The hunch that you have about that vendor, or the impression you have of that co-worker isn’t instinct, it’s your hindbrain reacting to clues that you may not have realized that you were seeing.

So trust your hindbrain. It’s often better at making decisions than your forebrain is. But remember that it’s not really your gut, or instinct. It’s a part of you that does much of your thinking and makes many decisions at a level that we don’t consciously notice.

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