Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lesson Learned (and continuing to be learned)

I'm big on gut feelings. Some may refer to it as intuition instead of "gut feelings." It may sound rather mystical when I describe it, especially in offline, non-written, face-to-face life. And that probably seems out of character if you perceive me as a typically logical, literal, systematically scientific thinker. Where, in my collection of spreadsheets, my re-organizing-the-kitchen-cabinets hobby, my memorization of highway numbers, and my detailed to-do lists that begin with "unlock door and enter home", do gut feelings belong?

I believe gut feelings are nothing mystical at all. I believe they are totally rational; the product of fast-moving logic. A response to subtle signals, frequently nonverbal, linked up with memory and experience. (I am vaguely aware that there's a book with this thesis, although I've never read it.) In a sense, perhaps they are hyperlogical, an exhibit of supreme rationality.

I wrote this post on the topic not long ago.

Today, all I want to say on the topic is this. If you have a feeling something is wrong, something is wrong. But here's the thing—you may be wrong about what exactly is wrong. Something is wrong, but it may not be what you think it is. Identifying this may take some time and thinking.

The key is to avoid jumping to conclusions without ignoring that important, correct gut feeling.

This has come up quite a bit for me, especially since moving to my new home city across the continent from my friends and family and everything I've ever known—this place where the discourse is different and even the butter is not the same. This is really a topic for a separate post, but I'll state it here anyway. At the end of each misadventure, I've beat myself up verbally, reprimanding myself for either not trusting a gut instinct or wondering how the hell my gut instincts could have led me astray.

Gut feelings just point you in a direction. They don't give you all the information. There's still some thinking work that needs to be done. For example, to determine if someone who is acting angry is expressing their anger toward you or their anger with life in your general direction. Anyway, what I've learned from my misadventures is some of the elements that get in the way of gut feelings. One is information overload; that's what might make you choose the wrong option of the two listed above (ex: This person is mad at me vs. This person is upset about something else in their life and I am standing in front of them.) The second is desire. This post is getting wordy, and I wanted it to be short, so I am going to stop here. I will write about the connection between gut feelings and desire another time. I recently realized that it relates (and here's where I get MYSTICAL!) to the second of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. (I looked at a few pages, and I decided that, of all things, this Wikipedia entry actually is worded most closely to the point I want to get across.)

Do you actually read these posts, or would you rather I stick to funny stories and musings on food?


Anonymous said...

I read them, believe it or not, usually as a bunch every 6-10 days. This one in particular is juicy, especially the understanding of the ol' Second Noble. Spot on, at least from mine own perspective... It's a vital thing to realize that there is usually very little of "you" directly related to any given situation.

LS said...

I read everything :)