When Your Gut Reaction Gives You a Stomach AcheThere are plenty of theories about what a gut reaction actually is, but I bet you know it when you have one. It is a peculiarly human trait to overthink and dismiss instincts because we have been told we don’t have any. I beg to differ, and I would like to meet the person who says they have never had a gut feeling about something, someone or some place.

Gut reactions are not necessarily bad, you can ‘just know’ that something is right and good as well. That is rarely a problem, again, unless you pass on something or someone and come to regret not listening to yourself. To paraphrase Gavin de Becker, the deer wandering the in forest, encountering a hungry lion, doesn’t tell himself is he being silly, they simply happen to be at the same place at the same time, he moves immediately or is lunch.

We All Have Gut Instincts

…and my experience has been ignoring them has never been a good idea.

Humans tend to be a bit more complex than a deer or lion: they can offer good intentions, but bad actions, lip service, overconfidence in ability and under achievement in performance or flat-out lying and malevolence. They can also be awesome, magnificently wonderful, but that is rarely a problem. Humans can mean well and screw it up, big time. As we plan together, work together and hope for the future, how do we know what will work?

Of course we do planning, feasibility studies, strategic goal setting, timelines and benchmarks along the way. That is due diligence and thoughtful consideration before committing to any action or program.

What happens when all that stuff is done, and deep down, someplace, somehow, you know this is not going to turn out right? Walking down the street with my new client, I knew, just knew, that despite whatever promises she offered, this would not work. Looking at the previous activity of the swim school, somehow I knew he would not be able to change the way he said he would.

Do You Bail Before It Gets Nasty?

Tough to do, but yes. I figure it took me multiple lessons before I got this right. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, you can’t make someone who is always late punctual, and you can’t force something simply because you want it.

The challenge is in determining exactly what your gut is telling you is wrong; how to take something as ephemeral as a feeling and create responsible, respectful distance between your hopes for a good outcome and a certain train wreck. Retrospect is a wonderful thing, and in looking back, I have learned to pay attention to when I get a bad feeling as much as how I can describe my hesitations.

Self-awareness is key to navigating a gut reaction, personal clarity and insight about what you can and will do, tolerate and simply can’t stand.

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Cindy Lauren - Lauren Associates - non profit consultingCindy Lauren is the Principal of Lauren Associates – non profit consulting

As well as advising Executives and Boards on all aspects of nonprofit management, the firm specializes in developing fundraising solutions for all sizes of organizations.

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Image Credit:
stomach-ache by giaurom on Flickr.
Posted while listening to:Stop Being A Whiny Bitch – Instrumental Study Music