Making a big decision—say moving cities, buying a house, or choosing who to work with—is challenging for most of us.

One widely-circulated piece of advice is to make a “pros and cons” list. Chart out the benefits as well as the drawbacks of each option, and the right choice will become clear. Or so goes the time-honored advice.

There’s something missing, though, with that approach.

While we need logical assessment of information when we’re making a decision, that’s only half the process. If we want to genuinely feel at peace with the outcome of our decision, and if we want the consequences of that decision to work out on the long-term, there’s something else we need to include in our decision-making process. I call it the “gut check.”

I know that sounds a little “soft” for a cold hard real-life decision, but I’ve learned from experience that listening to my gut can save a lot of time, money, and trouble.

Not long ago, I hired the wrong person for a job. I used the traditional practical methods of decision-making, didn’t listen to my “gut feeling,” and then went through months of stress, frustration, and sending money down the drain.

I needed a contractor to help me in my business, so I got recommendations, researched my options, and interviewed several people. Most candidates were easy to rule out, as they were above what I could afford and didn’t fit what I needed. There was one candidate, however, who offered above and beyond what I’d hoped for, and had the best rates. It appeared to be a no-brainer. But there was this tiny feeling in my gut that told me it wasn’t a fit.

This contractor and I saw and responded to the world through fundamentally different lenses. At the same time, I liked her as a person. I also liked everything she’d said she could do for me. I also know that in business, you can get better results when two different personalities work together than if you only work with people just like you. Logic and common sense dictated that I’d done my due diligence, and she was a perfect fit. So I ignored the tiny voice, and went for it.

We spent several months trying to get into a groove. During this time we were both often frustrated that we weren’t “getting” each other. We were not on the same page at all, and it was slowing down my business and my life. This relationship was meant to help my business ramp up, run more smoothly, and give me more time to focus on my sweet spots, but ended up doing the opposite. I was compromising the integrity of my work. I had to constantly redo projects I’d sourced out. On paper, it was the perfect fit. In reality, it was a disaster.

The hard lesson I learned is that it pays to acknowledge and listen to that little gut feeling. In my case, I acknowledged it, but I overruled it. To use this physical knowledge, what I call “cellular knowledge” to its full potential, you need to learn to trust it, even going as far as to make hard decisions that may defy logic, based on that inner voice.

Within each of our bodies, we contain so much wisdom. There’s a quiet, unassuming inner voice that speaks to us, and that rings true in every cell of our body. Think about it. As a woman, your body contains all the knowledge necessary to create an entire, functioning human being. You don’t mentally know how to create a heart, a brain, and all the organs that a functioning digestive system requires. However, given the right circumstances, your body can do all these things automatically—without any input from you. Your body can also heal itself from illness and injury. Our bodies have incredible wisdom, but as a general rule we’re not trained in knowing how to hear and follow it.

As my story shows, the purely logical approach doesn’t always provide the right answer. Similarly, advice from an outside party often does not feel right or true. It can go either way—providing clarifying insight, or misdirecting and getting you off track. What’s never off-track is your internal intuitive guidance. It takes effort, conscious steps, and practice to learn to listen to your gut feeling—but it’s worth it.

Your inner wisdom doesn’t surface amid a barrage of thoughts and internal dialogue. Nor does it necessarily arise by chance when you manage to quiet your mind. You need to actively connect with it.

Here are some tips that may help:

  1.  Pay attention to your body’s reactions, and learn to notice physiological signs of how you feel. When something is off, you might feel tension in your chest, your breathing might become shallow,  or you may sense “spinning” in your head rather than feeling grounded through your feet. These signs are subtle, but clear. Take note of what you feel, what causes it, and learn to connect the dots.
  2. Notice when you go into “story” mode—when you start an inner dialogue rationalizing to yourself why you are deciding or doing something. Your intuition doesn’t justify, make excuses, or need an explanation. It simply tells you how you feel.
  3. Consciously choose whether you will go with your gut feeling, or rationalize another course of action. Down the road, it will become clear to you whether your intuitive guidance was accurate. If it is, you’ll have the knowledge and skill to adjust future decisions accordingly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with internal wisdom. Leave a comment or reply to the email and let me know: Was there a “gut” feeling you noticed but didn’t heed? Do you tend to make decisions more from your head or your gut?