The idea is that we are only as healthy as our gut. Articles warn us that if we ignore our gut health, we could leave ourselves open to far more serious conditions. And like any good, informative article, many lead with headlines like ‘Seven Indicators of a Healthy Gut’ or ‘Ten Miracle Foods for Optimum Gut Health’ or ‘Five Steps to a Healthy Gut’.
While I’m pretty confident that the popularity of gut health will wane, like the hundreds of fads before it, the idea of gut health has me intrigued.
In my world of coaching, gut health has nothing to do with bran and fibre. It doesn’t focus on blueberries or chia seeds. It’s not found in water or cranberry juice. And probiotics don’t even make my top ten gut health list. When I think about gut health, I think about how well I am trusting and following my gut, especially when I am making decisions in my life.
Our society is overachieving in the area of teaching us to look outside ourselves to gather information to help us make decisions. It does a good job of convincing us that we are not good judges of what is best for ourselves. We are encouraged to look to others for answers to everything, from what to eat, what to wear, what job to pursue, what conversations to have, and even what might bring us satisfaction. My experience and my training tells me the complete opposite. For most decisions we make concerning ourselves, we have all the information needed; right in our healthy gut. The secret lies in listening to it and trusting it.
This past year I’ve had a wonderful seat in the arena of watching my daughter take on the role of a new mother. I’m noticing that although she has never held this role before, she seems to know exactly what to do for her child. Of course, she has read books to help her with clinical things, but considering each child arrives into this world with it’s very own DNA, there could not possibly be enough ‘do it yourself’ books to help in every situation. There are times when she just seems to know intuitively that a particular thing will be helpful.
I find it fascinating that our society seems to accept and promote this particular brand of ‘gut health’. We even have a fancy name for it: mother’s intuition or women’s intuition. What absolutely stymies me is that the same society that gives women the green light to trust their judgment when raising human beings, also gives these same women the clear message to not trust themselves in other areas. In their professional lives, women are often given mentors to guide them. This reinforces the idea that guts are not to be trusted; they must look outside themselves for verification. Many women in powerful positions are discouraged from involving their very healthy guts when performing leadership roles.
My gut has very rarely steered me wrong. The times when I feel I have made my least successful decisions are times when I have allowed one of three things to happen; I acted based on feeling (perhaps not wanting to disappoint someone or make them feel less intelligent or powerful), I substituted someone else’s opinion for my own (perhaps trying to be liked or accepted) or I led with my ego. Any of these things will lead to a decision being made. None of them relies on a healthy gut.
To rely on our gut or our intuition, we need to get very quiet with ourselves. We need to stop the outside chatter and listen to our inner wisdom. We always know what is best for ourselves and if we are willing to be quiet and listen, the wisdom makes itself available to us.
This is not to say there are not many times when we should count on the wisdom of those who have gone before us. If for example, I have a problem with my computer, no amount of me being quiet and listening to my gut will help. I simply need to hire or ask someone who has this skill. This is not a gut issue. If I want to implement something at my workplace, it would be foolish of me to simply close my office door, get very quiet and then proceed as if I have had a mystical revelation. I need to gather information from others.
However, there are times, especially when we are making decisions involving our own lives and our own destiny, when no one else’s opinion can compete with our own gut. No one knows what is best for us more than we ourselves. No one. There are people, of course, who like to think they do. More than once I’ve had someone tell me, ‘You know what you need’ – and then they proceed to let me know. Very rarely have they ever gotten it right.
This week I treated myself to watching America’s Got Talent: The Champions. Susan Boyle was a contestant. I was imagining her prior to her first audition in 2009. She did not fit the mold for a glamourous superstar. In fact, when she took the stage and was asked what she was hoping for and she replied she wanted to have a career as a professional singer, she was laughed at. When she started to sing, her magic was released. I was thinking how lucky this world is that Susan Boyle listened to her own inner wisdom; her gut. She knew better than anyone else in the world what was best for her and against all odds she chose to take the path that could lead her there.
I am not a Susan Boyle. I do not have a talent that can still an audience or move people to tears. However, I do know that when I have a friend on my mind, it most often means I should call them. And when I just have a feeling I should go to an event, or reach out to a contact, or make a decision, or say a certain thing, my world has been enriched in ways even I could never have imagined.
My inquiry for you this week is, “What is my gut telling me?”
Elizabeth provides leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you learn how enlist your healthy gut in making life-changing decisions.