The brain in your stomach

How to improve the use of gut instinct

surprising number of business leaders use their gut instinct to help them make business decisions. In a poll conducted by PRWeek and Burson-Marsteller, the majority of the CEOs surveyed said they were likely to rely on their intuition when making business decisions.

Business decisions like taking their company in a new direction because their gut had an “a-ha” even though their accountant says it would mean risk. Movies like “Joy” remind us of the importance of following our dreams and trusting our guts to help us meet our goals.

Our gut instinct is an intelligence that has been used as far back as Albert Einstein, but was not nearly as recognized until Steve Jobs acknowledged it himself, saying, “Have the courage to follow your intuition. It somehow already knows what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Up to now, we have recognized our IQ (Intelligent Quotient), and our EQ (Emotional Quotient). It’s now time to recognize what I term our GQ (Gut Quotient) as an intelligence. Our gut is an intelligence that manages risk for us and gives us a pit in our stomach when something feels “off” and an “a-ha feeling” when it feels right.

Our gut-brain has 100 million neurons, more than in the spinal cord, to alert our other two brains to help us make effective decisions. Here is how our three brains help us make decisions:

  • Brain in our gut: The enteric nervous system alerts us to help us manage risk.
  • Brain in our heart: The intrinsic nervous system manages emotional buy-in.
  • Brain in our head: The autonomic nervous system manages expression, reason and strategy.

How can you improve your Gut Quotient?

In order to increase your Gut Quotient, you must integrate your gut knowing with the intelligence of your heart and head. To do this, I teach the following 60-second  S.T.O.P. Technique to quiet the mind and get your three brains in sync.

Here’s how the 60-second S.T.O.P. Technique works:

  1. Slow down and breathe.
    When we slow down and breathe we become more present and change our physiology.  By breathing more deeply and slowly, we change our brainwave from beta to alpha. This gets our brainwave and heart wave in sync. It also opens up the corpus callosum in our brain, the bridge that connects the left and right hemisphere, and allows us to pass the amygdala, which is our pain and pleasure center. Repeat activity of breathing deeply can shrink the amygdala and create a neuropathway that propels us past a “fight or flight” reaction (caused by pleasure and pain), and connects us to an intuitive and innovative response.
  2. Tune in within.
    After we have calmed our mind, we can now focus on our problem-solving question so intuition can come to us. Begin your problem-solving question with, “How might I…?”  This alerts your gut, heart and head to sync to solve your problem statement. Depending on your learning style, you will “hear” your gut “speaking” to you in one of these ways.
  3. Observe what is happening with pure curiosity.
    Say to yourself, “Hmm…isn’t that interesting …I wonder what I need to know?” Saying the words, “I wonder…” propels us to curiosity and opens our mind, allowing intuition in.
  4. Perceive a new possibility.
    Let go of analysis paralysis and trust intuition will come to you, making sense of that gut knowing you had all along. By opening your mind, you allow your intuition to synthesize the pieces of the puzzle.

Most of us have had this experience by accident. We strive and drive to find an answer to a problem we analyzed to death! Then one day, we decided to slow down, relax and let go of trying so hard to figure out what our gut was trying to tell us. When we stopped the analysis paralysis, we suddenly got that “a-ha” knowing. Can you think of a time when that happened to you? Of course you can! And, yes, you were brilliant!

Challenge: When your Gut Intelligence is flashing that yellow light to get your attention, use my S.T.O.P. Technique to sync your gut with your heart and head. Ask your problem solving question, “How might I…?” and allow that “a-ha” knowing to come to you!

-Susan K. Wehrley has been an intuitive goal alignment coach for more than 25 years. She is the founder and CEO of and the author of six books, including her recent book, “EGO at Work.” You can reach her at (414) 581-0449 and

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Susan K. Wehrley
Susan K. Wehrley is an executive coach and business consultant that aligns executives and businesses to their vision, values and goals. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes. You can email Susan at, (262) 696-6856 or visit her website for more details.