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10 New Year's Resolutions You Might Actually Keep


10
Trust Your Instincts
Trusting your instincts takes you back to your natural inclinations. Kick Images/Photodisc/Getty Images
Trusting your instincts takes you back to your natural inclinations. Kick Images/Photodisc/Getty Images

In some ways, this might be the easiest resolution to follow. That's because it doesn't require you to change, so much as go back to doing what you were naturally inclined to do, before you started doubting your feelings and over-thinking things, or putting too much stock in others' opinions at the expense your own.

Going with your gut might seem crude and primitive, but actually, there's scientific evidence that it can lead to better decisions. In a 1997 study published in the journal Science, researchers found that card players often made the right decision based on a "hunch" well before they could even articulate what strategy they were following [sources: Bechara, et al., and Cassleman].

What we think of as an "instinct" actually is a phenomenon called instrumental conditioning, in which a region of our brain called the ventral striatum instantaneously processes subtle contextual cues from a situation, interprets them, and suggests a course of action before we've even had a chance to consciously analyze what's happening [source: Pessiglione, et al]. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the 2007 bestseller "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking," describes this ability as "thin slicing" -- that is, the knack for coming to an accurate conclusion based on a quick, tiny sample of information. In other words, having lots of information or listing all the pros and cons doesn't always make for a better decision [source: Gladwell].

One easy way to give more weight to your instincts: When you have a gut feeling about something, write it down or record it in your smartphone. Also note your mood at the time ("Do I not want this new job because I am afraid I can't do it?"). Then test your feelings out on family or friends to get their reaction [source: Everett].


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