Dissecting Gut Feelings

Dissecting Gut Feelings

When we teach young people about using intuition—a deep knowing inside yourself—as a tool to assess situations and circumstances, we often say, “Trust your gut.” This language encourages young people to pay attention to their inner compass and focus their awareness on the feelings that present in their gut. A gut feeling is the body’s way of sending a message about a situation that may not be clear in the mind. But what are gut feelings all about, and how can we teach young people to dissect them?    

OTA has developed the Gut-Check Grid to teach young people how to use their gut to make decisions that support their health and happiness. Training the gut to recognize the good kind of comfortable versus the bad kind of comfortable and the good kind of uncomfortable versus the bad kind of uncomfortable is incredibly powerful! 



What are the comfortable zones of the Gut Check Grid? 

In the Rest Zone, ease and predictability are the signature feelings. This zone is good because it allows us to rest, reset, and relax, all key components of our wellness, energy, and motivation. Good Comfortable is a zone that requires little energy or effort and is pain free. It’s a space of safety and security. 

But, believe it or not, we can get too comfortable! In the Stuck Zone, people may begin to stagnate; they may lack inspiration, avoid activities they once enjoyed, and resist moving forward. This zone can be described as “too much of a good thing” or getting “too comfortable.” The things that once provided an opportunity to rest and reset can be the same things that cause us to push away from growth opportunities. 

To understand the comfortable zones on the Gut-Check Grid more fully, let’s dive into a few examples.

Sara enjoys watching TV and movies on weekends and breaks from school. On most weekends, she’ll put a movie on after dinner as a way to wind down from the day. Movies provide a break from the pressures and expectations she feels from school and from obligations to friends and family. Watching movies gives Sara time and space to rest, reset, and recharge in a Good Comfortable way. 

Maya also enjoys watching movies on the weekends and breaks from school. However, she often spends entire weekends glued to a screen. She avoids homework, family activities, and social gatherings. Maya has become “too comfortable,” resulting in her falling behind in her classes and becoming disconnected from family and friends. She feels stuck in her pattern of avoidance and unable to catch up. This is a Bad Comfortable feeling. 

Now let’s unpack the uncomfortable zones of the Gut-Check Grid.

The term uncomfortable may stir up feelings in your gut associated with uneasiness, risk, or vulnerability. It’s important for young people to recognize that uncomfortable feelings can be good or bad. In the Growth Zone, Good Uncomfortable feelings push young people to learn, improve, and achieve their goals. Growth, discovery, and learning require the courage to step outside our comfort zones into unfamiliarity and uncertainty. 

In contrast, Bad Uncomfortable feelings can be an indication that our safety or security is threatened by our choices or those of another. Bad Uncomfortable feelings can present in a young person’s gut when a situation is destructive or dangerous. Remaining in this Danger Zone can lead to negative outcomes and have an impact on a young person’s safety, health, and/or happiness. 

To understand the uncomfortable zones on the Gut-Check Grid more fully, let’s consider a few examples.

John finds his honors geometry class challenging. He has to attend tutoring sessions and work hard to understand the concepts, which means he misses out on after-school activities he’d like to join. This is uncomfortable, but he is gaining understanding in math and growing as a student. John is seeing the benefits of his hard work. 

Adam is also struggling with honors geometry. He attends after-school tutoring sessions, stays up late studying for tests and completing homework, and avoids social and family events to study yet continues to receive failing grades. His struggle is impacting his success in other classes and is taking its toll on his self-confidence. Adam has expressed concern about his future and his ability to succeed in the world. The discomfort Adam is experiencing is destructive and affects several areas of his life. Adam is in the bad uncomfortable zone. 

Use the Gut-Check Grid as a tool when talking with young people about intuition! Here are a few tips to get the conversation started on the right track.