Monday’s email kicked of a conversation with one of my very, very smart friends. We were talking about biofeedback and he mentioned that he’s been monitoring and using his resting heart rate as biofeedback for some time now.
One of his observations is that when he’s at work, no matter what he does he sees an elevated resting heart rate – indicating a greater stress response.
But the interesting part of this is that the work doesn’t feel stressful to him at all. In fact it feels really easy.
So what is the explanation when your intuitive feeling says that everything is fine, but your objective biofeedback says that everything is not in fact fine?
One of the incredible features of the body is its ability to obfuscate things from you. Some of those things are simple functions like not having to think about what to set your heart rate at to keep your heart beating. Others are much more complicated like allowing you to feel completely at ease even in a stressful situation.
But the catch is, you have to take a debit from your reserve capacity to resolve stress for it to feel that way.
I want to make this really clear. Something can be stressful to you to the point of being distressful, but you won’t even notice it’s distressing because your body is tapping into various reserves to resolve that stress.
Ideally afterwards you’ll then top off those reserves with eustress like sleep, food, and regenerative exercise and nothing bad will ever come of tapping into those reserves. The magic of the body is that you don’t even need to know you’re objectively taking on more stress than you can easily resolve by tapping into those reserves.
So back to the original question. Can you trust your intuition? What does it mean when something feels totally fine. Is it really?
What is intuition? I think of it as informed experience. Little children don’t tend to have a whole lot of intuition about anything – they have neither deep nor wide experience nor have they informed that experience through feedback. Old people tend to have amazing intuition because of the amount of accumulated experience, and even greater intuition if they’ve truly been paying attention all that time to the factors surrounding those experiences.
A successful entrepreneur with multiple businesses under their belt is going to have a very reliable intuition about how things are going just by taking one look at the inner workings of a business. Giving a chef the exact same look at the business and asking for their intuitive feel of how things are going is a pointless exercise. Their intuition is honed and informed on how ingredients are going to taste when combined or how to setup a kitchen line.
The only way to be able to trust your intuition is if you’re consistently informing it.
Biofeedback is one incredibly powerful way to inform your intuition. Notice how you feel and how your body performs when you eat certain foods – that’s informed experience and it develops intuition that if you eat these things you’re going to feel bad.
In a training context the only form of biofeedback most people use is the objective output of how much weight they move. But that output varies depending on the context. You could objectively not move a lot of weight, but that might just mean you’re in a downswing of the cycle, but the movement itself is very eustressful. It’s impossible to know without having a standard measurement.
Squats might feel totally fine but that’s only because the cost of doing them is being obscured from view. You may even get away with it, but wouldn’t you rather know what the price is you’re paying?
Intuition is an incredibly powerful asset, but it’s not free. You have to invest in it to be able to use it.