image adapted from a  photo  by Flickr user hounddiggity.

image adapted from a photo by Flickr user hounddiggity.

I have a decision-making trick that I like to use, especially if I’m deciding whether to pursue a new project, or deciding between a few options. I ask myself the question, “Does this idea thrill me?” or “Do any of these options thrill me?”

“Thrill” is the best word I’ve found to describe the butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling that lets me know I’m onto something good. It’s the giddiness that characterizes a right way forward, and the nervous energy associated with a personal breakthrough.

I suppose this isn’t all that different from advice to “follow your intuition.” What’s significant is that I’ve found specific language that resonates with me. For me, “Does this thrill me?” is a more useful question than “What does your gut say?” It works for me because it captures a feeling I’m looking for in life. For you, the word or phrase might be different.

I’ve come to trust this feeling so much that I’ll often say, “I just know I’m going to do this,” with a sense of certainty that I don’t find with all of my spontaneous ideas. But I’ve also experienced false alarms—a quick thrill, so to speak, that disappears quickly. Here’s a list of Dos and Don’ts to prevent bad decisions.


  • Sit with the idea for awhile. Sleep on it. Let it percolate. Sometimes the thrill dissipates quickly, and that’s okay.

  • Let the idea be challenged by a skeptical friend. If the thrilling feeling can survive an encounter with a naysayer, its prospects for long-term success are stronger.

  • Be prepared to see it through. That might mean shifting your priorities to accommodate the new idea, or putting in some extra hours to get ‘er done.


  • Use it as a procrastination tool. If there’s something else you really should be working on, don’t use this newfound feeling as a delay tactic.

  • Mistake avoidance of one thing for enthusiasm for another. Similar to the above, your new idea won’t serve as a long-term solution if you’re just trying to avoid an unpleasant reality.

  • Do anything dangerous. I realize this advice could easily be misinterpreted as an endorsement of risky behaviors. That’s not the intention. The thrilling ideas I’m thinking of are along the lines of art projects or business opportunities, not hopping freight trains or rollerskating down a staircase.

What words or phrases do you use to perform your own “gut checks”?