You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into
the wilderness of your intuition.
What you’ll discover will be wonderful.
What you’ll discover is yourself.
What is intuition?
We often find ourselves in situations where our “guts” communicate to us much more quickly and clearly than our heads. Intuition is the reason that we often have the feeling that we “know” more than we think we should know. Once we understand how much of our mental activity takes place subconsciously, or below the surface, we can make better use of the knowledge and abilities we already possess.
Here are some of the ways that I have used and found effective in helping me try to strike an appropriate balance between my critical thinking abilities and my gut-checking.
1. Accept and acknowledge it. Scientific research is giving more and more credence to the part that our hunches play in our everyday thoughts and behavior. You have probably often mistakenly assumed that you’re making rational and well thought out decisions when you are really operating on autopilot. Just think of the times you have driven home out of habit while you were lost in thought about something else. And, having arrived safely at home you suddenly realize that you don’t remember much about the trip.
2. Use your gifts in spite of stereotyping. Experts remain divided about whether men or women have stronger intuitions. Many studies suggest that women in general are more sensitive to emotional cues, but individuals vary widely in their abilities. We each have different sensitivities, sensibilities, experiences and ways of processing information. Use and develop what you have.
3. Connect the dots. Our intuitions are most reliable in the areas where we have the most experience and expertise. Begin to look at situations in terms of their similarity to something you have handled or worked through before. Be alert and sensitive to ways you categorize things and see patterns.
4. Train your mind in making snap judgments. Gut feelings enable us to respond quickly when it is necessary and appropriate. These are circumstances when the stakes are low. Practice building up your confidence by deciding some new things quickly, like which movie to see or what to eat for dinner.
5. Nurture your curiosity. People who remain curious about others are often better judges of character than those who are not. Test it out. Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes more often to understand the reasoning for their behavior. Spend some time trying to figure out how other people think, and why they think the way they do. It is a fascinating and enlightening journey.
6. Keep your emotions in check. People routinely exaggerate how much external events will affect them. Whether you have won the lottery or lost a bet, you will probably soon return to being as happy as you ever were, so listen to your feelings without going overboard.
7. Be realistic and truthful about your limitations. It becomes very easy for us to see what we want to see and become blind to our errors. We must remember to be disciplined about scrutinizing our actions and learning from our mistakes and missteps.
1. Friends and lovers. Your first judgments about people are often right. You are very likely to recognize the people who will enrich your life as you keep an open mind about seeing the good in everyone. Be careful not to become overly judgmental or hypercritical.
2. Shut up some time! For the sake of your relationships, it’s often better to keep some of your hunches to yourself, even when you think they are spot-on. For example, a friend may not appreciate being reminded that her consumption of ice cream doubled since her most recent breakup; especially if it was recent. It’s a topic you can broach with them at a later time in a more appropriate setting.
3. Big-ticket items. You should pick out a house you will really enjoy living in rather than getting overly-distracted by real estate trends. You are likely to feel more comfortable and satisfied in the long run. Remember to keep a level head when dealing with the financial aspects of your purchases. Always listen to trained and trusted experts when you’re making big financial investments.
4. Look fear in the face. Most people tend to exaggerate fears about things that have immediate and vivid consequences rather than those with more probable but subtler consequences. This is something that you should keep in mind if you find yourself getting more worked up about killer bees than impending obesity.
5. Let your conscience be your guide. Most healthy adults, about 94%, can usually easily and spontaneously distinguish right from wrong. If you feel comfortable with your actions and at ease with people knowing about them, you are probably on the right track. Go with it. If for some reason you are worried or embarrassed that certain people might find out about what you are planning to do, then you should probably slow your roll a bit and take a more careful look at the situation or the people involved.
Go ahead and play your hunches. But remember to also take the time to weigh the facts and test your conclusions. Your gut feelings already play a big role in your relationships and decision-making, so becoming more conscious of the process will help you make better use of your intuition.
And, it’s a gift you already possess.