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Studies show that overthinking can seriously hurt our decision-making process. But does going with our instinct, or our intuition, lead to making any better decisions?
In this article, you’ll find some fabulous ideas from author and artist, Amber Rae, on how you can use your intuition to make better business and life decisions. Consider checking out her book The Answers Are Within You: 108 Keys to Unlock Your Mind, Body & Soul!
What is Intuition?
Intuition is your inner voice and knowledge within, without the influence of outside sources. People who are said to be “in tune” with their intuition might mean they are good at minimizing distractions and knowing what they want in life.
Intuition can also be a critical skill in business, as former Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said in his self-titled biography, “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”
Intuition is a learnable skill.
Contrary to what some may believe, intuition can be developed through practice and by using a few key principles.
How to Trust and Tap Into Your Intuition
Tune Into Yourself
Every person has an internal compass. When faced with a choice, our intuition might urge us in a certain direction. However, we often ignore our internal compass to please others, or simply because we’re not used to tapping into our intuition.
Here’s an example: John is an office worker who goes to work everyday, but he doesn’t get along with his boss and colleagues. He likes the salary and the nice benefits, but he’s wondering if he should find a new job.
The question arises: should he listen to his internal compass?
To truly uncover the motivations behind these thoughts, it’s critical to tune in to yourself by giving yourself plenty of me-time.
Move from doing to being.
Create space for your intuition. If you are always busy doing, your intuition can’t be heard. Create more space for pauses in your life:
- Set a breathing timer on the hour.
- Listen to one song without doing anything else.
- While you brush your teeth, try calming your mind or counting to two minutes.
- Eat your next meal in complete silence without distractions.
- Go stargazing or cloud-watching.
Listen to Your Cues
Your body has a natural tendency to mirror your inner feelings. Your body might open up or close off depending on how your brain perceives something close to you. You see this in the real world all the time: someone in a bar can reject someone with their body language by turning their torso away from them and crossing their arms before they ever even open their mouth.
To tap into your intuition, monitor your body language changes to different stimuli:
- Open body language. Cues such as turning your torso towards something, smiling, and leaning forward are all indicators that you’re in agreement and your intuition says, “Yes!”
- Closed body language. Conversely, cues such as crossed arms, pursed lips, or leaning backward can indicate your intuition saying, “No.”
Read up on the different cues your body can subconsciously be saying by checking out this mega guide: The Ultimate Guide to Body Language
Reflect on the Past
Can you think of a time where you did listen to your intuition? How did you know you listened to it?
Conversely, you can also ask yourself the opposite: When did you not listen to your intuition?
Asking yourself these vital questions by reflecting on your past can help uncover those critical moments where your intuition came into play.
Name Your Emotions
Emotions can be complex.
Difficult emotions can cloud our intuition, especially when they’re acting in overdrive. So here’s how you can make things easier: name your emotions. You can even personify them, just like the Disney movie Inside Out.
Anger can be a red-hot commando who always wants to get stuff done. Anxiety can be a long-faced crazy lady who’s always talking about doomsday.
It might sound silly, but we do it all the time—naming inanimate objects (or in this case, emotions) is called anthropomorphizing and we do it by naming ships, cars, guitars, teddy bears, and more. Studies even show that it can help alleviate loneliness and promote social connection!
Take a Personality Test
Sometimes we need some time to get to know ourselves better. In this case, a personality test might help. But not just any personality test—the Big Five (OCEAN) Personality Test measures five key scientifically-proven criteria:
- Openness, or how open you are to new experiences
- Conscientiousness, the measure of how much you’re able to control your impulses
- Extroversion, how you gain energy from others
- Agreeableness, or how you accept ideas from others
- Neuroticism, the measure of how comfortable you are with yourself
Knowing your personality better can help give direction to your decision-making. Take the free personality test now:
Build Mental Bridges
The ability to connect different seemingly unrelated ideas is a special trait intuitive people have. After all, the more your brain is able to connect ideas together, the stronger your intuition in new scenarios.
Mental bridges work by building your knowledge. Learning about different things will help you build more bridges for the long run and train up your intuition muscle.
Try a new hobby. Take a new class. Explore a new book genre. Learn new things to build your mental bridges.
Flip a Coin
Here’s another interesting tip you can try if you’re facing a difficult decision.
Take out a coin and flip it in the air—one side of the coin representing one decision, and the other side another decision. During the coin flip, pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel or wish that the coin would land one side up rather than the other?
This choice is usually your intuitive one.
Let’s say you have a difficult decision when it comes to having a tough conversation with a roommate. You’ve narrowed it down to a few possible situations:
- You confront Jenny and tell her you know she’s been eating your sandwich from the fridge.
- You stick a letter on the fridge, asking if anyone has been eating your sandwich.
- You ignore it completely, opting to avoid the confrontation altogether.
With these 3 possible situations, visualize what would happen in each. Does one provide a better outcome for you?
While this process involves a little brainpower, you might realize you intuitively “know” the best option by the most favorable outcome.
The Science Behind Intuition
According to PwC’s Big Decisions survey of more than 1,300 senior executives, 30% of senior executives place the most reliance on “experience” or “intuition,” compared to 29% who value data more highly when it comes to decision-making.
After all, many top executives know the key to running a great business is all in the decision-making.
“As a senior executive, what do you really get paid to do? You get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions.”— Jeff Bezos
Learning to tap into your wealth of intuition can dramatically improve your business decisions.
But what about research? In one study, researchers aimed to see if intuition could be measured. They set up an experiment:
- 20 college students were shown black-and-white images of dots moving around on one side of a computer screen and were asked to guess if the dots were moving generally left or right.
- On the other side of the screen, they saw bright, flashing squares of color.
- Occasionally, an image would flash very briefly on the color-side of the screen that elicited either a positive emotion or a negative one (such as a puppy for positive or a gun for negative). These images were meant to act as a subconsciously-perceived bit of information and spark the participants’ intuition.
The results? The researchers found that participants who were shown the positive images made faster and more accurate decisions. They were also more confident in their decisions.
Trust Your Intuition Mini FAQ
Yes, intuition can be wrong due to our cognitive biases. For example, if you strongly believe in your gut that your partner is going to leave you, you might start “seeing” patterns—like spending more time out with their friends or random texts on their phone from an unknown number.
These patterns might mean something, but they could also just be your brain’s way of trying to accumulate as much information that proves an already-existing belief. For example, game show contestants often “feel” their choice is right—however, in many cases they are wrong. Check out this example of a game show contestant from the show “Deal or No Deal” who ends up risking it all.
Knowing whether your intuition is leading you to the truth or leading you astray often comes with practice and a deep knowledge of the self.
Here are some problems that can arise from ignoring your intuition:
1. people pleasing
2. having trouble setting your boundaries
3. not feeling a “spark” for life
4. difficulty interacting with others
Instinct is a natural-born tendency, such as the instinct to eat food or avoid bugs that crawl around on eight legs. Intuition, on the other hand, is often learned knowledge and accumulates over a person’s lifetime.
An intuitive person can be described as empathetic and even as a mind-reader. Intuitive people can often tell what others are feeling and have a good sense of doing what is right in a given situation.
Intuitive people can also be adept not only at people skills but other skills as well. A person who is said to be an intuitive guitar player, for example, may have a good understanding of the fretboard and might be able to even“hear” the sound of the notes before they are even played.
Intuition comes from learned experience throughout one’s life. The better a person is able to learn from their experiences and gain insight from them, the more likely they are to have greater intuition.
- Tune in to yourself. Try spending some alone time meditating or going for a walk to drown out the noise.
- Pay attention to your body language. Open body language generally means agreement, while closed body language indicates the opposite.
- Reflect on the past. Think of situations where you listened to your intuition in the past, and when you didn’t. How did you make your decisions?
- Name your emotions. Personifying your emotions can help with clearing your head and revealing your intuitive thoughts.
- Take a personality test like the Big Five Test to understand yourself better.
- Learn about different subjects to train your mind to see different connections.
- Flip a coin to make a tough decision. Before it even lands, you’ll likely “know” the right answer.
- Visualize different outcomes and see which one “feels” right.
That’s it for now! Ready to gain your confidence back? Read on: How to Trust Yourself in 10 Steps And Unlock Your Potential