Many of us place our trust in things we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell. “These are the things,” we think, “that truly exist. This is reality.” It’s true that our senses connect us to the world in a very real and meaningful way (part of being present, after all, is being aware of your body and of the physical world around you), but that doesn’t mean they’re the only powers we have at our disposal. We cannot, must not, forget about the power of intuition.
What is intuition?
Unlike the five senses, which allow us to take in observable, measurable data from our surroundings, intuition comes from within. Your intuition is only available to you, and can only be interpreted by you. And, intuition is subjective. In fact, intuition often flies in the face of observable facts.
Say you go out to lunch with a friend. He smiles when he greets you, shares information about his day, and laughs at the funny story you tell.
But you know this friend well, and you can see that something is “off.” His smile is a little too wide. He talked a little too quickly about his day. His laugh felt a little forced.
A casual observer would see a smiling, talking, laughing man spending time with a friend. But your intuition tells you that that appearance of “normality” is deceiving. There’s evidence in front of you, but deep down, you don’t trust it.
You get serious, and ask your friend if something is wrong. He breaks down and out pours all the problems and negativity he’s been holding back.
I’ve had this exact scenario play out with friends and family over the years, and it amazes me how my intuition, at least in cases like these, rarely leads me astray.
Where intuition comes from
Intuition can be (and often is) subconsciously formed and shaped by past experiences. You’ve seen your friend act that way before, and it turned out that he was having a hard time then. Your brain learned from that experience, so that when the data presents itself again, it triggers your intuition alarm.
Because of this, I would argue that intuition has greater potential than we sometimes give it credit for. Intuition is a sum of our collective experiences, melding together into a feeling that can, if we let it, guide us in one direction or another.
And sometimes, of course, those gut feelings seem to come out of nowhere, presenting us with options we may not have considered otherwise.
Why is intuition powerful?
Whether intuition is a result of past experiences, or an out-of-the-blue feeling, one thing is for sure: intuition is powerful. Here are a few reasons why.
Intuition invites simplicity.
Simplicity is, in and of itself, powerful. When things are simple, they’re uncomplicated and easy. With simplicity, life is focused and purposeful. You can move forward without second-guessing or questioning yourself.
If you follow your intuition, you’re inviting simplicity. Rather than overthinking every question or problem that comes your way, you trust your gut. What could be simpler than following your intuition?
Your intuition always has your best interests at heart.
A large part of the power of intuition lies in the fact that your intuition always has your best interests at heart. Remember: your intuition is for you and you alone. It wants what’s best for you, because it’s thinking only of you.
That doesn’t mean your intuition will always lead you to be selfish. On the contrary, your intuition could lead you to help someone else or give something up. But the point is, it will only tell you to do what it thinks you need. It will do its best to lead you to joy.
Following your intuition can help you make better choices.
Trying to make a decision based on data alone leads to analysis paralysis. You can’t make a decision because there is data supporting both choices. You need that gut feeling to help you make the data personal. You need to discover and interpret how each possibility makes you feel, and you need to use those feelings to make your decisions.
There’s even research that suggests that people who focus on intuition when making big purchases are happier with their decisions in the long run.
Trusting your intuition allows you to get to know yourself.
Is there anything more valuable than knowing yourself? When you know yourself, you’re able to better understand yourself: why you think, feel, and act the way you do; how to change bad habits into good ones; what motivates you; what makes you happy. Knowing yourself is key to creating a happy life for yourself.
Trusting your intuition is trusting yourself. It’s learning to recognize that voice inside your head—the voice that is uniquely yours—and deciding that maybe, just maybe, it knows what it’s talking about. In this way, intuition helps you not only get to know yourself, but also to build confidence in yourself.
How to harness the power of intuition
Intuition clearly matters, and it’s clearly powerful, but how can you harness the power of intuition so that it can benefit you as a creative and as a person?
Know what your gut feeling feels like.
Again, self-knowledge is empowering. You have to know what your gut feeling feels like if you’re going to put it to work for you. It can be easy to confuse that feeling with anxiety, fear, criticism, desire, ambition, or any other number of feelings. Learn what your feelings feel like in your body. Isolate that inner voice. Recognize what it feels like and the kinds of things it tells you to do. As you get to know yourself, you’ll get to know your intuition.
Track thoughts inspired by intuition.
Keep a journal or a running list of things your intuition tells you. You may start to see patterns. Maybe your intuition is very strong when it comes to your career, but less so when it comes to relationships. Maybe you’re more likely to listen to your intuition when it’s pushing you a certain way. What thoughts do you dismiss without even entertaining them?
As you track the thoughts inspired by your intuition, you’ll become more familiar with what that inner voice sounds like, allowing you to harness it more easily.
Combine feelings with data.
I’m not suggesting you suddenly live your life 100% according to how you feel. If I lived and breathed based on my intuition, I would probably stay home all day getting lost in books and ordering takeout. It’s important to balance your intuition with data: “I can’t stay home all day, because I have bills to pay, so I have to go to work.” “My gut is telling me I love that Porsche, but my bank account is telling me to go for the Honda.”
Feelings and data are important when it comes to making smart decisions. As you learn to harness the power of intuition, don’t forget or ignore the value of observation, facts, and data.
Try intuitive eating.
Wanting to do something simple to start tapping into your intuition? Try a little intuitive eating. This is an “anti-diet” philosophy based on the idea that your body knows what it needs and will tell you what that is. It will also tell you when it’s hungry and when it’s full, and you need to listen.
When you feel hungry, make sure it’s a physical need, not an emotional one. Eat because your body needs it, not because your body thinks it needs it. Don’t focus on eating “good” foods over “bad” foods; instead, focus on eating what your body wants. If it wants something fresh, cold, and crisp, go for the salad. If it needs something hearty and comforting, get yourself some mac-n-cheese.
The point is to listen to your body and its cues, and to not pass judgement on whatever it is telling you.
When you feel stuck, stop and listen.
Another quick hack: when you get stuck, stop and listen. I know I often have moments in my day when I feel tired, physically and mentally, and I’m just not sure what to do next. I want to keep moving and getting things done, but I feel paralyzed or stuck for one reason or another.
At times like these, it’s vital that you stop revving your engine so you can pause and get into gear. Find a quiet place. Turn off your phone or other distractions. Breathe deep. Listen to what your intuition tells you. Follow it, even if it seems like something small or insignificant (my intuition has told me more than once that I need a snack; surprisingly, that rise in blood sugar can help tremendously).
The power of intuition lies in its ability to empower you. When you listen to your intuition, you are guiding yourself. You are building trust in the one person you’ll always have with you. You are learning to give yourself what you need, instead of what you or other people want.
Listen to your intuition. Listen to your inner voice. You are more powerful than you think.
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