Have you ever had a little nudge that told you to pick up the phone and call a specific family member… and then found out she was having a tough day and your call was perfectly timed? Or have you experienced a feeling that you should ask a particular co-worker how he’s doing personally… only to find out that he was just diagnosed with an illness and it was a relief for him to share it with someone at work? Or maybe you had a little voice inside your head that told you to take a different route to work… only to learn later that there was a serious accident on the highway you normally drive?
That, in a nutshell, is intuition.
The dictionary defines intuition as: “The ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” In the examples above, what if your day had been busy and hectic and you were distracted? Your conscious reasoning might tell you there’s not enough time to call that family member, to keep the focus on business with your co-worker, and of course, to drive the route you normally go to work.
And oh, how life would be different.
Using Your Heart vs. Your Head
I’ve had plenty of instances in my own life where I ignored my intuition. And I ended up paying the price. One example comes to mind from several years ago, when I was asked to take on a volunteer project. My heart immediately said: “Don’t do it!” It was an area where I had no passion, and just thinking about it made my body tense up. But my head told me it would be great to have this volunteer experience under my belt and would ‘look good’ on a resume. I took on the project and was miserable the whole time and couldn’t wait ‘til it was over. Ouch.
When you pay attention to your intuition, you’ll see that it’s a type of “inner compass” at work, guiding you through life. It literally comes down to the pull between using your heart vs. your head. Before I continue, let me say that using your head is essential! So, in no way do I mean we want to ditch those logical, rational thoughts when making a decision. But what I do mean is that when we pause, take a deep breath, and connect to intuitive decision-making, that’s where the depth of life is present and waiting for us.
Rock and Roll Intuitive Decision-Making
My husband, Bill, and I are avid classic rock concertgoers, and we’re also front-row enthusiasts! Many times through the years when we’ve had front-row tickets, we also bought an extra pair of great seats to give to another set of fans. Our routine is to go as far from the stage as possible, climbing high up in the second deck to find our recipients. And it’s a thrill to share our extra pair of seats with big fans who are already bubbling over with excitement just to be there. Bill and I take our jobs seriously, and we scan the crowd to make sure we find just the right people who would be over the moon to have an up-close concert experience.
Every time we follow our intuition, we find the perfect pair of fans! Either we learn that the concert was on their lifetime bucket list, they recently experienced a tragedy in their family, they could barely afford the seats they purchased, or something else that shows us our connection was totally meant to be. When we followed our intuitive decision-making, it worked out perfectly every single time.
When we’ve looked for our people, I’ve had thoughts like: “I don’t know why, but I need to approach that guy over there about these tickets” or “Hey, there’s something about those women over there that is calling me toward them.” Each time, slam dunk. It’s always such a memorable and meaningful exchange, and often the four of us end up in tears. We didn’t find our people based on who we “thought” would be the right ones… we went by how we felt.
Follow Your Inner Compass
It’s so easy for your head to override those little nudges you get, isn’t it? Especially when you’re busy and running around with a hundred things to do. Those intuitive hits are still there, they’re just not on your radar or getting noticed. We all have that internal compass guiding us along in life. The key is to pay attention and follow it.
I have an exercise I do with my clients that helps how to explain intuition because many of us blow past intuitive nudges and don’t even realize they’re there. So, to be more mindful, try this. Take a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns:
Left column: Any time you get a nudge, hear a little voice, or sense a particular “knowing” – record it. The first step to honoring your intuition is to recognize it and call it out. You don’t have to do anything with it at the moment; simply notice it and record it.
Example: I felt nudged to reach out to my old college friend, Sue.
Middle column: Write down the action you choose to take (even if you choose to do nothing). There’s no right answer here. Just simply record it.
Example: Decided to send Sue an email to say hello.
Right column: Later, write down the outcome and how you felt about it.
Example: I’m so happy I did that – we ended up having an email exchange and it feels great to be reconnected to someone who was a big part of my life!
Keep recording and keep noticing. After a while, you‘ll have good data recorded to help build, and trust in, your inner compass.
When It Comes to Following Your Intuition, Practice Makes Perfect
Just like with everything else, using your intuition is like building a muscle. It takes practice. And it requires you to be more mindful and more present in your life. The payoff is certainly great. You know that saying: “Follow your heart”? Well, life is pretty amazing when we do just that.
So many coaching clients talk about their struggle with over-analyzing or over-thinking things. And this always gets in the way of them connecting with their intuition. Intuition isn’t about rationalizing a decision; it’s more like a quick flash of inspiration. The key is to take notice! If you find yourself over-thinking instead of going with your gut instinct, then you’ll know you’re off track. See if you can go back to your initial gut reaction and stay there a moment.
If you’re still wondering, “Are gut feelings real?” – don’t take my word for it, try it out yourself. Quiet down and connect with those all-knowing voices that steer you toward a certain job or a specific decision… or away from a particular person or an upcoming event. And experiment with the exercise above. Like the Norman Vincent Peale quote on my email signature says: “Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow.”
Follow your intuition. Follow your inner compass. It’s one of the greatest tools I use as a Professional Life Coach. When a client says to me “I’m okay” or “I’ve let go of that issue that’s been bothering me” – my intuition will tell me if: A) That’s spot-on, or B) I need to ask additional questions to get at something that might be underneath the surface.
Your intuition is a beautiful guide to help you navigate life. Could you use some guidance building that amazing muscle of yours and making it a habit? It’s one of my specialties, so be sure to reach out – I’d love to hear from you!