Stop Making Sense: Leverage Your Intuition

POSTED JUNE 1, 2016 - by Dina Silver

While our analytic brains are trained and developed, challenged and grown daily, our gut reactions are often considered suspect.   We receive information all the time that is neither analytic nor objectively provable, and even in the face of our strong hunches, many of us regard this information as irrelevant, distracting, even useless. We operate on a kind of “prove it or lose it” basis in which we often overvalue data and undervalue intuition because our hunches can’t be substantiated, proven or convincingly argued.

Intuition is a natural gift and we all have it though for so many of us the muscle is somewhat atrophied. When we are operating synchronously with our mind and our gut, we navigate through our lives from our truest centers and make better decisions for ourselves and for our organizations.

“People with high levels of personal mastery do not set out to integrate reason and intuition. Rather, they achieve it naturally—as a by-product of their commitment to use all the resources at their disposal. They cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition, or head and heart, any more than they would choose to walk on one leg or see with one eye”—Peter Senge

Sometimes what we know but can’t prove is the most critical information for us to trust and to share. Yet we undermine our intuition all the time. Maybe it seems too ‘new agey’, or we decide we’re not intuitive, or we don’t see the link between intuition and productivity and maybe most importantly, because intuition leads us into the unknown, it can be quite scary to pay attention to our intuitive hits.

One of the many shortcomings of operating from fear is that it holds us trapped in the realm of the predictable. It’s tough to be open to startling new ideas that fly in the face of convention. Intuition can give us access into what might be so that we are not stuck forever with what is. So much creativity and invention come from letting go and getting curious about an idea that seems preposterous, from following an inkling, a hunch.

When the steam locomotive was new, for example, a breakthrough in technology made it possible for the engine to exceed 30mph. With speed of 40mph in sight, a debate broke out—even in the medical literature of the time. One learned doctor said that it was common knowledge that the human body would explode at forty mph!

If you’re curious to create a ripe environment for your intuition, the most important thing you can do is to create time each day when you slow down. Intuition cannot compete with the velocity of your thinking mind. It will be trumped every time by your analytic brain. I ask my executive coaching clients to make daily time for quiet. Whether you can carve 10 minutes or an hour each day, go quiet. Turn off your phones, your pager, you email alerts, your kids, your staff, your boss…

Once you are quiet and your mind is calm, here’s a great exercise: Pose a question to yourself of significance. Maybe it’s a goal or a problem or a challenge. Close your eyes and notice what images, thoughts, ideas, impressions and emotions flow through your mind. When you’re ready, jot down what you remember. You may have an immediate insight or it may come in time. You may get a piece of information and need to ask yourself another question. Use this practice to develop your intuitive muscle. Over time you’ll get better and better at noticing and valuing the full spectrum of information that can help you make the very best decisions for yourself.