Mastering Intuition

intuition Feb 25, 2020

For the past three weeks, we’ve been exploring the idea of Practical Intuition. What is it? Why is it important in our day-to-day life? What are the obstacles to applying intuition in a practical way? What can we do to strengthen our intuition?

With this week’s Intentional Tuesday, I’ll attempt to synthesize all of the concepts from the previous three week’s videos. If you missed them, you can watch them here… 

Week One – How Intuitive Are You?

Week Two – The Case for Intuition

Week Three – How to Cultivate Intuition

I also want to invite you to participate in the Five Day Solo Deep Dive, where you’ll receive a new micro lesson and challenge each day to take your intuition to new levels!


How Intuitive Are You? 

Not sure? Check out this mini-self assessment to get a better sense of your intuitive self. It will take less than a minute and you won't even have to provide your email address ... Go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back.

To really answer this question, we have to first know what we mean by “intuition.”

The word intuition comes from the Latin, In Tuire, which means looking or knowing from within. I’m going to offer a definition of intuition for our purposes:

Intuition: Having information or knowledge that we can’t explain with conscious or rational thought.

Notice the distinction between information and knowledge. This is an important distinction when it comes to understanding and appreciating intuition. Information simply means “data” whereas knowledge implies a degree of awareness and interpretation of the data. You might sense something (information), but not know what to make of it (knowledge). 

The definition of intuition also calls attention to the idea of conscious and rational thought. When it comes to intuition, as we will discuss, much of the information lies beneath our conscious awareness. We know it, but we don’t know we know it. Also, there may be times when we can’t rationally explain why we know something. It’s important that our definition of intuition accommodate both subconscious and the seemingly irrational.


What Intuition Isn’t

I find that intuition often gets a bad rap. The subject is so stigmatized, there has been research that indicates many people are reluctant to sharer their intuitive experiences out of fear of being judged. There’s often hesitation within the scientific community to conduct and publish research findings related to intuition. (The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom)

I find that people tend to think of intuition as something spooky, mystical, or paranormal. Some people seem swept up by the romantic idea of a powerful force that only a select few people understand. As you will soon learn, intuition need not be any of these things.

There’s a common misconception that intuition is supposed to be infallible. That we should somehow ALWAYS follow our intuition. I suspect this type of thinking is an immediate turn-off for many people. No rational person is going to sign up for the idea that there’s a mysterious, infallible source of information hidden beneath the surface of our awareness.

My contention is that intuition is not infallible. It is merely one of many sources of information, or knowing, that must be considered at any moment in time.


Five Types of Intuition 

I think it’s easiest to think of intuition as coming in 5 different types.

  • Physical Intuition - this is associated with distinct physical reactions in our body and is most commonly experienced in situations where there is a physical threat.
  • Emotional is related to our ability to sense our emotional states when we may have an emotional response to something. We often talk about knowing from our Head, Our Heart, and our Gut.
  • Social - Where we have the ability to sense the emotional states of others, and through the existence of mirror neurons, we can actually feel the emotional states of others.
  • Mental - This intuition allows us to quickly analyze and assess complex situations. For example, many CEOs are thought to have strong mental intuition.
  • Spiritual - This intuition allows us to know God or, if you prefer, to know the inherent interconnection between all sentient beings. 

As you can see, the concept of intuition is rather broad and applies to many different aspects of our day-to-day experience. Understanding the full range of intuitive experiences can help us to better understand the role that intuition applies in our own life while helping us to side-step the allergic reaction that intuition is a one-stop-shop for infinite wisdom.


Two Practical Paradigm Shifts

In the interest of making intuition more accessible and more practical, I want to offer two simple shifts in the way we think about intuition.

Shift #1 is to stop thinking about intuition as “knowing” and think of it as “listening”.

Our intuition is but one source of information in our life. If we are making a rational argument or decision, we want to have all of the available information. We would never intentionally ignore a legitimate source. Intuition is one legitimate source and we should factor that into our lives.

Shift #2 is to stop thinking about intuition as a way to “Get more”. Intuition isn’t about getting more. Ambition is the enemy of intuition. Intuition is about being more. Our intuition is part of us. It is an authentic reaction to various situations and stimuli. To close that off is to close off part of ourself. We should honor our whole self.


The Case for Intuition

What does it take to make a rational case for the existence of intuition? Not much, in my opinion. The simplest explanation is that our subconscious mind has access to information that our conscious mind doesn’t.

This is pretty easy to prove, even in the comfort of your own chair with a simple exercise. For 10 seconds, look out into the room where you’re sitting. Then look away and write down everything you saw. Try to recall as many details as possible. When you’ve exhausted your memory, look at the same room and notice all the things that you didn’t write down. Notice that with hindsight you realize there were things that you saw the first time, but didn’t consciously process. Our brains are doing this all the time.

Once we’ve accepted that our brains take in, and store, a lot more information than we realize, intuition becomes a simple question of signaling. In other words … how does the unconscious become semi-conscious or fully conscious?

The answer is simple. Our body tells us that something requires our attention. Our bodies are an amazingly efficient machine. We’re constantly processing tons of information and making decisions about what’s important and what isn’t. That car three blocks away isn’t a problem, but I’m going to wait for the one that’s only a few feet away to pass before I pull out.

Sometimes, the decision making happens beneath our awareness. But instead of our body telling us in the form of a conscious thought, the signal comes in the form of a physical sensation, such as a tension in our stomach or the hairs standing up on the back of our neck. 

The only thing that makes this tricky is that we’re not particularly good at noticing those signals. Even if we do, we can’t be sure that our subconscious mind is accurately interpreting the situation. We can be sure that “something” is happening, but we can’t be sure that our interpretation matches reality. As I mentioned earlier, our intuition is not infallible.

But this should be enough to convince you that intuition is a thing worth examining further.


The Case Against Intuition

When it comes to intuition, there are a few real concerns that we need to address. Let’s start with the one that probably creates the strongest allergic reaction in the minds of most cynics and skeptics.

There’s a lot of what I’ll call "social baggage". The idea of being “intuitive” is romantic. It’s mysterious. The idea that I am intuitive makes me feel special. It’s easy for intuition to become an ego trip.

Plus, there’s a lot of people in the world who are seeking answers and the idea that someone else has the answers is very appealing. This opens the door to fraud and deception.

That brings us to the second trap of intuition. Our biases. Each of us is loaded with biases, hidden preferences. One of the most common biases, as Daniel Kannemen points out in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, is our bias towards “easy”.

Here’s an example…

A bat and a ball cost $1.10.

The bat cost a dollar more than the ball.

How much does the ball cost?


{Figure Out Your Answer Before Going Further}


Most people immediately come up with the answer … 10 cents. That’s the easy button at work. The answer is actually 5 cents. Mind. Blown.

Our biases wreak havoc on the case for intuition. Can you imagine how wishful thinking, or confirmation bias, could cause us to fabricate false signals and then call that intuition. We may even convince ourself that our intuition is solid because the signals are so clear.

Another example is that our brains love to find patterns. We see them everywhere. Even where they don’t exist. I’ve heard that when casinos added the digital history of spins next to the roulette wheel that popularity of the game skyrocketed because people thought they could see patterns.

There are a lot of reasons to tread lightly when it comes to intuition.


A Practical Approach

When it comes to intuition, I tend to favor a “Yes. And…” approach. A middle way. Do I think there’s something valuable here? Absolutely. Do I think intuition is an infallible system? Nope.

The first thing I recommend that you do is examine your own relationship with intuition. I’ll offer a model that you can fit yourself into:

  • Cynic – Intuition doesn’t exist. At best, it’s something that cannot be understood.
  • Skeptic - I’m generally distrustful of anyone who claims to have practical intuition. I’ve had experiences that could be interpreted as intuition, but I tend to interpret them as coincidences.
  • Curious - I’m open to the idea, but I’m often confused. I think I’ve had intuitive experiences, but I don’t know how to reliably reproduce the experience. It would be nice if I could understand this better.
  • Seeker - I want this to be real. I need this to be real.

Noticing where you fall on this spectrum is crucial. If you are at the cynic end of the spectrum, you’re likely closing yourself off to something really useful. The research supports this.

Yes, there’s research. If you are sitting there thinking there’s never been any research done on the existence of intuition, even the existence of paranormal phenomena such as precognition or extra sensory perception, you haven’t done your research. There’s a ton.

I once heard an interview with Philosopher Ken Wilber when he was asked, if you had a million dollars to conduct an experiment to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena, what would you do? His answer was…I would spend that money on marketing to raise awareness of the research that has already been done, because the research is overwhelming already. If you are interested in learning more, check out The Power of Premonitions.

If you find yourself at the Seeking end of the spectrum. Where you deeply want intuition to be real. Specifically, your own intuition. You will likely succumb to some of the traps and biases we were discussing earlier. 

Similarly. If you have the belief that your intuition is utterly reliable, you’re likely overusing that tool. 

I think where you want to be on the spectrum is leaning toward curious, with a bit of skeptical thrown in for good measure.

Knowing where you stand on this spectrum is crucial for understanding, but also for cultivating your intuition. To the extent that you don’t believe intuition is real or that you have the ability to access your intuition, you will reduce your ability to do so. To the extent that you’re pursuing intuition for egoic advancement, same thing. You won’t have access.

Intuition is a tool that is available to those who are open, but not driven.


Cultivating Intuition

What are the obstacles to developing healthy and strong intuition? There are many, but they tend to fall into 2 categories. (1) Beliefs and (2) Knowledge.

What we believe about intuition is a major factor in our ability to develop it. To the extent that we don’t believe that intuition exists, or we believe that we lack intuition, we are going to miss, or ignore our intuitive signals.   

In order to fully realize our intuition, we need knowledge of how to recognize when our intuition is trying to tell us something and our knowledge of how to better attune to those signals.  


Assessing Your Current State

What is your history of intuition? I recommend you start keeping an Intuition Journal. Use it to capture every potentially intuitive experience that you have. What were the circumstances? Make notes about how the signal presented itself to you. Make note of what you did, or didn’t do, and the results that occurred. The goal here is to learn as much as possible your particular intuition patterns. 

I also recommend you look back at your past. Identify times when you experienced something that might be interpreted as intuition. Add these to your journal. Make note of the situation. Remember the type of signal that you received. Was it a thought? Was it a feeling in your body? Where? Was it a nagging sensation that wouldn’t go away? Did you wake up in the middle of the night every night for 5 days in a row?

Again, the key here is to notice the patterns. What is your body’s way of telling you what it wants you to know? Your intuition may have different ways of telling you different things.

You also want to pay attention to what you did, or didn’t do. This is also part of your pattern. Did you convince yourself that your intuitive signals were wrong by using logic? By using wishful thinking? By using some judgmental inner critic? 

Did you leap into the situation full bore, listening only to your intuition and nothing else, only to find yourself getting bad results? Again, the goal here is to notice YOUR pattern. Your tendencies.

I know in my case, my tendency is to ignore my intuition. Often mine comes in the form of a thought that just pops into my head and then refuses to go away entirely. A bad investment or a bad relationship that I want to work out, so I convince myself that my intuition is wrong. It’s rarely wrong.

What are your patterns and preferences regarding your intuition? Write them down.


Get to Know Your Body 

Every intuition signal has a physical manifestation in our body, which is constantly sensing, storing, and signaling. Our body is an incredibly evolved machine.

The problem is, most of us are walking around as if our body is a complete stranger to us. It’s as if our body is nothing more than a vehicle for getting our brains from place to place. We need to get better at listening to our body. Paying attention to what is happening beneath the surface. We need to feel, rather than to merely think. It takes practice. 

In Day Two of the Five Day Deep Dive, I’ll give you instructions on how to conduct a full-body scan, which you can use to practice observing your body for signals.

The better we get at consistently noticing our body, the more likely we are to notice when our intuition is trying to give us a signal. What do you do when the check engine light comes on in your car? Hopefully you take action to figure out what might be wrong. What would happen if your car didn’t have one of those lights? That’s the way most of us are walking around, oblivious to what our body is trying to tell us.

There’s a tremendous book that’s all about the ways that our body tries to signal that we’re in physical danger. The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker. It’s a classic and I believe this book should be required reading for everyone, but particularly for any young woman past the age of 17.

The book talks about how our intuition provides us information that is absolutely critical to our physical safety and also talks about the ways that our logical brain tries to override these survival instincts. If you are having trouble connecting to the idea of getting in touch with your body, this book will give you some very concrete and practical ways to do it.


Intuition and Creativity

Where does creative inspiration come from? I did a four-part series on Creativity back in January and it’s no coincidence that February is all about Intuition. One could argue that creative inspiration is a form of intuition.

If you are interested in exploring intuition more from the context of creativity and artistry, I recommend two books. The first is The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron and the second is The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.


Intuition and Business and Everyday Life

If you are most interested in understanding how intuition shows up in business and in everyday life, there are two books I recommend you check out. One, I already mentioned, is Daniel Kannemen’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. The second, is Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell.


Additional Learning

Ideas are great, but the reality is that we learn by DOING. If you want to experiment with some of these ideas in a fun and risk-free environment, sign up for the Five Day Solo Deep Dive. Each day you’ll get a short lesson and a challenge that will take your exploration of intuition to new depths. No cost. No obligation. No deadlines. Just good fun.


Additional Reading…




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