Most everyone has had an experience where they were doing something, had a feeling that they should not be where they were, and ignored it because they didn’t know why they felt that way. It is pretty common for someone to come into my office after experiencing something that was terrible or difficult and say, “I should have listened to myself because I had a feeling that would happen.” In our society, we are often taught to ignore our instincts. We are told that the best way to make choices is to be rational so if we have a feeling without the facts to back it up, it often gets dismissed. Unfortunately, when we dismiss ourselves, we tend to feel worse afterwards.
We are also taught that if we ignore someone who approaches us that we are being rude. So will we typically keep talking to avoid being perceived as rude, despite being in danger. If a stranger is talking to you and that feeling is telling you to get the heck away from them, that is your brain trying to protect you. Our brain operates both consciously and unconsciously. Our gut feelings, instincts, intuition – these all operate on an unconscious level. Our reason operates on our conscious level. We need both in order to survive.
Since the tendency for most people is to follow logic in order to make choices in our everyday lives, let’s focus on developing our intuition.
- Take time out of your day to be still. Unplug from electronic devices, be with your thoughts, and just observe them. Don’t judge them. This can be as little as 5 minutes to as long as 60 minutes. Whatever you are most comfortable doing. Some people may call it meditation, other people call it alone time. Whatever you call it is your choice.
- Write it down. If being with your thoughts is too difficult, try keeping a journal and writing things down. Do a free write and record anything that comes to you mind, even if it doesn’t make sense. Come back to it later, and you’ll find that it makes more sense than you thought it did in the beginning.
- Make an inventory. Look back at times when you “knew” and listened. Compare it to times where you “knew” and rationalized yourself out of knowing. Can you find similarities? Differences? This can help you recognize the difference between your logic and your intuition. Sometimes they can be difficult to tell apart.
- Practice trusting yourself. If you don’t trust yourself, you will most likely second guess your intuition and fall back on rationalizing instead. Focus on times where you were correct, made decisions you felt good about, and things you were proud of. Remembering what we have accomplished can sometimes give us the motivation we need to trust ourselves.
Remember, the key is balance. If you get stuck, try thinking, “what do I need for myself right now?” That question can be a life saver.