Why do some of us seem to have better intuition than others? Perhaps you believe that you lack intuition all together.
But that’s just part of the story.
Your mind is constantly giving you feedback. It’s just that you are not receiving the message.
And even if you are getting those messages, you could be misinterpreting them.
Nevertheless, my experience is that when you’re uncertain about how to proceed, your intuition can provide valuable feedback.
Intuition, or tacit knowledge, is difficult to measure, so it is often denigrated. But I think it’s a mistake to only rely on logic when you have other tools at your disposal.
How do you learn to cultivate and use your intuition?
1. Practice asking and listening to your intuition
You probably already do this, just not at a sufficient level. When faced with multiple possibilities, give your intuition a chance to chime in. Start with little things. “Should I go to the movie with Sarah or stay at home?”
- Ask yourself these types of questions as they come up in your life and notice the response you receive.
2. Notice how your intuition communicates with you
It might be in the form of a verbal response. In many cases, you’ll get a feeling in your body that might take the form of a feeling in your stomach, chest, or head. It could reveal itself as a sense of calmness, knowing, or anxiety.
Sometimes I will even get an intuition in the form of a line from a song that drifts through my mind for no apparent reason.
- You already experience these types of feelings. When faced with something you fear, your intuition is speaking to you. You already know how that feels. You also know when something feels “right.”
3. Follow your intuition blindly in trivial matters
Show your intuition that you’re willing to listen. When faced with non-pressing matters, such as whether to have a cup of coffee or green tea, just do what your intuition tells you.
You might go for a walk and allow your intuition to choose all the turns. Pay attention to where you end up.
4. Meditation helps
Your intuition might be talking to you, but you’re not getting the message. With everything else going on in your head, you might not even notice that your intuition is trying to communicate with you. Meditation can quiet the mind enough to notice what your intuition is saying.
5. Spend time in a new environment
Your thoughts and feelings become habits that are partially dependent on your surroundings. You tend to think and feel a certain way at home. The same goes for work.
- Give your intuition room to maneuver by spending time someplace out of the ordinary for you. Time at the library, park, or coffee shop might open the lines of communication.
6. Do something that engages your mind at a low level
Have you ever noticed that many of your best ideas come while taking a shower, driving down the highway, or mowing the grass?
It’s because your mind is partially occupied. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing, but your mind isn’t so engaged that it can’t wander a bit.
7. Keep track of your results
In general, is your intuition providing helpful and accurate feedback?
Notice the situations where the results are positive and those that are negative. You’ll be able to trust your intuition in more areas of your life over time.
It’s important to understand that your intuition is flawed. It’s flawed because of your fears and misconceptions. For example, you’ll never get a good vibe about spending time with someone new if you have social anxiety issues.
However, you already know a lot of things. And you already have a lot of life experience. The vast wisdom resulting from those two things is locked inside of you.
Intuition Neurobiological Explanation
Still not convinced?
A 2008 education research paper from Sweden suggested that there is a for how intuitive, or experience-based knowledge is formed.
A few years ago neuroscientists discovered that the human brain has dual systems for receiving and analyzing sensory impressions, one conscious and one unconscious. In the unconscious, that is the non-declarative system, our sensory impressions are compared with previously stored images.
We all have an inner picture book of stored experiences based on what has happened to us previously in life. We also remember the outcome; did it end well or badly?
With the aid of these stored sensory impressions, we unconsciously assess the situation at hand and can predict the outcome. This capacity is especially helpful in complex and information-rich situations with a great deal of noise.
And the more variations of a situation we have experienced, the richer our picture book will be and the more probable it will be that we recognize the situation at hand.
Lars-Erik Björklund, who devoted his thesis to a review of research in various fields involving this knowledge, said:
“It can be a matter of smells, gestures, an ineffable combination of impressions that makes what we call intuition tell us something. We have a memory that needs to be filled up with sensory impressions.
In studies from the 1980s on nurses, it was shown that those who had been in the profession for a long time saw more and made better judgments more quickly. It was referred to as an intuitive ability.”
However, these memories are stored only if they affect us. In other words, for experience to be built up, there must be commitment.
This means, according to Lars-Erik Björklund, that we can never read or calculate our way to all the knowledge and abilities we need in our professional life. Practical experience is indispensable and needs to be revaluated.
For example, an uncertified teacher with ten years of experience in the profession can be a much better teacher, assuming that this person is committed to the job, than a newly certified teacher, no matter how knowledgeable he or she is in terms of subject matter knowledge.
Björklund also argues that components involving practice and lab work need to be expanded rather than cut in professional programs for engineers, teachers, and physicians.
“We need to see, feel, smell, hear, taste, and experience with our senses. This collection of data can’t be replaced by studying course literature,” he writes.
So if you are thinking that you are just not an intuitive type of person, try getting more practical cross-sensory experience in your field. It could make all the difference.