Good intuition is so highly sought after, and yet so often misunderstood and confused with the mental powers of deduction and analysis. Card counters count cards to beat the house. Mentalists have complex systems to trick us into believing they mysteriously know things about us. Tarot card readers follow the teachings of books that tell them what each card represents. Palm readers study the lines of the hand and learn what all their nuanced variations mean.
More subtlety, people with a lot of experience have seen so much in their life that they quickly discern where a situation is going based on observations of past experiences. Doctors do this after seeing thousands of patients—they begin to quickly identify disorders based on other patients with similar symptoms.
Yet the acts of counting cards, studying tarot card books or becoming a wise elder do not, in and of themselves, equate to good intuition. Intuition is intangible, ephemeral and untouchable. It’s the feeling in the gut that says “yes” or “no” or “not now.” Sometimes the feeling says “ick.” Sometimes it says, “This is right.”
Lately I’ve been having numerous sensations of intuition that have been spot on, but I’ve dismissed them because I haven’t yet fully perfected the art of discerning the difference between analytical mind-thought and pure intuition. I’m driving in my car and have a thought about taking one road versus another, to which my analytical mind says the one road would be a further distance. But then shortly after taking the other road I find my way severely impeded by a mess of traffic and emergency vehicles responding to an accident.
Or I’m at a networking event in which it’s presumed that we will speak with as many people as we can. I see someone I’m approaching and my analytical mind says here’s a person to speak with. But, my intuition says this person is not a good fit. So I speak with this person anyway and find that on a visceral level we are completely incongruent. Or I have a thought about taking a light coat with me when leaving my home on a sunny day. I think to myself, it’s a sunny day I won’t need a coat. Two hours later the rain is pouring down.
There is a company I’m thinking of working with and I get an unsettled feeling about it. Do I pay attention to this feeling? I’m purchasing a car. I check out its features, its condition, I ask questions, and kick the proverbial tires. My gut says, “Buy this car.” When I met my wife Maria my analytical mind said, “Slow down.” My heart said, “Yes.” Following my heart with Maria was the best decision I’ve made.
Developing intuition is less about mental abilities and more about opening our feeling center. We call it a gut feeling or a hunch or a thought. Even if we identify it as a thought, it truly is an emotion. It’s just that sometimes, many times, the feeling is so subtle that we dismiss it as mere mental noise.
Acquiring experience and developing the mind is a good thing, but mental abilities alone will leave us with an incomplete picture. Blending the heart with the mind—using analysis and asking intelligent questions, and then discerning with how we feel—this is the way we develop intuition.
Given that the topic of intuition is of such importance to so many people I’ll be writing more about it going forward, and have created a category for intuition under Art of Balance. Here are two previous blogs I’ve written about intuition, Subtlety and Intuition are Close Cousins and Trusting Intuition.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, Developing Intuition: Part II, in which we’ll explore the nature of our emotions and how they either block or free the flow of intuition. Until then I’d love to hear of your experiences in developing intuition in the comments below.