The first question most of my students ask me about their intuition is: “How can I trust it?” It’s not always easy to tell if our choices are coming from the right place. However, if you follow your intuition, your life is not only likely to be fulfilling and meaningful, your decisions become easier and more reliable. Follow your ego by itself, and you might be successful in many ways, but you’re likely to find yourself wondering why you’re not as happy as you think you should be.
The only real valuable thing is intuition. ~Albert Einstein
Learning to determine whether you’re being guided by intuition or ego can make a huge difference in your life. While there are no hard and fast rules to make the distinction, there are tendencies that can serve as a guide.
Consider these differences:
Ego-based decisions are grounded in fear and self-preservation. If you decide to go to medical school primarily for reasons of financial security or because a parent, whose approval you value, tells you that is what you should do, that’s ego. If you decide it’s too risky to ask out the attractive and interesting person you are drawn to, that’s ego.
Ego-based decisions typically have emotion connected to them. A choice made from a place of intuition just feels “right” and often sneaks up on you. You might be mowing the grass and be hit with the idea of becoming a dog trainer. The resistance arguments in your head is your ego fighting back.
Ego-based decisions consider external results. Are you writing a book in order to have a bestseller, or are you writing a book because you’re fascinated with the idea of writing a book? Are you taking an action to gain certain results, or does the action itself provide sufficient satisfaction?
Ego-based decisions involve rationalization. Your ego is wonderful at convincing you that its choice is the right one. “I’ll never get that job. Imagine how disappointed I’ll feel when it doesn’t work out. People like me are destined to only be supervisors, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I can still have a decent life.” It’s really just a rationalization based on fear – fear of success or fear of failure.
The ego tries to justify itself with facts, figures, and logic. Intuition doesn’t require these tricks to compel you. If you’re using logic to convince yourself of a course of action, you can bet that’s your ego squawking.
Intuition doesn’t judge. A thought or decision arising from intuition doesn’t involve judgment statements about right or wrong, good or bad. Intuitive thoughts feel calm, relaxed, and peaceful. There’s a universal truth to an idea that arises from intuition.
Is the expected gratification coming from within or is it external. Would you make the same choice if no one would ever know? Would you purchase that BMW if no one ever knew you owned it? Or do you simply love German automobiles and love the idea of owning a precision car? Are you driven by money and admiration or by personal satisfaction? While the ego can be very limiting, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s wrong. Remember that the ego’s motivation is largely based on self-preservation. It is the seat of our personality, and serves a vital role in making us who we are as an individual. Your ego believes that it has your best interests at heart, but it is focused on external threats and comforts, rather than internal purpose, meaning and creative expression. Ignoring the ego can be challenging since it is more prominent. Our intuition is less obvious, residing in the 90% of our brain that is operating beneath the level of consciousness. Using a variety of techniques and modalities, such as mindfulness, journaling and meditation, we can strengthen our awareness and connection to our intuition.
Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.~Steve Jobs
The trick to recognizing the difference between ego and intuition is to realize when fear is holding you back from something bigger and better. Sometimes fear is keeping you from doing something harmful or diminishing of yourself. Think before choosing which voice to follow: use these tips to help you make a decision that will bring you true happiness.