Intuition – far from pseudo-science – can be more powerful than logic when leaders are looking for clarity in their decisions. In an era of “fake news” it is becoming increasingly obvious how easy it is to manipulate facts and data. Facts themselves are changeable. For instance, once it was a fact that women did not have the vote. Today that is no longer a fact. In this age of information, facts are slung around online without being vetted, and uncertainty reigns.
We must be constantly vigilant to check our facts. As a mathematician, who studied probability and statistics, and now holds a certification in ROI analysis, I understand how fragile facts actually are. When we build a survey, the nuances in the way we ask questions can affect how respondents answer them. That doesn’t stop organizations from doing their own surveys without this understanding, and the data they receive back is used as an unassailable fact, when it may be nothing of the sort.
Additionally, more and more facts seem to be in conflict with one another. We see it with diets and health, business start up advice, marketing, technology, education techniques, and so much more. If facts were actually clear and unchangeable for all of us in every situation, then decisions would be simple. Yet they are not. Not only are they often excruciatingly difficult, sometimes they bring leaders and their organizations to a dead stop – uncertain, or unable to reach consensus, of what the right thing to do is.
The tie-breaker is intuition. Today, ironically, research has demonstrated that intuition not only exists, it is also measurable, and has the greatest impact when the stakes are high. Intuition is defined as the influence of “non-conscious emotional information.” Often referred to as a “gut feeling,” “inner voice” or “sixth sense,” intuition gets a bad rap in business especially by virtue of its unquantifiable, un-provable nature. Nonetheless, many top CEOs, politicians and other leaders credit “gut feeling” as being the tipping point when a decision had to be made, but the facts were insufficient.
If top decision makers do it successfully, you can too. Last week I listed “Trust Your Intuition” as the #1 way to create personal of professional “shift.” Here are some powerful ways to activate the inner wisdom of intuition when intelligence fails us.
Get Over Your Idolization of Logic
Logic certainly has its place – in the 10% of our brain devoted to it. The other 90% is an unpredictable, unknowable wilderness, and most of us are terrified to go there. So we stay on our safe, little logical island, and desperately try to “figure out” what to do, when the answer lies in the 90%. As I mentioned last week, when the emotional, illogical 90% of our brain is damaged, we can’t make even simple decisions. Not only that, individuals who understand how to use the “intuitive leap” to solve problems do so faster than logical processes allow. They are better adjusted socially, and experience greater personal satisfaction.
Unfortunately, most of us are deeply attached not only to being “right” but also proving to others why we are right. It isn’t enough to know. We feel a need to prove it too. Rarely is there just one right answer, but that doesn’t stop us from digging in – which normally involves displaying all the facts to support our stance.
Rationality and Rationalization are dangerously close to one another in appearance. We are devilishly good at searching out all the data to support what we have already decided is right. We then like to send links to those who don’t agree with us so they can see for themselves how right we are – obviously! The facts are right there in black and white, and your facts are just plain wrong!
Whatever stance we take, we can line up proof behind it. (That kind of takes the wind out of our self-righteousness, now doesn’t it?) What we like to overlook is that any initial decision typically was not one of pure logic. It may not have been intuition, however, because fear can absolutely drive decision making as well. Regardless, logic is rarely, if ever, driving the decision train, no matter what we tell our teams or the investors.
Instead of dismissing logic as unimportant, the right-sizing of logic’s true role in decisions is vital for making them better, more integrated and fearless. When intuition leads, proving we are right matters far less, because we are far more self-assured.
Practice Intuition Every Day
Intuition is not just for those mega-decisions you are struggling with, like whether to start a new career. In fact, if you have little or no experience recognizing intuitive guidance, it is highly unlikely you would consider trusting it on something that feels so vitally important to you. Intuition gets stronger and more reliable the more you use it, and trusting it on lower risk decisions frequently helps build your awareness.
Intuition is always nudging us. We just don’t open ourselves up to its cues very often. I encourage my clients and students to try a series of harmless exercises over a weeklong period to experience the omnipresent voice of intuition inside themselves, and the often surprisingly powerful outcomes.
The first exercise I suggest is the parking space exercise. When they find themselves in a busy parking lot, with no visible spots where they want to park, I encourage them to check in with their intuitive guidance, relax, listen for a non-verbal sensation and move in that direction.
When stress and anxiety are at play, we miss the cues of intuition; so relaxing is the most important part of the exercise. The result is almost always an opening where logic would have said none would be.
The second exercise is the road not taken. I live in Atlanta, and traffic here can be insane. Traffic jams can happen any time of day – not to mention entire roads collapsing! That’s why this exercise is so perfect. We tend to go on autopilot once we have established a routine. We have route from one place to the next and we don’t deviate.
I ask my clients and students to break the routine by simply checking in before they launch down the familiar route. They get to ask themselves one simple question: Is this the best route for me today? The answer may be yes, or no. But they break the pattern long enough to hear intuition speaking.
Develop Your Own Language with Your Intuition
Who hasn’t received an oddly appropriate fortune in their fortune cookie, heard a song that could not be more timely on the radio, or seen a billboard that struck right to the current issue they were grappling with? Our unconscious mind is always at work on our problems, even when we aren’t consciously chewing on them. These serendipitous moments most of us have experienced are not necessarily extraordinary, but they are most definitely speaking to us.
Our minds are constantly looking for meaning, and meaning exists in everything we experience. It is just that the meaning may be different for each person experiencing it. Your intuition is tugging at your awareness and uses whatever is handy to get your attention. The point is that you are seeing or hearing what’s in front of you, and it is providing you with an “aha!” No further explanation or interpretation is needed.
Many people, myself included, notice numbers, symbols, dreams, particular songs, signage, and much more. For me, these are a conversation between my conscious self and my intuitive, subconscious self. I personally find the guidance contained there to be inspiring and reassuring. My own creativity is amplified in the process, and problems tend to melt away as I follow the breadcrumb trail of intuition.
Listen to Your Body First
Our bodies are the divining rods of our intuition. We call it a “gut feeling” because that’s where we feel our emotions first. Instead of dismissing the visceral response, research suggests we become curious instead. The headache, backache, elevated heart rate, holding our breath, and endless other symptoms give us clues to what our intuition already knows.
Ask yourself, “Where is this coming from? What is going on right now for me that’s triggering this?” Then slow down and listen.
You can certainly read books like Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life,” for in depth exploration of this idea, but you can also simply tune into your own inner wisdom as well. Mind, body and spirit are all integrally linked, and we are finding out each day more and more ways this is true.
What once was the territory of the mystics, the shamans, and unfortunately the charlatans and posers as well, is becoming far more acceptably mainstream.