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You are not intuitive

Intuition is not about “gut feeling”

Intuition can be a powerful tool for making decisions. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time when we think we are being intuitive we are deluding ourselves.

We talk about intuition as being making decisions that “feel right”.

But that is not intuition, that is us being driven by our emotions. Sometimes that can result in good decisions but that is only by accident.

In fact, the majority the time we are driven towards one path or another by our feelings and then find the data to validate that decision after the fact. Unless we make a constant conscious effort to fight this, we only really use facts for decisions we don’t care that much about.

We mostly operate on instinct, not intuition, and that often leads us astray.

The reason is that at our core these instinctual emotions of fear, desire, anger, sadness etc are all related to survival drives and as such are almost impossible to ignore.

This is because your feelings are meant to get you moving quickly instead of waiting for a rational plan.

Feelings are the mental aspect of your sympathetic nervous system (ie the reflex action that pulls your hand away from the fire before you actually register the burn in your mind), they are about tactical drivers of survival. Without them, by the time you’ve come up with a rational plan you’ll already be in the tiger’s belly.

Take fear for example. Fear as an emotion exists because for the majority of human history, death was common. The goal of the emotion of fear is to reduce the chances of having to face actual danger.

If we wait until danger is present to be afraid that’s too late. So we don’t have to actually see something tangible to be afraid. In the modern world we are afraid to try something new not because we are afraid of failure per se but because our instincts are tuned to treat failure as death.

The trouble is that it is very hard to distinguish between making a decision that truly comes from our intuition and making a decision that is driven by your emotions. Both seem to pop up from nowhere.

And since we don’t like to think of ourselves as making arbitrary decisions, it feels better to assume that this out of nowhere decision comes from something noble and dependable like intuition rather than something as arbitrary and “irrational” as fear.

The worst part of this is that when we are confronted by obvious facts that contradict the decision we make, we consider those facts to be wrong rather than our judgment to be in error.

Since it’s hard to point to the precise logical train of thought behind an intuitive leap, our erroneous view of instinctual emotions as intuitive judgement allows us to ignore these facts precisely because they are obvious.

We smugly congratulate ourselves for relying on our amazing intuition to see beyond the mere facts that are fooling all those other idiots.

It’s a get-out-of-being-reasonable-free card.

We just “know” what the right answer is and if we can’t exactly prove that or can’t find arguments against those that are disproving us, that’s just because the other person just doesn’t have as much intuitive horsepower as we do.

The thing is that this happens far less frequently than we think. A lot of times when we can’t point to a specific series of facts or justifications for a decision that turned out to be right, it’s actually just pure dumb luck at play, not some hidden intuition that we tapped.

So do we foster true intuition rather than making emotional decisions?

The first thing is to be aware about your emotions. What are you feeling and how strong is that feeling.

The more you are feeling scared or insecure or worried and the harder that feeling is to ignore, the more likely you are being emotional rather than intuitive.

Just like there is no emotion involved in a logical analysis to get to a decision, there should be no emotion involved in an intuitive path to a decision

The key is to realize that, paradoxically, intuition doesn’t come from within. Its not about the way we feel and the focus shouldn’t be on what is going on in our own minds.

Rather, intuition is about throwing our focus outwards to see connections in a situation precisely by ignoring what’s within ourselves.

Our rational minds want to pick apart things into steps on a path to a goal. It takes the whole and breaks it down into a lesser sum of it’s parts. Our feelings want to drive us to short term tactical decisions designed to keep us safe from tigers.

In contrast, our intuition gets us to decisions that are a holistic processing of the world as it is. It is your subconscious mind identifying connections that your rational mind is blocking you from seeing.

And as such it is born of our prior experience and fed with data. It doesn’t just happen, it comes as a result of soaking in information. Intuition is just as logical as rationality, it’s just unconscious and wide rather than conscious and narrow.

So when you encounter a situation where your rational mind doesn’t have a specific answer, stop looking. Show courage in the face of the discomfort of the unknown. Be kind to your feelings, accept them but don’t let them drive you.

Gather data without judgement, open your heart to your feelings and your mind to what is outside of yourself rather than diving into a rabbit hole of your own consciousness.

Once you’ve built this habit of self-awareness and outward focus, you’ll be able to tap into the powerful intuition that is our birthright as humans.