How intuitive are you?
Actually… before you answer that question, perhaps we should establish what intuition is because you can’t determine how good you are at something or how much you have of something if you don’t know what that something is, right?
When it comes to determining what something is, the scientific world is usually really helpful and a good place to start as, no doubt, they’ll have done a ton of research, experiments and studies to determine the ins and outs of the thing you’re asking about.
However, when it comes to intuition, scientists tend to get their knickers in a bit of a twist. Because intuition can’t be measured, it can’t be proven in a controlled experiment, and it can’t even be seen. As well as that, scientists can’t even come to an agreement on what they believe intuition to be.
So how on earth do we establish what intuition is?
I guess the best jumping-off point would be the dictionary. And according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, intuition is “the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference”.
Now do you fully understand what intuition is?
You might still be scratching your head a bit, like me. Sometimes to understand the meanings written in dictionaries you need more dictionaries…
Scientists have been of no help and now the dictionary isn’t making things crystal clear either. What about people who are experts in intuition, people who’ve written books on the subject? Surely, they’ll be more helpful, won’t they?
One of the best definitions for intuition, I feel, comes from Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. To explain what intuition is, he compares it to analytical thinking.
Gladwell describes the process of analysis as “thinking” and the process of intuition as “blinking”. In other words, one takes conscious effort and time whereas the other happens in an instant before the brain and thinking even get a look-in. This implies that intuition is lightning fast and happens before rational thinking can kick in.
According to Gladwell, “There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” And that reminds me of a real-life story about a famous piece of art that Gladwell shared.
In 1983, Gianfranco Becchina, an Italian antiquities dealer, had a rare 6th century sculpture for sale to which he had attached a staggering $10 million price tag. The Getty Museum, after taking the time to carefully review X-rays, and read and listen to expert testimonies and historical documentation, agreed to buy the sculpture.
However, when Evelyn Harrison, a renowned expert on Greek sculptures, and Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arrived to admire the statue, they intuitively just knew that something wasn’t right. In Hoving’s words, the sculpture seemed ‘fresh’, something you wouldn’t expect from a 2,000-year-old statue.
It turned out their intuition was right. The sculpture had actually been made by a forger in 1980.
Thanks to Gladwell’s explanation of intuition (blinking versus thinking) and the story he shares about the 6th century sculpture, you should now have a clearer understanding of what intuition is. So, I’m going to ask my question again. Only this time, without spending time analysing and processing your answer, thinking it through rationally, I invite you to engage your intuition and take the first number between 1 and 10 that pops into your head, 1 meaning ‘pretty crap, if I’m honest’ and 10 meaning ‘I use my intuition all the time every day’.
Are you ready?
Pick your number: “How intuitive are you?”
What number did you pick, I wonder?
Next question: “Are you happy with that number?” Only you can decide if you’re happy with it or not. If you were honest with yourself and took the first number that came to you, you’ll either be okay with it or feeling a bit disappointed right now.
No matter the number (I very much doubt you picked the number 10 – if you did you might want to have a chat to yourself about self-honesty… just saying…) there is room for improvement, right?
However, for you to want to improve your intuition, you’ll want to know how it’ll make your life much better, right? That’s only human, after all. What’s the point in investing time and effort into something if we’re not going to benefit from it?
I can sum up the many and varied benefits of connecting in with and using your intuition in every area of your life, in one single word: flow.
There you have it. When you connect with, listen to, and heed your intuition your life will flow much smoother.
Think about it.
You leave work a bit late and you’re rushing home to your family. You take your usual route home and BOOM! an unexpected traffic jam that delays your arrival home by another hour.
Wouldn’t it have been better to leave work a bit late, be driving the usual route home to your family, and mid-way through your journey you get a feeling in your gut that rather than take your usual right turn, you should take the left, albeit that’s a longer route. And, and this is the cruncher, you listen to your gut feeling and follow it. As a result, you end up arriving home 10 minutes later than you’d hoped, your family surprised (and delighted) to see you so soon because they had heard about the huge traffic jam that you should have hit had you taken your normal route.
Or you’re single and your friend introduces you to this great person they’ve just met. They just know you’ll both hit it off! You meet the person, and something doesn’t sit right with you about them. But you shrug it off. Your friend is introducing you both. You trust your friend. Your friend knows the kind of people you like and who you’d get on with. So, you give it a go. After a few dates the person seems okay, not perfect or ideal, but okay, someone you should take time to get to know. You’ve talked yourself out of that initial niggle that you felt.
Six months go by, and they just keep rattling your cage… and it’s getting worse each time you meet. If only you’d listened to that initial niggle. You wouldn’t have just wasted 6 months trying to get to know someone who constantly winds you up and triggers you. Who knows, as a result, you may have missed out on meeting your ideal partner…
Or you and your friend are round at yours for a spot of lunch. You’re making yourselves a special open sandwich, something that could easily rival any fancy café or restaurant. It’s full to overflowing (literally) with yummy ingredients that you bought at the delicatessen only yesterday. However, the mushrooms you’re about to put on as the next layer smell a little funny to you. You tell your friend and suggest you miss them out of your special sandwich, but your friend laughs at you and suggests your nose is too sensitive, the mushrooms are perfectly fine. You know you should listen to your gut but you talk yourself out of it, your friend’s probably right and they’re just fine.
The next day, you get a call from your friend asking if you’re okay because she’s been up all night hugging the toilet and throwing up – those pesky mushrooms. You admit you’ve been the same and regret eating them. You were meant to head away this morning for a city break with another couple of friends but there was no way you could travel. So, you’ve had to cancel and now you’ll miss out on all the gossip, fun, and shenanigans. Bummer!
In the grand scheme of things, these are just small ways in which, had you been in tune with your intuition and heeded it, your life would have ended up running more smoothly. If listening to and heeding your intuition can make a difference with the small stuff, imagine the difference it could make with the big stuff… (I’ll let you ponder that on your own).
When it comes to intuition, there’s a HUGE myth that I want to bust for you:
WE ARE ALL BORN WITH INTUITION.
You, me, your parents, your kids, your neighbour down the road… all of us. Indeed, scientists at the University of Missouri-Colombia have been studying intuition in babies and have concluded that babies as young as 2 years old (the earliest age at which testing can occur for this experiment) have an understanding that unsupported objects will fall and that hidden objects do not cease to exist, an understanding and knowing that, at that age, cannot be taught to a baby.
It's just that when we were growing up, our intuition was placed on a back burner and wasn’t exercised because who wants to be friends with the kid who ‘feels or sees strange things’?
And that’s great news. Because it means that intuition isn’t a brand new skill to learn. You already have it in your DNA as a natural-born gift. All you have to do is re-ignite it, re-connect with it, re-exercise it.
Would you like your life to flow more smoothly? (I think we can all answer ‘YES!’ to that…), then why not join my 2-part course on (re-)igniting your intuition. What’s your intuition telling you to do right now? And are you going to heed it? I hope so…