Intuition reveals itself in random moments of inspiration, flashes of thought gleaned from an instance or situation that reminds you of something else. The intuitive sense oftentimes remains in the shadow of one’s decision-making process because it lacks quantitative measurement.
In other words, without numbers to offer validation, there’s little trust as to the accuracy of one’s thought process. And because of this lack of confirmation, it’s easy to hesitate or withhold conveying one’s intuition for sake of appearing like, well, an idiot.
Don’t get me wrong. If you can use numbers for validation, use them. You high school math teacher will be very proud. However, there’s a time and place for deliberate decisions and then for hasty, on-the-go dilemmas that need action now!
Take it from the military: In 2012, the US Navy commenced a $3.85 million study called Enhancing Intuitive Decision Making Through Implicit Learning whose “whole goal…is to determine if we can develop techniques to measurably improve intuition.” (source: NY Times)
Evidence is accumulating that this capability, known as intuition or intuitive decision making, enables the rapid detection of patterns in ambiguous, uncertain and time restricted information contexts – Office of Naval Research
After all, if it’s good enough for the military, it’s good enough for everyone, right? (Haha, joke)
Whether it’s the battlefield or the boardroom, external constraints such as time, urgency and threat level of the competition all dictate one’s decision-making process—and decision-making is a process, which I’ll save for a later post—whether it be deliberate or intuitive.
While I think of what to make up…I mean…write for the next post on decision-making, here are four ways to improve your intuition (and not be seen as a weirdo):
1). Listen to the voice(s) in your head.
Everybody has more than one voice in one’s head screaming at any given moment, “Do this!” “No, don’t do that!” “No really, you GOTTA do it!” It’s a yin-yang/push-pull effect of judgment, desire, motivation and need. By listening to the voices you only become more aware of the sometimes quiet voice that should be louder, but also begin to place greater trust on what your gut is telling you.
2). Look for “Waldo.”
Pay attention to your surroundings and look for what’s out of place, then ask yourself, “why?” By pushing yourself to mentally dig deeper, you build new context by broadening and deepening your understanding. If, for example, you’ve ever been drinking for hours on end at a time and only wanted to continue drinking more, chances are you ignored that positive voice that whispered, “this is a bad idea” and instead went with its arch nemesis.
Hey, it happens and I’m no stranger.
BUT…ignoring that positive voice only to realize later that doing so was less than optimal is exactly what helps you build your sense of what right looks and feels like. (Author’s note: A good rule of them is that “right” typically comes withOUT a hangover.)
3). Change your routine.
Change has a way of sparking new insights and experiences because, well, that’s the definition of “change.” I don’t know about you, but all my “genius-ness” comes to me when I’m not in the moment of actual work; new ideas come to mind when I’m doing something else entirely, whether it be running or working out, in the shower, driving, or wandering aimlessly (I don’t really wander aimlessly). In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Harvard professor, neuroscientist and author John Ratey reveals:
It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes.
4.) Look at pictures.
I know, this sounds infantile but hear me out. Activating the visual senses stimulates the mind more profoundly than just text. Consider the following:
Which warning are you more prone to listen to?
So, try this. Look at a picture in the newspaper, a magazine or online and try to guess what the article is about. Doing so will engage more senses than simply reading words or listening to conversations. You can also do this with the article’s headline. Things to look for in the image:
- Body language
- Physical location/environment
- Current day trends
Remember that everything you do or don’t do comes from a decision. Whether you choose to act or not act on something, the choice to do so (or not) is still a decision. Build your arsenal of decision-making to include intuition so you’re ready for the moment in every moment.