5 Ways to Build Your Intuition
I was doing the final downward facing dog pose in my standard weekly lunchtime yoga class, when all of a sudden a thought popped into my head. I had been ruminating all week about an issue I was having at work, one with a co-worker who was challenging my point of view on the performance of one of my direct reports. The rumination was making me more and more angry, hyped up, annoyed at this individual; he was a male and more senior than I was. His word could sway the course of this person’s career. The gravity of that and the passion I felt towards my point of view were keeping me in a constant loop in my head. Surprisingly, all of a sudden this thought that popped into my head during my yoga class was the answer to my problem. I knew exactly what to do in that moment to correct the situation. I left the class at the end, and went back and had a conversation with that individual. Immediately the tension left my body, the rumination stopped, and I was able to explain my perspective in a way that he could hear and understand.
What is intuition?
If you have ever had a thought or a feeling like this, one that seemingly comes out of nowhere when you are in a moment of stillness, then it is likely that it was your intuition. Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without conscious reasoning and analysis. It appears often suddenly, and can feel like an expansive certainty about a path forward or a decision to make. Many successful business leaders, such as Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, recount that intuition has guided many of the big decisions they have made in their lives. The psychology field has even backed this idea of intuition with research – a study from 2016 indicates that going with our guts can help us make decisions faster and with more accuracy.
How do you build the intuitive muscle?
While these data points are certainly compelling, I have found in my own experience that it can be hard to access intuition on command. The fast-paced modern lifestyle that we live, and the constant barrage of external messages, ideas, and distractions can be well, distracting. Especially if you are not used to relying on intuition, it can take some time to build up the muscle. The most important thing you can do to hone the skill is to create space for quiet and stillness on a regular basis. Stick with me here, I know that is not always an easy thing to do! The good news is that there are so many tools out there for tapping into this natural gift. Here are five of my favorite tools to connect with your intuition.
5 Exercises to Build Your Intuition
1. Do what you normally do to recharge – we have learned in talking with experts on our podcast that habits can be hard to create, but that it can make it easier to pair a new habit with an already existing one. If you already have a routine that helps you recharge, like yoga, meditation, getting a massage, etc., that can be a great way to try tapping into your intuition. The next time you do that activity, towards the end of it, close your eyes and drop this question into a deeper place in your body – “What do I most need to remember or be aware of right now?”
2. Body scan meditation – an important pre-cursor to tapping into your intuition is that your body is relaxed. I find that I am often tensing my body without even realizing it. This meditation is great for helping you relax and go inward. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and take some deep breaths. Take one big deep breath and as you exhale, relax your body. Do this two more times, and then at the end of the third time, do a quick scan down your body starting at the top of your head. If there are any places that you are still tensing, breathe into those places and give them permission to open and relax further. Once you’ve relaxed as many places as you can find that are tense, focus your attention in the middle of your body and ask yourself – “What direction do I need to go right now?” or “How do I need to take care of myself?”. Listen for whatever comes up. You may feel like you are making it up, but whatever words or images or metaphors arise, note them and write them down at the end of the 10 minutes.
3. Journaling – this is a recent addition to my self-care routine after speaking with Nicole Sachs in our episode on JournalSpeak. For some people words are more powerful than focusing on the body, so this can be a great tool to try to see if that fits you. Take out your timer again and set it for 10 minutes. For those 10 minutes, write down any decisions that are coming to mind that you need some answers on. Write as a stream of consciousness, trying not to judge or censor it, just wherever your mind goes let it go. Once the timer goes off, delete or rip up what you wrote and throw it away. Then set the timer for 5 more minutes and focus your attention on any thoughts or feelings that come up for you.
4. Quick Check-Ins – one thing that can be helpful in building intuition is making it a consistent part of your day. Especially if you do not have a lot of time, this can be a great way to build the muscle over a period of time. In the middle of a busy day, find a quiet place whether it be the bathroom or your car before entering your day. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then notice what is on your mind. How are you feeling emotionally? How does your body feel? Do you feel like you have energy or are you feeling really drained? Take another deep breath and notice if anything else needs special attention? It might be that nothing at all comes up, and that is ok. The point is to do this periodically throughout the day over a few weeks and see if you start to get little hints as you do it more consistently.
5. Take a trip – Ok this is one for my overachieving friends, who go all in, all the time. I get the most intuitive breakthroughs when I am out of my normal day-to-day surroundings, and ideally in nature. Take a solo trip to somewhere that you can immediately feel a sense of calm, like when I took this trip to Wyoming. Completely disconnecting from your normal routine makes connecting with yourself and your inner knowledge a lot easier.
Albert Einstein once said, “I believe in intuitions and inspirations… I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.” If one of the most revolutionary thinkers in the last several hundred years’ leveraged intuition to make these amazing discoveries, then all I know is I want to harness to the fullest whatever exists there for me as well. If your interest has been piqued too, there are so many other resources out there to go deeper. Whatever you decide to do though, the cool thing is that the answer already exists right there, within you.