Interest in the source of intuition is at all - time high. There are literally thousands of academic papers written by scholars, philosophers, psychologists and neuro-scientists claiming that they have the answer to the source of intuition; that feeling of knowing without knowing and how it emerges. There are educators who write that intuition is simply our brain acting as a superior pattern organiser, drawing on vast amounts of information beyond our conscious awareness and past experiences to inform our intuitions.
Some of this thinking may well be true. Yet how do we account for some of the greatest discoveries and innovations of our times, which have no basis in knowledge or past experience? To name just one, in recent times, Steve Jobs who was able to accurately envision new products such as the IPhone, IPAD, IPOD where no product had ever existed.
My research showed that intuition is available for everyone, at all times. Some of us are naturally gifted and for others, it requires some skill development. Just like a set of muscles that you train when you go to the gym or when you practise a sport or learning to play a musical instrument, intuition can be trained and developed. Intuition requires a level of self- awareness and the ability to recognise other emotional responses such as fear or stress.
Ignoring your intuition can be fatal!
Have you ever had the feeling that something is just not quite right about a situation, without knowing exactly what — and later were proven correct?
For Michael Groom, a professional mountaineer, making decisions intuitively or logically can result in his life or death.
As one of my first interviewees, Michael Groom met me at his home in Brisbane, Queensland, in July 2004. I was familiar with Michael’s many exploits, climbing the highest mountain peaks in the world, and was fortunate to find him in Australia at the time of our interview. He answered his front door wearing casual clothing, consistent with the ‘laidback’ style of a Queenslander.
As I glanced down to his feet, I could not help noticing that he was wearing socks under his sandals. Interesting, I thought. More so, because the weather was relatively warm for July in Queensland. When we sat down to commence the interview, I suddenly remembered from my earlier background research that Michael had lost one third of both feet, due to frostbite from the first of the big five mountain climbs he had made. Subsequently, he was advised to stay home and get a “desk job.”
Michael ignored that advice, slowly teaching himself not only to walk again, but also to drive a car, to run and to cycle. Within five years, he was back attempting yet another mountain climb.
When I had arranged the interview, we had spoken only briefly on the telephone. I had no idea just what role intuition had played in Michael’s mountain-climbing career. I learnt a lot during that interview about the nature of his intuition. Michael said he learned to trust it completely after an attempt to climb Mt Everest in 1991 resulted in his near death. As Michael relates it:
On the 20th of September 1991, I woke up and my gut feeling said: “Today something is going to happen and it is not looking good.” He doubted his intuition, analyzing all the other factors in his environment, as an example, the weather conditions, his mind-set and general health. He finally dismissed the intuition as meaning: “Something may happen today, but it may happen to someone else.” “ At 11am that morning, I was hit by an avalanche and fell 900 meters — almost a vertical kilometer — and was buried alive in the valley at the bottom.” He managed to dig his way out of the snow and ice, with only 60 seconds remaining before the ice would have set permanently around him.
Often intuition appears as a warning. In my case, I was taking on a new role at a large global advertising agency. The job was more junior to my then current role, yet it offered greater long-term opportunity, due to the size of the organization. During the interview process, I had a niggling feeling — it did not feel right for me. Moreover, several of my colleagues warned me against taking the offer. Yet, despite my misgivings, I accepted the role. Have you ever had the experience, on the first day of commencing a new job, of realizing it was totally wrong, professionally and personally?
That is precisely what happened to me. I resigned in the first week and went to a more suitable role, where I later worked alongside my former boss. She confided to me that she had been very uncomfortable having me as her assistant when I was qualified for a more senior position.
Of course, had I listened to my intuition, I could have alleviated some of the angst that the job changes created. This is often how we recognize intuition, in retrospect. We often contradict it, dismissing its messages as irrelevant.
Intuition tells you what to do, not what not to do. It is characterised by positive messages. Sometimes we ignore the messages, always I believe, to our detriment. When you acknowledge and work with your intuition, you will have a reliable ally. Your intuition will continue to alert you to possible outcomes, even when you ignore it. Working with your intuition starts when you discover your own unique intuitive response and have the confidence to trust in and act on it. Often fear intervenes in our decision-making process. Fear of standing out from the crowd, fear of making a decision that may later be proven wrong, fear of admitting that intuition was the source of your decision. These are some of the major barriers to making choices that include your intuitive mind. Your intuition is characterised by a deep resonance and certainty. Many people living in pressurised environments have become unbalanced and have lost touch with their innate wisdom. You will become more aware and trusting of your inner self as you begin to shift the balance from reliance on your external environment to your internal guidance.