This article is part 1 of my 3-part series, #JustKnow, on how to develop your intuitive thinking for deciding what’s best for you.
So, why does this matter?
Intuitive thinking helps with quick decisions to just know what’s right.
This alone can open the doors to opportunities in today’s fast-paced society that’s about thinking on your feet.
It is especially important with the ever-changing demands of today’s society and its complicated market forces.
It is also important on a personal level for financial and relationship reasons.
Two distinct ways of thinking about what’s right for you
- Analytical thinking
- Intuitive thinking
The average person is likely to use analytical thinking (or reasoning) in most situations because of modern society bias.
Society (Western society mostly) dismisses intuition as “touchy-feely.”
Steve Jobs rated it highly:
Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.
Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic, it is learned and it is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom. ~Steve Jobs
Successful people like Steve Jobs, learn to listen to their intuition and gut feelings.
You know the saying: I felt it in my bones.
Or, it was just a hunch…a gut feeling.
In turn, how do high flyers just ‘fly by the seat of their pants’?
We go to school, and we are taught logic.
By the way, this is relatively new compared to intuitive thinking.
Our schooling advances our analytical thinking — a focused and linear way of dealing with things.
It prepares us for work and situations where explanations are required.
This is the thinking style that we’ve advanced — the one acknowledged by society to bring success.
Meanwhile, our intuition is left to experience.
We gravitate to reasoning because that’s what we know.
Though…some do embrace intuitive thinking. They learn to trust their intuition, ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ and seem to ‘just know’.
Our innate ability of intuitive thinking is valuable
We are born with intuitive abilities.
These abilities are critical and life-saving. Firefighters especially use them.
Charles B. Parselle explains the importance of intuitive thinking…
He likens it to the anatomy of our eyes.
We use the very center of our cornea (cone cells) for focusing on objects, far and near (like analytical thinking).
The cells surrounding this very center provide our peripheral vision (like intuitive thinking).
He then explains: “If the cone cells deteriorate, when one attempts to focus upon an object, it disappears; a black spot in the center. But if you lose peripheral vision, even if you retain the ability to focus, it is like observing the world one speck at a time through the means of the focused beam of a flashlight. It is much easier to get around with only peripheral vision than with only focused vision”.
Bottom line…intuition helps us maneuver through obstacles much easier than analytical thinking alone.
Our rational mind can only take us so far
We consistently overestimate the value of analytical thinking in our decision making, according to Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate².
The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating. ~Anne Lamott, (see Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)
We reach crossroads at times with multiple ‘best’ options or inconclusive answers from our rationale.
Without ‘just knowing’ where to go next, our mind will start overthinking.
Limited thinking, such as this, cripples us.
It kills our confidence and creates anxiety and worry.
When Napoleon dominated the European battlefield he incorporated more than just strict planning.
His secret was strategic intuition as described in Napoleon’s Glance: The Secret of Strategy, see it here).
There are similar examples of success using intuition described by Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This is an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand resource that draws on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology with a prime aim to teach you how to you to make better snap decisions. Gladwell refers to the origins of this ‘just knowing’ (or intuition) as the adaptive unconscious and likens it to our internal computer.
Galdwell’s bestseller tells why ‘just knowing’ wins – see it here
Back to Napoleon’s secret. It is said to involve 4 steps:
#1 Past experience and learnings
- Using the best available understanding of the situation, based on experience and learnings.
Think: another’s perspective, your own experience, past events, in addition to new planning and study.
It’s like choosing a dish from a menu.
You will ask another’s advice.
You’ll study the menu, reading the ingredients and descriptions.
You’ll think about past experiences and might even research items on your smartphone.
#2 The presence of mind for just knowing
- Being calm to think and act efficiently, helps.
Imagine how important (and challenging) this is with decisions in an emergency.
- Be open to all possibilities.
Tip: One way to do this is to intentionally divert your attention to a somewhat unrelated activity.
Einstein knew this well.
I think 99 times and I find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me. ~ Albert Einstein
So, Einstein hinted at an intuitive process helping him overcome his blocks.
He took unstructured time away from deliberate thinking.
In this case, it was quiet time within nature–a nature experience (read my article on the benefits of nature).
More on getting in tune with your intuitive thinking in the next article in this series.
#3 The flash of insight
- Welcoming the ah-ha’ moment when a flash of insight emerges with a new idea or prospect.
- Putting the thought into action on the just knowing.
So why don’t we all ‘just know’ what’s right for us
Most people use intuition at one level or another.
Choosing a dish from a menu is one example.
It is intuition that guides one’s final choice.
(Though, an analytical mind might consider the cost of the dish in a budget analysis.) 🙂
In this ordinary example, contemplation and resolution are fast.
We unconsciously trust and use our intuition.
Deciding on more important issues is not as easy and ‘just knowing’ at this level takes practice in trusting and listening to your inner guidance.
How to trust your intuitive thinking is covered in Part 3 of this series.
Here’s an affirmation from Florence Scovel Shinn in Your Word is Your Wand (check it out here) to get you started:
I make friends with hindrances, and every obstacle becomes a stepping stone. Everything in the Universe, visible and invisible, is working to bring to me my own.
Listen out for what’s right for you
Intuitive thinking comes from experience, and according to several philosophies, is guided by a higher consciousness.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~ Albert Einstein
When stuck, ask yourself the question: what should I do next?
Expect the answer. That is, expect to just know. (See my good habits lists to get you unstuck and live a freer life).
Look for inner guidance — take notice of thoughts, feelings, visions, and words.
But, you will need to make space for this.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. ~Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Check it out here.)
So here’s the deal…
To stop over thinking or worrying, learn to trust and listen to your intuition to guide you!
But, how do you know it’s your intuition and not some wayward inner voice?
You might ask: is it intuition or is it emotion that I’m feeling?
Without practice, you probably won’t know.
More on understanding this in week 3 of this series.
It’s not likely you’ll experience intuitive thought when feeling emotional, anxious, stressed, worried, or fearful.
I share this wisdom from Dr Wayne Dyer’s Your Ultimate Calling (see it here ):
Give yourself the time and quiet space to enter into dialogue with your Source. The answers you seek will come rushing toward you when you’re in authentic communication.
How to make space for and identify intuitive thought are part of future articles in this series:
- Answering the How Do You ‘Just Know’ What’s Right for You
- How to Develop a Strong Intuition for the Tough Questions
- Instinct vs Intuition: When to Trust Your Gut Feeling
I hope this has been helpful.
- How to Grow Beyond That Rut,
- 7 Ways to Calm the Chaos in Our Lives Using Our Senses
- Feeling Stuck? Do You Need to Assess Your Core Values?
- Scheffer, M., J. Bascompte, T. K. Bjordam, S. R. Carpenter, L. B. Clarke, C. Folke, P. Marquet, N. Mazzeo, M. Meerhoff, O. Sala, and F. R. Westley. 2015. Dual thinking for scientists. Ecology and Society 20(2): 3. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07434-200203
- Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking, fast and slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, New York, USA.
- Cholle, F. 2011. The Intuitive Compass: Why the Best Decisions Balance Reason and Instinct. John Wiley & Sons, USA.