“Intuition occurs when we directly perceive facts outside the range of the usual five senses and independently of any reasoning process. As one scientist defined it, intuition is the process of reaching accurate conclusions based on inadequate information.” (Page 19, Schulz)
My pet dog Maddie, a Border Collie, is nearly 13 ½ years old. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with cancer, had a small tumour removed and was given a few months to live. Nine months on, she is still going, eating enthusiastically, barking at the lawn mower and birds, albeit she is sleeping most of the day and struggling to her feet to greet you. She doesn’t hear you now until you’re right next to her and she doesn’t see you outside about a distance of thirty feet.
Sunday, about a week ago, I walked out into the backyard to see what the weather was like and after scanning the garden for a moment my gaze settled on Maddie. She was lying on her side in the garage, sound asleep, facing away from me. I was staring at her for a moment, maybe twenty or thirty seconds, checking I could see she was breathing, when she woke with a fright and turned around to look at me. Later that day in the evening, around 8:00pm, she was sitting by the outdoor table where we sat eating our dinner as a family. It was a balmy shorts and t-shirt evening. She was talking to us constantly in that dog growl/whine noise that they make, right through dinner, which was uncharacteristic. We wondered what she could hear, if anything. Perhaps an aeroplane?
By 2:00am in the morning we were in the thick of a thunderous storm, forked lightening lighting up the backyard brighter than daylight, loud claps of thunder vibrating through the floorboards and rain eventually dumping down in heavy cleansing drops. Six hours earlier, she was telling us the storm was coming. How on earth could she know?
A sixth sense – does that make sense?
You just have to believe on the weight of evidence that dogs have an additional sense that we either don’t, or that we have lost through the social conditioning that begins soon after we are born. From the moment we are born we begin forming our beliefs about what we learn and experience from the world that surrounds us, beginning of course with our parents, siblings, extended family etc. It is largely experience that influences our beliefs and yet the vast majority of people in the world believe in something(s) for which there is no scientific proof. They have to make a leap of faith. So, for the vast majority of people, should intuition be much of a leap of faith?
Believing in your intuition as a justifiable input to decision-making requires faith. However, it’s a faith that can be well directed. Daniel Goleman tells us:
“Intuition. Studies of both entrepreneurs and top executives discovered that intuition is at the heart of their decision-making processes. They need to provide ‘left-brained’ analyses to convince others of their view, but it is the subconscious analysis that brings them to correct decisions.” Daniel Goleman – Working with Emotional Intelligence
Intuition is a key ingredient in strong leadership
- Can you imagine if you could never make a decision as a leader without empirical evidence? Imagine how the wheels of an organisation could grind slowly to a halt.
- Can you imagine if we needed to develop creative solutions without intuition? We’d never try anything new until we knew it would work, would be ok, would meet our needs.
- Can you imagine never using your intuition when employing a new staff member, or selecting a team?
All these management activities require reasoning of course, but they also require intuition. The quicker the rate of change there is in the workplace, and it’s already lightening quick, the more we will become dependent on our intuition to make decisions in a timely manner. Intuition may seem risky, but it’s the risk takers who often get ahead the most quickly.
What is intuition?
There is a difference between instinct, gut feeling and intuition, but all are essential ingredients in the recipe that makes up the often unsubstantiated reasons for decision making.
“• Instinct is our innate inclination toward a particular behavior (as opposed to a learned response).
• A gut feeling—or a hunch—is a sensation that appears quickly in consciousness (noticeable enough to be acted on if one chooses to) without us being fully aware of the underlying reasons for its occurrence.
• Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and nonconscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason.” Psychology Today
The difference between Maddie and me – Reason versus Intuition
Well, she’s a lot hairier and I am marginally more articulate. The difference between humans and the vast majority of all other animals and living beings is we have the ability to reason. We can stop and think about things in a logical manner, which usually means taking our knowledge and experiences and applying them to the question that we have. We may even add in some beliefs that are reliant upon faith, if they are universal at least to our circles. Over time, perhaps a millennia, we have gradually discarded our reliance on instinct and intuition. At the least, we are reluctant to acknowledge that we might rely on it. A thousand years ago, we may have regularly and openly made decisions based on instinct and intuition and then added reasoning into the mix if there was some logic available for us to reference, but now it’s quite the opposite. We look first to and with almost exclusive dependence on reasoning. There is significant value to be had from acknowledging the role of intuition in decision making and incorporating that consciously into the process.
“People will be shocked when they think back over the course of their lives, ‘when I made that decision, I actually knew it was wrong, but I didn’t trust the part of me that was telling me not to do it.’ Or they say, ‘It was the craziest thing. I made this decision. Everyone in my life thought I was insane, but I just knew it was right, and it turned out it was the best decision I ever made.’” Daniel Goleman -Des Intuition Affect Decisions
Like anything worth the effort, even intuition requires exercise and practice.
Here are 3 Ways to awaken and exercise your intuition
- It’s always good to keep a journal. Like most people I struggle with this valuable discipline, but go easy on yourself. Make it a place to record, ideas, goals, books to read and so on, and then add thoughts and feelings as you go. That way it’s a really useful journal with multiple reasons for opening it up each day. That way you don’t feel like you have to sit down every morning at a designated time and force an emotional outburst all over the journal page. Make a note of coincidences, times where intuition governed or affected your decision making and what the outcomes were.
- You need to turn off the internal voice of reason. Be conscious of what and how you are feeling intuitively and don’t feel you always need to justify every thought you have with facts, figures and forensics.
- Meditate a little. You may have seen my post last week (Meditation). It is really important to clear the mind of all the clutter that’s competing for air time. The more you meditate, or simply relax quietly allowing your mind to empty out, the more it has the space to present intuitively. The more you can get in touch with the inner voice. I find I can empty my mind quickly and easily. I am not sure what that says.
As I progressed through this article, it became a discussion for me on intuition versus reason as the basis for sound decision making practices, but it is evident that the most successful leaders can use a balance of each and value the importance of each equally. Have respect for your intuition and listen to it when it calls out to you, or subtly whispers in your ear.
Would be really interesting to hear your stories of times when intuition guided your decision making for better or for worse.
Mona Lisa Schulz, MD, PhD, 1998, Awakening Intuition, Bantam books, Australian and New Zealand
Is There a Sixth Sense? http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200007/is-there-sixth-sense
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Many thanks to my nephew James Westmore for his wonderful artwork and to Rosie Broadfoot for her continued enthusiasm for editing my posts.