It just doesn’t feel right, but I don’t know why.
I find that peoples’ intuition is usually a lot more tuned than people give it credit for. Especially for those who pride themselves as being logical and rational, it can be hard to admit that useful information can come from … well … someplace unknown.
But the fact is that if there’s an area where you have any kind of experience, your subconscious pattern-matching brain will make a quick judgment and send you an emotional response. This is why animals jump at a loud noise: They haven’t figured out what caused the noise, they just know that surprises are often associated with some kind of imminent danger. So the best place to be is somewhere else. Right now.
When is it that your intuition is likely to be useful?
- When it’s an area in which you have experience. The more similar things you’ve seen, the more your gut will probably help you figure it out. The reason I get nervous when small children get quiet is because I’ve seen many cases where this is leading to trouble. Plus, I remember that this quietness was exactly what I did when I was a child attempting to do something naughty.
- When it’s about something important. Instincts are tuned to help protect you, whether it’s preventing bodily harm or social embarrassment. If you have a vague feeling that walking down a particular street at night will get you in trouble, it’s good to listen to that first, as you then think through the options and alternatives.
- When you need a super-fast response. If the building’s on fire, every second you delay can harm your chances of survival. This is exactly why we teach children to “stop, drop, and roll” – to help ingrain a pattern that can be acted on without having to think through it. Of course, we spend a lifetime trying to hone patterns of response which are appropriate. Just because someone surprises you from behind doesn’t ALWAYS mean that the correct response is to punch first and ask questions later.
- When you have nothing else. Sometimes you have to make a decision based on very little information, and NOT making the decision might be the worst option. You’re coming to the end of the road, should you turn right or left? Without other useful directions, just pick the one that feels best and give it a try, unless of course it’s going to take you a thousand miles in the wrong direction.
- When you want to play. Analytic types like me can easily over-think things, and sometimes it doesn’t really matter. Go for it and see what happens – and then you’ll get a better sense of whether you can trust your intuition or not. Maybe it really is just a 50/50 chance, or just maybe … there’s something really cool happening that we can’t explain.
I do believe that there’s a part of this which is unexplainable by current science. Truly mysterious things DO happen, whether you want to attribute those to karma, magic, a higher being, or the Great Spaghetti Monster. This information doesn’t always come nicely packaged so that we know how we’re supposed to use it. But it’s there, and it’s useful.
I also believe that your intuition can be trained. For many years, I’ve kept track of how long it takes to drive to various destinations from my house. It’s kind of a game for me, a mental exercise just because I’m a geek that way. But I’ve noticed now that my guesses are pretty highly tuned, where I have a gut feel for travel time to anywhere in town. This shows me that paying attention is a key tool for training your intuition, and it really does work.
Who’s your gut telling you that you should call tonight?
by Carl Dierschow