Even hardened skeptics cannot dispel the notion that we are all born with instincts, e.g. the instincts to suck and cry and respond to warmth and affection. But that is only the beginning, for intuition rises far above that threshold. Instinct is but a knee-jerk reaction to things physical and earthy, whereas intuition can break down complex matters and enable us to make quantum leaps forward. Admittedly, the whole notion of intuition may border on the surreal for many of us who were reared on the altar of left-brain logical reasoning. All that is asked of those is that they keep an open mind and read on.
A testimonial from Albert Einstein
Note how Einstein compared the rational mind to the intuitive mind, and how much stock he placed on the latter: “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.” That was a reflection on the fact that with the intuitive process, the solution comes whole, like a gift from somewhere in the subconscious mind, whereas the rational mind has to go through a protracted chain of long and arduous computations to get to a coherent result.
How to find and nurture your intuition
Before becoming a valuable decision-making tool, intuition may first show up as a barely detectable whisper from within, an infinitely tiny signal or nudge, an unexpected thought or, as many like to call it, your sixth sense. It will knock on your door again and again, until one day you recognize it and admit to yourself that: “Yes, I had a feeling this would be a great meeting,” or, “I knew something wasn’t right.”
Intuition has to be discerned in its various cloaks, identified, trusted, and allowed to gather experience. All of these developmental phases are critical in order to nurture your intuition and make it a trusted and practical implement. Intuitive persons are usually those who seek insights by opening themselves up to fresh ideas from all areas of knowledge. They observe other people’s successes and failings, and they learn to conceptualize about their own life issues, particularly when seemingly blocked. They aspire for something bigger than themselves –something truly worthwhile, perhaps a life-affecting trigger or event. When they aspire for the grand and wholesome, their systems will summon their best instincts to function in the same direction.
When you will need your intuition the most
Here are a few examples of instances when you might as well have left your analytical brain back home:
- You are looking to buy the next house of your dreams, and you are down to two houses that you love equally and are thus faced with a huge quandary. You walk around each house, but it is not easy to decide.
- You are engaged to one person when you meet someone else who sweeps you off the floor. You have genuine feelings for both, and you are perplexed.
- You are at an auction, anxious to buy one or two items. But the bidding is frenzied, happening too fast. You cannot keep up analytically.
- Something new has come up at work and you are up against a situation which has no precedent. There is nothing to fall back on.
“Discovery” requires that we mute the outside noise and turn down our inner voices too. Inside our minds are voices of ambition, anger, guilt, greed, fear, and other emotions, all of them competing for our conscious attention, all of them hurdles keeping us from discerning our intuition.
Intuition is a by-product of the subconscious mind
With a window onto the universe, intuition takes everything into account. The subconscious mind is somehow able to connect what one is facing at any given moment with:
- Experiences and partial-experiences from one’s past
- Current psychological and environmental influences
- Observations picked up from other people’s successes and failures
- Learning from reading significant books, biographies and periodicals
- Wisdoms picked up from one’s own past patterns as well as the life-patterns recognized in others
- Wisdoms picked up from following trades that are similar but not identical to yours
“Hitch your wagon to a star, or you will just stay where you are. “ D.H. Lawrence
Examples of how leaders use their intuition
People in all walks of life can benefit from being intuitive, but this faculty is essentia to those in leadership roles. Leaders use intuition continually –for inconsequential things as well as vital evaluations and undertakings. Good leaders know the merits of right timing: e.g. when it is time to have a significant talk with a particular staff member, and when to make announcements. They will thus be aware of the dynamic currents that affect their staff, and when work-related stress becomes an issue. They know that stress can produce endless emotional and psychological complications, and they rely on their wisdom-based insights to help them maintain that intricate balance between keeping the staff healthy and happy and keeping the company’s engine purring.
You will recognize bosses or business managers who are intuitive from the moment you rub shoulders with them. They are open-minded, anxious to learn from you, all-knowing about their own weaknesses and limitations and, unlike their egocentric counterparts, they will never show off the wisdoms they have accumulated over a lifetime. They are also almost always macro-managers, preferring to remain in the realm of the big picture.
Examples of highly intuitive people
- Of all of Steve Jobs’ talents, at the very top must have been his ability to intuitively grasp the crux of complicated issues and come up with “pretty” answers. At Apple, he spent a major part of his career miniaturizing, and every time he needed his product to be a fraction of a millimeter slimmer, it entailed more intuitive work. He said: “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”
- In that kingdom where company pickers dwell, Warren Buffett has always reigned supreme, his knack for intuitively picking small organizations that would grow into mammoth enterprises legendary. He once famously bought a subsidiary (McLane Distribution Company) from Wal-Mart for $23 billion without doing “due diligence”, something unheard of in those types of acquisitions. He intuitively trusted that the deal was good –and it was!
- Anne Lannott, American novelist and non-fiction writer, authored Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and said: “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. 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.”
- Wayne Gretzky is recognized as the greatest hockey player ever. His hockey intuition was such that he always seemed to position himself where the action would be in the next seconds.
- In the world of chess, there once was a great Russian grandmaster called Alexander Alekhine (1892 – 1946). His intuitive powers were such that he was able to play over 35 games simultaneously and blindfolded –against the best players. That meant that he moved in real time from one board to the next to make his move without the benefit of seeing the boards. He would say that he made his moves intuitively and won over 90% of the games.
Let us close with another saying by Steve Jobs: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
About Mike Takieddine, the author:
Mine has been a privileged life, first for having traveled all over as son of a diplomatic family, then for having had the opportunity to study at Oxford, and finally for a gratifying career in business, in geriatric home care, and in writing about health issues. I look forward to using this wonderful medium to discuss the various aspects of health that are of interest to me.