Intuition can set you on the path to a greater sense of agency in your life. You may think of intuition as a magical or spiritual gift bestowed upon a few lucky people. You hear, “Trust your gut.” But, what does that mean? But what is intuition? What does it do? What is the difference between intuition and impulsivity? How can you nurture it?
Ever have a feeling you couldn’t quite name? Ever made a decision, changed your mind, then something wonderful or disastrous happened with your first choice? Ever told yourself to do something, like take a jacket with you, decided not to, then wish you had? Ever had a hindsight revelation and thought, “I knew I should have gone with my first choice?” Call the feeling a hunch, instinct, a sense, etc. You experienced intuition.
What is Intuition?
Intuition is your inner wisdom gained through observation and lived experience. You may sense a flash of insight about a situation in your life or a nagging feeling that something is or is not okay. Or, anywhere in between. This superpower is the part of you that knows what is in your best interest. A trustworthy guide, intuition can show you the navigation through the murkiness of confusion, self-doubt, and fear.
Intuition can be difficult to trust at first, especially if you are unaccustomed to trusting your feelings.
The media in all its forms, plus the advice of those around you perpetually bombard you with external commands to act, be, feel, and want whatever the voice of the moment is hawking—new car, white teeth, mac & cheese for grown-ups, plastic surgery, the diet to put all other diets to shame, etc. The message is: You cannot be trusted to make your own decisions. The result is fear. So, you jump at what appears to be a great deal that has the potential to raise your status and bring you long-lasting happiness. The problem lies in the temporary nature of external rewards. Your intuition offers you internal guidance to lasting joy and satisfaction.
What does Intuition do?
Your intuition is your unique guide for life. It may be a gentle nudge that alerts you toward or away from a possibility, or a screaming voice of recognition that you are on the right track or the wrong one. You may feel a strong sense of relief or contentment. You receive guidance from the wisdom within which thereby protects you from new and repeated mistakes and tugs from external forces.
What’s the difference between impulse and intuition?
Your intuition is a powerful escort to your inner wisdom, the great knowing inside you which you can’t always explain. “Trust your gut” means listen for the soft voice of your inner coach and let it gently usher your decisions. This doesn’t necessarily mean to go with your first impulse or thought. Your first reaction may be excitement about the prospect of getting what you want rather than your intuition telling you that you’re headed in the right direction. So, the adage may mean step back and assess the situation with close scrutiny.
Impulsivity, a reaction to thoughts, is mind-based. Intuition, a response to deep feelings, is body-based.
How to strengthen your connection to your intuition
- Pay attention to your feelings and thoughts. Check in with your feelings. Do you feel strong, safe, exhilarated, excited, anxious, hesitant or dread, frightened, unnerved, or coerced?
- Notice your body’s responses especially subtle ones—wince, twitch, a start, frown, wrinkled brow, twinge in your stomach, raised eyebrows, signature signals such as chewing your lip, biting a fingernail, changing your mind, such as the jacket example. Note the difference between when your body responds cautiously and when it responds openly. Observe recurring sensations and what they meant in the past.
- Use mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, and of course, your journaling practice.
- Teach yourself to act less impulsively by putting distance between you and the temptation, if possible. Think about your options. Ask questions of yourself and others.
Sometimes your hunches are incorrect, most often when you focus on what others want or think. Another thin line is the difference between awareness of how your decisions will impact the lives of others; usually when making big, important decisions, and awareness of your own self-care needs.
- Practice, practice, practice is the route to strengthening your trust in your intuition.
- Yes, you may sometimes be wrong. Look for the cues that were present before the situation to learn how to recognize them in the future.
Grab your journal
- As you go about your day notice your decisions, regardless of how insignificant they seem and make note of three to five.
- In your journal, write about one to three decisions using the tips above.
- Keep a daily log of decisions and look for patterns of intuitive or impulsive decisions and how they influenced your life.
- Use the results to further practice engaging your intuition.
- Be patient with yourself. Learning to trust your intuition may be difficult at first. If you face a major decision, take your time before deciding. Consult with a professional if necessary.
Your intuition is a powerful guide that can help you live with greater purpose, meaning, strength, and resilience. Using your journal to access your intuition can create phenomenal results. So, enjoy the best of both worlds. Happy journaling.
Billie Wade, a lifelong journaler, believes people are precious, sacred, resilient, and stronger than they know. She created Journaling to Heal, LLC which helps people discover the power of writing in their process of recovery from emotional stress and trauma. Visit her at www.billiewade.com and find more of her writing on www.dmpcc.org/billie where she writes a monthly newsletter column for Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.