What do you call it when a first responder has to make an on-the-spot, life-threatening judgement call? Or when a doctor must make that same decision in a surgery gone awry to save the patient’s life? There is usually more than one choice in those scenarios, yet it could mean the difference in life or death. This is what many would call intuition, or more importantly, a combination of rational and intuitive thinking.

Steve Jobs called intuition “more powerful than intellect” – and powerful leaders everywhere are expressing similar sentiments, ranging from Albert Einstein to Steve Appleton (Micron CEO) to Warren Buffett. Intuitive thinking, or “trusting your gut” has become such a powerful mindset in the cultures of many major companies today that over 44% of these businesses have implemented mindfulness training into their employee wellness structures. Businesses like Nike, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, and Apple have all incorporated various meditation and mindfulness options for their employees – and while many of these businesses may not be aware of it, fostering, teaching, and growing your mindfulness techniques are one of the best ways to increase your receptiveness to intuition.

What is Intuitive Thinking?

Many of us equate intuition with “gut feelings”, and we’re not wrong! Trusting your gut is an emotionally and spiritually detached way of saying listen to your heart, to what truly guides you. This allows any type of person to relate to something bigger, to trust something more than what the mind is saying (because yes, the mind does deceive us at times). Thinking intuitively sends your mind physical signals from your body, such as goose bumps, a churning stomach, or reoccurring thoughts and visual signs through dreams to alert your analytical mind to something that may be good or bad. Essentially, intuition is your sixth sense, and like any other sense, it must be recognized for its powerful ability to keep us alive and thriving in our environments.

Either way, we have all experienced intuition, but this does not mean we all trust it – nor should we blindly follow anything that we have not practiced, honed, and learned to interpret correctly without biases. You can read endless articles and books that are all biased towards completely letting intuition take over, allowing you to run your business and life solely on intuitive thinking, or you can read about the complete opposite. However, the reason major companies like Apple and Google continue to thrive is not solely because Steve Jobs followed his gut on every major business and life decision – but because he learned to balance the rational, analytical mind with the intuitive, subconscious mind. And he practiced and cultivated both sides just like any other powerful business tool.

Balancing the Two Minds

Micky Arison, Carnival CEO, was interviewed about two major business decisions he made throughout his career – one that made him the top in his industry, and another one that could have ruined his career. He claims that he made both decisions based on gut feelings, yet the intuitive decision that benefited his business was the one he had more factual knowledge of and experience in before making the acquisition of Princess Cruises. The other decision, well, he wasn’t as educated in and therefore did not have all the relevant information to make the right choice. Now, does this mean that his gut was wrong, or that he did not have a clear enough picture of the situation to blindly trust his gut? In the end, it could be argued that his gut led him to that decision for a learning experience that would allow him to better balance his mind and intuition in the next business decision – or the one that gave him the success he has today.

Your intuition is essential to every single life and business decision, but so many of us have spent our lives ignoring it. Malcolm Gladwell famously equated intuition to “…a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.” As we grow up and enter the real world, most of us are shocked by the realities of life, forcing us to harden our shell and ignore our sixth sense. When we do this, we start to lose our intuition, while placing what little of it we have left deep in our subconscious to be ignored. This is like saying we no longer wish to use our sense of sight to help us make decisions because what we see can sometimes be scary or difficult to interpret – which, to any logical person, sounds ridiculous. Why is it any different with intuition? Don’t we use all our senses in a harmonious balance to survive because our perception can be deceiving when just using one of the senses?

Relying on intuition to guide us down the right path is one of the single most important – and free – ways to find success, happiness, and overall wellbeing. However, much of the science behind intuition and business decisions is torn on this notion. Ultimately, the conclusion that most studies find is that of an analytical mind; this mindset helps us keep information as objective as possible, but there is really no such thing as complete lack of biases. Therefore, the conclusion for most of these studies emphasizes the importance of balancing the facts with your gut.

Having a balance of business and domain knowledge with self and intuitive knowledge is the best way to make any decision. You are guided by an internal desire to head in a certain direction – which is why we all pick different passions and careers to pursue – yet we have not put enough emphasis on this internal driving force to make real decisions and real change to reach a truly awakened life.

The Argument Against Trusting Your Gut

Some of the biggest reasons people are opposed to activating intuition for business decisions are the most important things to keep in mind when following your gut. Some of the top reason’s leaders avoid intuition include:

  • Flawed Information – By trusting your gut, intuitive decision makers can be hasty in jumping towards a decision without all the facts of the scenario, which is often tied to repeating patterns of behavior from previous, similar experiences.
  • Emotional Bias – This is a huge determining factor for many people when it comes to trusting their gut. Many of us think that our gut is simply our emotions getting in the way of rational thinking. This is why it is so important to focus on facts in combination with your intuition – because your intuition has already gotten you this far!
  • Lack of Openness and Consideration for Alternatives – Science says that intuition is based on pattern recognition, which means that your intuitive thinking will typically point you in the direction of solutions that have worked for you in the past when trusting your gut. This creates a lack of openness to alternative ideas and is particularly difficult to explain and defend to others you work with.

All of these reasons for ignoring your intuition are valid, logical ways of assessing risk and outcome for various situations, but in the end, these points should be used in the opposite capacity. When relying on your gut for anything, make sure to keep these points in mind. Have you considered all possible alternatives in an open, positive, and mindful way? Do you have all the facts and information to make an informed decision? What emotional biases can be contributing to your gut decision?

Emotional biases are not a bad reason to decide and listen to your gut – it is quite the opposite! These biases allow wonderful, strong leaders to pursue agendas that they are passionate about, such as equal rights, human trafficking, and so much more. These emotional biases – or intuition and passion – pave the way for great things, but they can also blind us to the true answers. Keeping these points in mind and checking in with them when you believe your gut is guiding you down the right path will only solidify your belief and strength in your intuitive thinking.

Tips for Activating, Balancing, and Thriving with Your Intuition

Finding, activating, and listening to your sixth sense takes time and practice, just like anything else. As a child, you could not identify unique and interesting ingredients in a dish, but as your palate is practiced and honed, you now have a developed and heightened sense of taste. The same goes for intuition, which is a key reason that businesses everywhere are making this a focus in their business practices for all their employees. Here is a great, simple way to get started on activating your most valuable sense, intuition.

  • Meditate – Start incorporating meditation into your daily routine, even if it is five minutes every morning or night. Meditation, just like intuition, takes practice! Do not rush, and do not be frustrated when thoughts keep entering your mind. This is why meditation is vital to heightened intuition. It teaches you to quiet the mind, the thoughts, and the chaos that can discourage us from following our true path.
  • Silence – Meditating is typically done in a silent area but being in silence is so much more than meditating. Allow yourself to get quiet and get to know yourself again. Explore the ins and outs of your body and mind. Before making any major decision, sit down, breathe, and get outside. This helps quiet the mind, allowing you to truly listen to what your gut is telling you.
  • Awareness – Spend some time focusing on the energy around you, not just when you are being faced with a major decision. Once again, practice makes perfect. Start paying attention to your energy in situations, as well as the energy of the people around you. What do you feel? Is your body reacting in any physical way that may shed some light on the energy they are giving off? Becoming aware of your energy allows you to protect yourself from negativity while spreading positivity. Energy is everything, which means your thoughts, actions, and reactions influence future feelings and situations. As you hone your awareness and attentiveness, you can better identify what your intuitive mind is telling you, acting as an alarm for your true knowing.
  • Listen – Start paying more attention to the voice inside of you that is saying yes or no. Start with little situations, such as where you want to eat tonight. This is your inner knowing. As you practice listening to your body and intuition, you can be better prepared and informed for major life and business decisions. That voice, the knowing, lurks in the background of your mind always, allowing you to bring it to the forefront and letting it be your guide.

What are you doing today to allow your intuition to reignite inside of you?