Mar 082012

This post was originally posted at the Improving the World blog, however I decided to merge the two blogs so it can now be found here as well.

In my previous posts about getting a long term relationships I wrote at some length about using your intuition to decide whether someone was the right match for you.

After talking to some people it however became clear that not everybody is that much in contact with their intuition.

Thus, this post on how to be more intuitive.

What is intuition?

Intuition is surrounded by a lot of mystery, linking it to psychic abilities, foresight or sudden leaps of knowledge. I however believe that intuition is a natural ability that every human being has and can use. It has nothing to do with extra-sensory perception or knowledge suddenly appearing in your brain.

It is however a sudden insight or good idea, which appears without any forewarning or a lot of conscious thought.

My definition of intuition is:
“Knowing something without being exactly sure how you know it.”

The conscious and the subconscious mind

What is the name of your mother?
How do you get to work or school?
What is the capital of your country?

You can answer the questions above without much problem. But you’re not thinking about the answers all the time. The answers are not in your consciousness all the time. Instead, they are stored in your subconsciousness.

Now try thinking about all the three questions and their answers at the same time. Impossible, right? Imagine having to do that with all possible questions and answers. Completely unthinkable. Yet your subconsciousness does it without much trouble. The storage space of your subconsciousness is much greater than that of your consciousness.

And not only the storage space of your subconsciousness is much greater than that of your consciousness, also the processing power is many times larger. A computer is a reasonable analogy for this: Whilst the screen (your consciousness) is only showing the text document you are working on, in the background (your subconsciousness) there is virus scanner running, you’re downloading a large file, you’re unpacking a zipped file, etc.

Estimates vary, but it is my personal belief that less than one percent of your brain’s capacity is available for conscious thought. The rest is used by subconscious thought.

This is an immense amount of mental capacity. Using your intuition is tapping into that capacity!

How does intuition work

Your intuition then is getting an answer, insight or knowledge that is derived through all the mentation that your subconsciousness has done. Your subconscious is able to work through huge amount of information, making connections and comparing alternatives.

This is what allows a sudden leap of imagination on a problem you have been struggling with. Your subconsciousness solved the problem and presents the answer to you in the form of an “intuitive” resolution.

And this allows you to make a comparison between things which have way too many elements for your consciousness to process (potential lovers would be a very good example of this). Your subconsciousness works through all the elements and presents you with the prefered choice.

And the results arrive in the form of “knowing something without being able to say exactly how you know it”.

How to use your intuition

Intuition is not something that works on thin air. You need to feed it. Specifically, you need to feed it with relevant data.

If there is a problem that you want to solve, if there is a decision you need to make, the first step is to gather as much data as possible. If you are deciding what bike to buy, read up on bikes. Talk to dealers. Talk to your friends. If there is a problem you want to solve, talk to people who solved a similar problem, read up on the background of it.

The second step is to allow your intuition the time to process the data. Do something else. Sleep on it for a night. This is especially important if the number of characteristics that need to be compared is large or the problem is difficult. Buying a house or selecting a partner should definitely require a night of sleep or two. Buying a tooth-brush however should be instantaneous (thought that is also because you actually have a lot of experience with tooth-brushes as you have been using them for most of your life. If you were completely new to toothbrushes it might be a good idea to actually take a nap before deciding).

The third and final step is acting on your intuition. This means using the gained insight to make a choice or to try a solution to your problem. This is obviously the most important step, as without action there are no results.

Trusting your intuition

The problem isn’t actually so much using your intuition. It’s always working, you can’t switch it off.

The issue is trusting in the answers that your intuition gives you and acting on it.

We are brought up to reason through a decision. Being able to explain and replicate it. And that is exactly what is impossible. Your subconsciousness gives you an answer, but not the process by which it got to this.

So it really is a case of trusting that you have been giving a good solution. But how do you do that?

Training your intuition

Using your intuition (trusting the answers that you get) is a skill and as any skill it can be practiced.

As a first step I suggest to try to listen to your intuition as much as possible. Acknowledge that your intuition has told you something, even if you do not immediately act upon it. Reason through your problem as you would always, but pay attention to any sudden “insights”. Every time you notice one, you are more in contact with your intuition.

Secondly, try following your intuition “blindly” for small and unimportant things. For example, decide that you will use a different kind of butter for a change. Read everything that is on three different packs of butter and choose one of them without analyzing consciously. The most you can loose is a few coins and perhaps some food which is slightly worse than it could have been. A reasonable investment for something that could make all your decisions so much better and easier…

Expand this for larger and larger things. Read through a menu at a restaurant once and then decide what you have right after (for something simple like a menu you really don’t need more than a few seconds to let your subconsciousness do the work).

When you buy a new gadget or electronic device, gather the information, digest it and sleep on it for a bit. The “right” answer will pop into your mind, act on it!

Every time you use your intuition you will learn to trust it more. And every time you get an adequate answer (perfect doesn’t exist) is a step towards becoming more intuitive.


To be more intuitive:

  • Gather information about your choice or problem
  • Allow some time for your subconsciousness to process the gathered information
  • Listen to any sudden insights or knowledge out of nowhere
  • Act upon your insight

Practice your intuition by trusting sudden insights for larger and larger choices and problems.

Have fun being intuitive

Your intuition taps into a huge part of your mind that you normally have little access to. It helps you make better choices faster and to solve problems more thoroughly. It’s a skill that is useful in truly every part of your life, from love to work, to curling.

So next time that little voice whispers something in your ear, don’t look around astounded, but follow it’s advice.

Have fun with your intuition!

Be friendly

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