What is Intuition, How Do We Trust It, and How Do We Use It?

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How many times have you had sleepless nights or found yourself staring at the walls, wondering why you wasted so much time in your life after making a number of bad decisions?

And how many of those decisions put you in situations that you regretted, even though, deep down, you knew that “something” was telling you what the right decisions were that you should have made?

I also found myself making a series of bad decisions that led to three absolutely devastating situations of my own, even though “something” was telling me what the right decision was to make: wasting time in a career that was not meant for me, losing all of my life savings because of a bad client, and delaying giving advice to a good friend that resulted in her being shot and killed.

It turns out that this “something” is our intuition.

Because of the situations that I went through, I desperately needed to answer a question that came up again and again for me…

What is this thing called “intuition,” and why did I ignore it that had me waste so much time, energy, money…and a good friend…making one bad decision after another, putting me in situations that I absolutely regretted?”

This kickstarted my journey into taking a deep dive into really understanding what intuition was.

One of the first things I thought about was how important was this journey?

Certainly, my intuition was nudging me to keep digging, but what I didn’t realize in the process is that I would end up having some amazing deep conversations with people who had some very encouraging comments, Michael Brody-Waite, Jill McAbe, Mike Keenan, Marley Jaxx, Stefan Georgi and Stephen Somers.

This added more fuel to my fire as I continue my purpose in helping as many people change stop wasting time in their lives by learning how to sharpen their intuition.

Is There Anyone Famous Who Talks About Intuition?

The first step in my journey was to see if other people talked about intuition and how it helped them make the right decisions to find success in their lives.

And sure enough, I found a few people who I suspect you may know as well.

One of the first videos that popped up was Steve Job’s popular speech at Stanford University, where he specifically talks about using intuition to make decisions.

As I continued to look for others online, I found MORE influencers talking about intuition helping THEM make successful decisions: Steve Jobs, Sara Blakely, Jeff Bezos, Gary Vaynerchuk, J.K. Rowling, Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Richard Branson.

At this point, I realized that I had stumbled on something really important: trusting your intuition leads you to make the right decisions that lead to finding success in every area of your life.

So the next natural step for me was to see if there was a common definition that made sense to me, and if it made sense to me, it MUST make sense for everyone else.

But, I quickly found out that this was not the case at all.

Is There a Definition of Intuition?

The first step I took in looking for a definition was to go online and see how others had described intuition.

After doing a quick search, it appeared as though there was no consistent definition of intuition.

Some of the descriptions I read online were things like intuition being spiritual in nature, a voice from God, or messages when meditating.

But somehow, these just didn’t resonate with me.

I then went to some online dictionary websites to see what they had as a definition.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines intuition as the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.

The Collins online dictionary defines intuition as unexplained feelings you have that something is true even when you have no evidence or proof of it.

And finally, the Cambridge dictionary defines intuition as being (knowledge from) an ability to understand or know something immediately based on your feelings rather than facts.

These definitions all helped define how I thought about intuition, but neither of them really stuck out for me.

It turns out that there is actually a big reason why I couldn’t find a common definition.

But more on this later!

I now started to question myself, wondering if I was the problem in not settling on a definition.

When I started to think back to the times when intuition had affected me, I remember when I was five years old where a voice was talking to me after my father told me that the video games I wanted were too expensive.

That voice told me to go door-to-door to raise money, and so I followed the voice’s instructions and raised over $200.

My thinking was that if intuition had affected me when I was five years old, then perhaps I was born with intuition.

When reflecting back to other times that intuition had affected me, it was apparent that it seemed to be sending me a number of signals that were different in nature, telling me what decision I should make or warning me about the bad decision I was about to make.

This then triggered a memory of mine where I remembered seeing a social media post from an intuitive channeler, Elizabeth April, who talked about signals when it came to intuition, and so I reached out to her to get her opinion on what she thought intuition is to see if she could shed some light in my journey to find a definition.

My interview with Elizabeth gave me some clarity around intuition, but the one thing that struck me in that interview was there being little to no research on intuition.

This got me thinking…who do I know that can give me some information about intuition from a scientific perspective and insights into the research that may exist.

This is when I reached out to a well-respected neurologist, Dr. Michel Rathbone, who was in my circle of contacts, giving me his thoughts on intuition, and I was blown away by his interview!

This interview was a significant one for me as it got me thinking about intuition as an art and a science where the art part was the signals that intuition was sending me, and I now had a scientific explanation for it.

With Dr. Rathbone talking about how neuroscience research is starting to show that intuition is reacting much earlier than it becomes a conscious phenomenon, I knew what my next step was…taking a deep dive into the academic literature to see what research was done on intuition.

What Does the Scientific Research Say About Intuition?

I got a hold of a research database, anxiously typed the term “intuition”, slowly got around to hitting the “enter” key, and…

…my jaw dropped!

There were thousands and thousands of articles on intuition!

One article showed how researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) that showed brain scans where, when using intuition, part of the brain that gets lit up is the amygdala.

The amygdala is the primitive part of the brain where our emotions are controlled and where you “feel” like things are going your way, or you “feel” like something is not quite right.

So, it’s no wonder that I couldn’t find a common definition for intuition because this part of the brain has no capacity for language, which means that we all define our intuition in our own individual way, which was the case when I started asking a number of people what their definition of intuition was, including Ndaba Mandela, Jennifer Kem, Philip McKernan, Jen Gottlieb, Omar Elattar, Forbes Riley, David Meltzer and Hannah Kathleen Hawkshaw.

Another research article showed that infants as young as two months old had shown intuitive capabilities, which supported my suggestion that we are all born with intuition.

Further research showed that intuition acts on average seven to ten seconds before you make a decision, which is right in line with what Dr. Rathbone was talking about.

And one article after another talked about the benefits of using intuition in the various areas of your personal life, professional life, and business.

Now that I was happy with an understanding of WHAT intuition is, my next question was, “So, how does it work?”

How Does Your Intuition Actually Work?

After spending thousands of hours on research and interviews, what I discovered was that your intuition is incredibly complex, being made up of four different types, and, like a bolt of lightning, these four types come together to help you make the right decision at the right time in any situation that you find yourself in.

Let’s go through four types these one-by-one.

Experiential Intuition

Experiential Intuition looks at your past learning and experience that is relevant to you when helping you make a decision.

Let’s start with your learning.

Your past learning is the information that you gain when going to a school, college, or university, storing only relevant learning in the subconscious area of your brain.

What I mean by relevant is that, of all the information you are taught, your intuition will only store the learning that is really interesting to YOU and throwing out the rest.

What that means is that you and I can take the same course, and your intuition will store the learning in that course that you find interesting, and my intuition would store something in that course that is completely different from what your intuition stores because the learning that is interesting to me is different from yours.

Let’s now talk about your experiences.

Your experiences are divided into two different types, formal and informal.

Formal experiences are those that you go through when you have a job, whereas informal experiences are what I like to call “street smarts” where you walk around experiencing life, going from one situation to another, with your intuition storing only those experiences that are relevant to you, and throwing out the rest.

So, when a decision needs to be made, your Experiential Intuition will go into the subconscious area of your brain and use the past learning and experiences that are relevant to the decision you are about to make.

 A great example that shows this is type of intuition in action is when best-selling author Terry Fallis wanted to self-publish a novel based on political satire.

This made complete sense to him because he had spent quite a bit of time in the political scene, but others saw this decision as not being one of the smartest.

But his intuition was telling him that this was the route to go.

That decision turned out to be the one that launched his literary career, with the book going on to win a major Canadian award as well as being turned into a musical and Terry going on to write six more best-selling novels, exploding his success.

Situational Intuition

Situational Intuition will scan the surrounding environment that you are in, constantly watching what is happening all around you, kind of like a lighthouse, to make sure that you are in a safe environment or that things are as they should be.

If things seem to be out of place, your intuition will start to warn you of anything suspicious or odd, and depending on how bad this is, it will either tell you to be careful or even start telling you to back away.

Of course, If everything is as it should be, then your Situational Intuition will tell you that the situation you are in is safe.

One of the experiences I often tell people is when my wife and I were looking to buy our first house.

It was very clear to us that when we stepped into the front door and looked around, we each got an immediate feeling of whether that house was just a house, which got us to immediately walk away, or if that house felt like a “home” where we felt invited, warm and comfortable.

An excellent example of Situational Intuition is when motivational speaker and best-selling author Danette May found herself in a situation where her ex-partner drained all the bank accounts, leaving her with no money and two kids to feed.

Relational Intuition

Relational intuition takes a real close look at the people in the situation you are in, making sure that their intentions are honest in nature.

Your intuition will use cues such as tone, body language, the words being used, and how these words are spoken, as well as making sure that whatever words were said in the past match the actions, making sure that those you are dealing with in the decision that you have to make are genuine and can be trusted.

In fact, academic research has shown that it takes only 14 seconds for you to trust someone and less than half a second to notice a facial expression!

Even if someone is immediately trustworthy, your Relational Intuition is ALWAYS working, and so, your intuition will always look for consistency in the behaviors and actions that you are expecting from people.

In the end, your Relational Intuition is always trying to make sure that you surround yourself with authentic people who will always move your life forward and will warn you when it sees “something” out of the ordinary.

One of the more powerful examples of Relational Intuition is when award-winning singer and songwriter Karl Wolf had his intuition focus on a song called Africa which was released in 1982 by the American rock band Toto when he was much younger.

Sometime later, Karl’s intuition struck, picking the exact time that this song needed to be focused on, having him think about remixing the song to appease his fans, but this decision was met with a lot of ridicule and criticism.

But his Relational Intuition tossed aside the naysayers to release the song in 2007, reaching the top spot on many music charts, winning a number of music awards, and being his best song ever produced, all thanks to his intuition.

Creative Intuition

Creative Intuition is ultimately responsible for taking in the information from the other three types of intuition to make the actual decision.

If the decision is one that is routine in nature,then your Creative Intuition is quite low.

But if the decision is one that others see as “crazy”, your Creative Intuition is high.

When making a decision that may seem “out there” some people may not understand the decision you make.

But why should their opinions even matter?

After all, it is YOUR intuition that is telling you what the right decision is to make.

A story I often tell when describing creative intuition is from a colleague of mine, John Rothschild.

John had an amazing career as an investment banker, living the high life in every sense, but his intuition had him start to think about moving away from investing in businesses to being a business owner.

One would think that he would want to pick a business with a healthy revenue stream, a solid balance sheet, and strong cash flows.

Nope, not John’s intuition.

His intuition wanted to run a tiny, bankrupt little restaurant.

Everyone who saw that he was about to trade off a life full of money and security to start from scratch told him he was nuts.

But the one person who believed in what HE wanted and what HIS purpose was, was his wife.

And so, he turned to his wife, looked her straight in the eyes, and told her exactly what his intuition was telling him – “This just FEELS right.”

And so, he quit his successful banking career, rolled up his sleeves, and walked into the front doors of that tiny, bankrupt little restaurant, trusting his intuition to save it from its possible demise.

That tiny bankrupt little restaurant ended up being East Side Mario’s location number one, growing that one location to over 1,000 under different brand names and generating over $2 BILLION in 20 years, all thanks to his creative intuition.

What became very clear to me in each of the examples I gave for the four types of intuition, in every one of the stories, all the four types of intuition are actually present and they come together to help make the ultimate intuitive decision:

Terry Fallis

  • Experiential Intuition – his past experience in politics
  • Situational Intuition – writing the book
  • Relational Intuition – not listening to the naysayers
  • Creative Intuition – submitting the book to a literary award
  • The Result – Launching his literary career

Danette May

  • Experiential Intuition – she had made bold decisions in the past
  • Situational Intuition – knowing that she needed to move her life forward
  • Relational Intuition – not relying on anyone who didn’t support her journey
  • Creative Intuition – starting as a fitness instructor
  • The Result – becoming a multi-millionaire in the health and fitness space

Karl Wolf

  • Experiential Intuition – picking the song “Africa”
  • Situational Intuition – doing a dance-hall version
  • Relational Intuition – tuning out those who told him he was nuts
  • Creative Intuition – remixing and releasing the song
  • The Result – his best-selling song to date

John Rothschild

  • Experiential Intuition – knew how successful businesses ran
  • Situational Intuition – wanted to run a business
  • Relational Intuition – listened to only one person – his wife
  • Creative Intuition – quit to start East Side Mario’s
  • The Result – Over 1000 locations generating $2 billion in 20 years

The other thing that became very clear for each one of them, as well as the hundreds of others I interviewed, were intuitive signals that were guiding them as to what decision was that they should make.

The next natural step for me was to really understand how these signals behaved and how they help guide you to make the right decision in any situation.

How Does Intuition “Speak” to You?

After taking a closer look at how these intuitive signals played out in people’s lives, it was very clear that each person described their signals differently, which meant that they each had a unique set of signals when making decisions.

That made complete sense because each person is going to have their own experiences right from birth.

And that would mean that the signals that each person has will be unique to each person.

Some people I interviewed had described a signal that was shared by others.

But what I found is that, although people had this same intuitive signal pop up, generally, they popped up in different situations.

For example, let’s say you and I share an intuitive signal that is a voice.

This signal could come when you are making a personal decision, whereas for me, that same signal could come when I am making a professional decision.

Another characteristic of intuitive signals that even though two people are facing the exact same situation, the intuitive signals that tell them what decision to make will be completely different.

When I looked even further into the properties of these signals, there were two types of signals, positive and negative intuitive signals.

Positive intuitive signals are those that are telling you what the right decision is to make.

My positive intuitive signals are feeling a sense of flow, hearing a voice or the dots connecting, and others have described some of their positive signals as being a gentle pulling sensation, sensing an omen, or even seeing a floating orb.

So, when you are about to make a decision, wondering what direction to head in, a positive signal will tell you that the direction that you are thinking of heading into is the right one, telling you to either take action or perhaps not take action, which, in former NHL hockey coach Gary Green‘s case, not taking action saved his life.

Negative intuitive signals act exactly opposite to positive intuitive signals in that they warn you when you are about to make the wrong decision.

What’s even more revealing about these negative signals is that they start very subtle in nature, and as you continue to ignore these subtle intuitive signals, they start to get louder and even change until you are no longer able to ignore them anymore.

But by that time, you may have already made a series of bad decisions, putting you in a situation that you wished you could have avoided, just like it did for entrepreneur, author and speaker Marnie Kay.

So, if you have these signals that are telling you what the right decision is to make, why do you ignore them?

Why Do You Ignore Your Intuition?

The reason that you ignore your intuition is because you start to move away from the values that you live by when it comes to the different areas of your life.

These values focus on what is important to you in a number of areas in your life, with a number of them being your relationships with people or money, your career choices or the business you run, and your emotional and physical health.

With a strong set of values, you can then live your life with purpose, as Simon Sinek has famously talked about, finding your “why.”

So what is the tie between values and your intuition?

It is your intuitive signals that are telling you when you are making decisions that are in alignment with your values, or you are starting to stray away from them.

If you don’t take the time to focus on your values on a regular basis and take the steps to live your life based on these values that are unique to you, you then start to meander in life.

This is when you start to ignore your intuitive signals, straying away from the values that are important to you, or worse, living a life based on the rules and opinions of others, following extrinsic motivation or rewards to “look good”, or being taken advantage of by others because of their selfish needs.

This was exactly what happened to author and speaker Debby Montgomery Johnson who found herself in emotional turmoil after her husband suddenly passed away from a heart attack, eventually joining an online dating site to move her life forward.

But her intuition caught something odd in the initial communication with the seemingly “perfect” person, and it was BANG ON.

Debby got connected to a profile belonging to an online scammer.

Even though Debby had strong values around establishing boundaries in relationships, financial risks when it came to money, and having a strong emotional center, the trauma she went through with the emotional and physical hole that was created after losing her husband weakened those values.

Even though Debby was a former banker and intelligence officer for the CIA, with a battered sense of values, her self-talk overpowered her intuitive signals, eventually losing over $1 million.

Realigning your values may sound easy, but it takes a bit of time and effort.

The first step is to look at what values you have to see if they are the ones you hold now, or if the values you have are the values of others that you adopted over time.

And once you realign your values to the right ones, you have to make sure that you take action and live your life using those values as a filter.

If you aren’t careful, you may slip back to the old ways of doing things.

This is exactly what happened to international keynote speaker Vinh Giang, who sacrificed a number of his values to not only live a life based on the values of others, but he also found himself living a life “looking good” to the outside world, but feeling empty inside.

He went through the exercise of realigning his values but fell right back to the old ways of “looking good”.

Now that you know that you need to live your life by aligning the different areas of your life with your values, you need to make sure that your intuition is razor-sharp as it is directly responsible for making the decisions that are in alignment with your values.

How Do You Sharpen Your Intuition?

Sharpening your intuition is actually much easier than you think.

All it takes is some time, effort, and above all, making sure that you are VERY aware of the signals that your intuition is sending you so that you don’t slip back to some bad habits.

To start the sharpening process, you need to take the time to find out what your inventory of positive and negative signals are.

Start by making a list of the important decisions you made that moved your life forward and think about what you “felt” at those times.

These “feelings” are your positive intuitive signals coming through.

Next, you want to think about the bad decisions that you had made.

When you sense what it “felt” like when making those decisions, these are your negative intuitive signals.

What’s more important about these negative intuitive signals is that you continue to dig deep to make sure that when you reflect on a bad decision, the intuitive signal that came up was the first subtle signal.

If that signal happened to be signal number three, that means that you had missed two intuitive signals that were more subtle in nature, which is why you missed them.

This also means that you had made two bad decisions by missing those two signals.

This is when you need to spend more time thinking about bad decision number one and bad decision number two and their individual signals.

You may start to now appreciate how much work you need to do, but in the end, it is all worth it!

Once you have a complete list of your positive and negative signals, every decision you make will have an intuitive signal attached to it.

When you make a decision and you sense a positive signal, then you move ahead with that decision.

But if you sense a subtle negative signal, you now know that you need to back away from making that decision because if you do, things may start to go in the wrong direction.

If you need a process that will help you sharpen your intuition, I have a free seven-day challenge that takes you through a proprietary seven-step process to solve a specific problem you choose.

This seven-day challenge will not only uncover your inventory of signals, but you will actually measure how much stronger your intuition gets in just seven days while being able to find a permanent solution to that problem.

Whether you decide to work on your own to find out what your intuitive signals are, or you take advantage of my seven-day challenge, the ultimate goal of my Intuitionology project is to help stop you from wasting any more time making bad decisions by showing you how to sharpen your intuition so that every decision you make is the right one in any situation.

This is how you start to live every area of your life full of happiness and success, guided, of course, by your intuition!

Isn’t that what life is all about?

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