Intuition is a very confusing thing. It’s not a feeling, it’s not the voice of reason. Oh, it’s a voice, all right — it whispers in your ears. But other than that, it’s really hard to explain what it is.
You see, there are actually 3 voices in your head, and that’s if you’re normal. The voice of reason, the voice of feelings, and then — intuition. “Gut” feelings, we call it, as it appears to come from somewhere deeper, but it also feels pretty indistinguishable from feelings, especially strong emotions.
It’s quite easy to misinterpret intuitions, or confuse something else to be your intuition. Over the years I wrestled with this issue, I started developing a system in which I can gauge my internal bearing.
Below is a list I use to test my intuition to see if it’s truly my intuition, or something else (like fear or greed) masquerading as one. Consider it a scoring system — if your inner voice meets a good number of these criteria, the chances are, it’s the voice of your intuition. An important note: I’m taking here about intuition as in decision-making system. Other kinds of intuition exists — like actually foretelling future or sensing what’s wrong with someone’s health — but that’s outside of this post.
9 Ways to Tell You’re Listening to Intuition
1. You still feel that way after everybody else disagrees with it.
Intuition disregards social wisdom or common sense. It’ll remain the same and will not let up until you follow it, regardless of what everyone says.
If you’re unsure about your direction, do seek opinions of people you trust and respect, to see what they would do in your shoes. However, note also that doing so will make it harder to act on your intuition if it still remains after everyone disagreed with you. Proceed with caution — just seek enough counsel to know that you are certain, and go and do it.
2. You still feel that way after sleeping on it.
Intuition stands a test of time. For example, I feel certain that I made the right decision in choosing whom I married — but I knew that the way in which we got married wasn’t quite right. At the time I was graduating from college and my US visa was running out. My then-girlfriend and I had already endured a couple of periods of long-distance separation, so we felt that we didn’t need that test to see if our relationship would stand. So we got married then, even though my wife still had one year of school left.
But as I was going ahead with the plan, I always knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t quite right, that I didn’t want the visa to be in the picture as the reason to get married. Over a dozen years later, I still feel that way. I don’t know how it should have worked out, but I think I should have listened to my intuition and spent more time exploring various options first, so that when we did get married, I could feel good about how we got married wholeheartedly.
For me, the intuition appears the clearest the first thing in the morning, before various information and emotions start invading my mind. That’s why I’ve learned to sleep on important decisions, so that sleep can wipe away the clatter and I can prepare an open space in which to listen to my intuition.
3. You still feel that way when you are happy.
Some desires enter our minds because we’re under stress. We’re trying to get away or fix it, and come to some rash decisions. So another test is to put yourself in a good place mentally, to make sure that you’re not hearing some voice of fear reacting against your immediate environment.
Music works great for me for this purpose. Be careful with movies — they can influence the mind more powerfully, but depending on the plot or its message, it can sway you to act if your life is a continuation of that story.
4. When you imagine taking that action, you feel relieved.
Following intuition ultimately has a relieving effect. You are stepping into something that is inline with who you are at the deepest level. On the surface level you may feel other emotions, such as fear or discomfort, but deep down tension and resistance get loosened. Be aware of this when you experience it, and look for it in your decision making.
The flip side of this is that when you’re resisting your intuition, it’ll have the opposite effect. You’ll feel tension and stress, and sometimes it manifests itself in physical ways. If you find that you’re talking yourself into something that makes sense logically, yet somehow doesn’t appear to feel like a relief, then that’s not your intuition.
5. When your decision doesn’t make sense.
Intuition defies logic and reason. Some people may think that’s exactly the reason why it’s untrustworthy, but that is simply not true.
Consider this: logic, reason, rationality — these are chains of thoughts that are developed through observation and analysis. In the other words, it’s rooted in the past. This is why weather forecasts are often long. They are derived from analyzing the accumulated data of the past — I’m not saying it’s useless, as that’s the best we can do for that situation — but it’s relying on the probability of likelihood based on the past. It actually doesn’t forecast the future.
But intuition is a deeper antenna that goes beyond such limitation. If people never followed intuition, there would never be technological advances, discovery of new truths, or development of greater societies. Intuition is a mind’s eye for seeing what cannot be seen yet. Don’t worry about making sense. It will, once you follow it.