9 Ways to Tell You’re Listening to Intuition

6. When the decision inconveniences you.

Intuition also disregards practicality, or your plans.  It’s not concerned with efficiency or convenience.  It is concerned with one thing — effectiveness.  Making you do what is right.

It’s easy to ignore intuition when your resources are depleted — which makes you lazy and unwilling to step outside of your comfort.  But you know you’ll regret it later.

I never said that following intuition is easy.  Not even remotely.  All the more reason to keep yourself well-nourished — so that you can take up the challenges and demands that come your way when you’re following your intuition.

7. When it scares you.

Another thing intuition disregards is your fears.  In fact, it often picks directions that seem the scariest, the one to avoid.  If you feel that you should do something but are afraid to, that is one of the surest signs to tell that you’re hearing your intuition.

In romantic relationships, I have a rule of thumb — if there’s something I wonder if I should tell my wife, that’s precisely the thing I need to tell.  Over the years, my relationships blossomed when I followed this advice, and suffered when I didn’t, as I was afraid to say what I wanted to say.

A small example: the other day I was driving home from an appointment, and I was running late.  But I was also supposed to pick up some stuff at a grocery store, which my wife didn’t know I was going to do.  I thought that she’d complain if I told her that I’d be even later — so I didn’t tell her I was stopping, though I did.  When I got home, I found her getting ready to go to the grocery store that I just stopped at, because she had something to pick up herself.  I beat myself for not telling her the truth, and wasting her time.  It’s a little thing, and I couldn’t have known when we weren’t communicating openly.  But the truth is that I was defying my intuition because I wanted to avoid my wife complaining.

Now, there is a twist I also need to mention.  Fear is not the same emotion as dreading something.  Perhaps my choice of words don’t make sense to you — but there is a difference between fearing to do something because you’re afraid of what’s going to come out of it, and not wanting to do something because you simply don’t feel that it’s you.  It’s a very fine line, but the former is a fear of consequence, while the latter is the pain of incompatibility.  For example, there are some temp jobs I worked in the past that I would never do again, even if I go broke and bankrupt.  They are simply not my kind of job, and working them stressed me out and hurt my body — worse than being broke.  But I used to subject myself to such a situation because I was afraid of going broke.  So perhaps the way to tell is to see if you’re afraid of doing something, or if you’re doing something because you’re afraid of the consequence from doing otherwise.

Either way, the right path is scarier.  And that’s where you need to go.

8. If it does not result in immediate gratifications.

Intuition makes you decide what’s right, not what’s good. It’s actually more concerned about what you gain from your choice itself, rather than what comes out as a result of your choice.

For example, let’s say you’re deciding to buy an expensive camera.  You do a thorough research, narrow down the model and the vendor, but when it comes time to place an order, you still don’t feel like that’s what you’re supposed to do.  You want to just buy the darn thing and move on with your life, yet you just don’t feel right about moving forward.

So you wait.  Next day, you find that a friend has a camera that you were looking at, and you get to try it.  You love it, and it’s exactly what you need — and with that addition of a real-life trial, now there’s not even a smidgen of doubt in your mind.  You place the order immediately.

In this scenario, the outcome is the same — you get a camera.  But the way in which you ordered it is what matters.  It’s a big purchase and you want to make sure you make good decisions.  Having gone through this process, even if something goes amiss down the road — like the camera that arrives has a defect — you still would know that you made the right decision, and will be able to deal with the problems without looking back and wondering what you did wrong.

Fear and laziness always call for quick fixes.  They want it now.  So when the voice inside tells you to do otherwise, there’s a good chance it’s your intuition speaking.

9. If it’s hard to justify it.

Even when it makes some sense, sometimes intuitive decisions are hard to justify.  Like deciding to spend money, when all conventional wisdom says such a spending is a bad idea.  You have your reasons, but you know that it’s going to be hard for others to understand them.

Intuition is not concerned with perceived risks or breaking codes.  Sometimes it calls you to do something forbidden, dangerous, or costly.  If you still sense that you need to go do it, despite not really being able to justify that decision to anyone — you may be listening to your intuition.

Conclusion: Learning to Listen to Your Intuition

When there are at least 3 difference voices inside your head, it’s easy to get them mixed up.  The above is a scoring system I developed over the years to gauge my impulses and figure out which ones to follow.

To tell you the truth, my batting average used to be quite low.  I’d say I used to ignore my intuition 8 or 9 times out of 10.  I was simply insecure and low on resources, so I didn’t trust my own intuition, either.  I’m still in the process of fully allowing myself to be an intuitive person I always knew I was — if I were to gauge myself, I’d say right now I’m about 5 or 6.  So I still have a lot of unlearning and adjusting to do.

One last experiment I’d mention is to play with decision-making time.  Some people do much better when you make quick and immediate decisions, before other voices enter your mind.  Being used to thinking thoroughly and deeply, I go the opposite direction — fully processing and evaluating all the voices, so that intuition remains at the end.  But I also can envision myself being able to make more quick decisions as I grow more into my natural intuition.

Finally, while listening to intuition is a skill everyone has and can develop — obviously, not everyone has strong antennas in this area.  I’m re-discovering how strong of an intuitive I am after straying away into the realm of more thought-based decisions — but I also think there are many people who are simply not meant to be that intuitive.

Still, it’s a useful skill to have, to tap into your intuition, as some things in life simply defy logic.  Just being aware that there’s a whole non-logic based ways to sense and make right decisions can help prepare you for such an occasion.

What do you do?  Do you have any tricks or ways to tell what your intuition is saying?  What happens when you ignore it, or follow it?

32 Comments

  1. Ari,

    What a great post—and this is one of my my favorite topics, really. I feel that intuition is the same as listening to our hearts. When we listen to our hearts, we rarely make the wrong decision (unless we deceive ourselves as to what our hearts are truly saying).

    Whenever I am making a very important deciscion, I nearly always sleep on it before making it. And I also usually make lists, with the pros and cons of each path. Then when I am considering it, my heart usually responds to tell me which side of the list is the best path.

    And nearly every major mistake I have made in my life? I didn’t listen to my heart!

    Melinda

    p.s. I had a hard time finding the response thingie on your blog! Maybe you should make it a little bigger because I have actually visited before and thought you changed your site so that comments were no longer allowed! Nice to see you again, also–by the way!

    Melinda´s last blog post..Another Lost Weekend

    1. Melinda,

      Indeed, I think intuition is listening to our hearts at its deepest. And I’m so with you about how we deceive ourselves — we can misinterpret (sometimes intentionally) what we’re really supposed to do.

      It’s cool that you make lists — I sometimes do that, though I had a tendency of rationalizing going against my intuition, using my list as the reason why. For me, my intuition is usually there from the beginning, so I just have to surrender to it.

      Thanks for the feedback re comment form. I’ll look into it.

      ari

    1. Hi Amber!

      Welcome to OBV, and thanks for the comment! I always feel a bit funny about asking for opinions of other people and then turning right around to do what they just disagreed with — but ultimately it’s my life, so I need to do what I believe in.

      ari

  2. Hi Ari

    This piece of yours is particularly brilliant.

    You have summed up all the tell-tale signs of intuition that I felt when making a major life decision recently.

    I’m not sure if you meant this as a partial response to my question but certainly deals with many aspects of it.

    Looking forward to hearing from you,

    Jim Smither

  3. Thanks for this post. I particularly liked the point about not necessarily knowing why you’re doing something when you’re following your intuition. I’ve certainly noticed this in myself — all I knew two years ago was that I was going to be an entrepreneur and that was the way things were going to be, and I left my old job without having a completely clear idea what it would involve. I’m totally happy with my decision. Best, Chris

    Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching´s last blog post..Inner Productivity, Part Four: Some Exercises For Self-Listening

  4. 1. You still feel that way after everybody else disagrees with it.

    This is probably the biggest obstacle for majority of people.

    The problem lies in who people listen to for advice or whatever. Usually the advice is just plain dumb with no facts. See people are repeaters, they go around giving advice that they heard from someone else, because they heard it from yet someone else.

    We have too many followers and very few leaders, so people are walking around like sheep.

    1. Hi Lorraine!

      Thanks for the comment, and also for linking to this article! Like you, I’ve always considered myself intuitive, yet I’m beginning to realize how strongly so now that I have given more full permission to live and make decisions based on it. I agree that intuition is a skill one can develop, and I’m looking forward to see where it takes me, now that I’m developing my skill intentionally.

      ari

  5. I like your new site design. (I haven’t been here in a while.)

    I like this list. I often wonder whether to listen to the signals I’m getting, and this helps decide. I’d be interested in also seeing how to tell intuition from impulse. I tend to be impulsive and sometimes I think it’s intuition, but later I realize it wasn’t.

    Dot´s last blog post..OpenOffice Extensions

    1. Hi Dot,

      Thanks for stopping by! For impulse, I’d pay attention to #8, the one about immediate gratification — as impulses usually gravitate toward that. If you have a quick impulse about long-term gain or solution, that may be worth following.

      ari

  6. Ari,
    Great organization of this idea of “intuition”.

    You and your family will do fine! Yes, things get hectic and even might seem unraveled here and
    there, as in the way you had to adjust to not following your original business plan. It is excellent that you are able to see other opportunities now. If you are not meditating 1/2 hour a day, now would be a good time to start… My mother had a term for the (turbulent/exciting) process you are going through right now- “Upgrading”! She would go for things that we thought impossible, and when we commented, her response was to blink her eyes once, smile big, and say “UPGrading”… That’s what you are doing and it will surely work, just as it did for her. Keep grabbing the opportunities as they come, and they will surely keep coming!

  7. This only applies if you subscribe to virtue ethics and you’re the perfect person.
    Thinking and logic is important, this kind of dumb conception of intuition being right all the time, in the face of logic and reasoning, is the theory invoked by the worst fascists and brutal dictators have justified their evil.
    Mao decided to restructure the farmlands against all the protest and uproar from his advisors and economists, and then millions died.
    Thanks intuition!

    This of course doesn’t even begin to cover the dogmatism of religion that has stifled science, killed millions and to this day denies basic equality and freedom to homosexuals and denies abortion.

    That being said, following your intuition doesn’t make you evil, but it makes you stupid.
    To believe things in spite of proof against it is ridiculous.

    Maybe if I was god I could support blindly following of my intuition, because I would know that I’m doing is right.
    Sadly, there is no god and certainly no human fits the role.

    1. Hello,

      Welcome to OBV, and I appreciate your dissenting comment. (I would have respected you more had you identified yourself)

      To your point, I’d like to say that I do agree that thinking and logic are very important. And I know that for some people that’s really all they need, and there’s no problem they can’t solve with their rational thinking.

      For others, however, intuition does play a part, and to them some situations seem to defy logic. I wrote this article for them. You do realize that Myers-Briggs classify personality types as either Sensing or iNtuitive? They are both valid ways to make decisions.

      There are also some people, who, despite being an intuitive person, have the inner compass so thoroughly screwed up or detached that their deep intuitions (or whatever they call it) are separated from any sense of ethics or morality. And I agree with your point that such people are quite dangerous.

      But your point about equating intuition with religion is a stretch too big. There’s a strong logic behind, for example, believing that homosexuality is invalid and should not exist. After all, a race would cannot reproduce from homosexuality — wouldn’t it be logic to conclude that nature made us heterosexual for a reason and homosexuality is unnatural? (That is not my view, by the way — I am a strong supporter of gay rights & marriage)

      It is hard for logic-based Senser to understand this, I do realize. I have family members like you. But there is a very deep, inner core with built-in sense of fundamental ethics — that of honoring safety, love and companionship — that us intuitives can tap into to help guide us in our decisions. You have it, too, though your antenna there is not very strong or developed. Just like TVs are not built to receive radio signals and vice versa, you have to accept that there are people who can see things you cannot, and you not being able to see it doesn’t make it untrue.

      ari

      1. your gay rights argument is logically flawed
        although the premise and conclusion are valid with each other, the premise is false
        it would be true if the ONLY reason to exist was to procreate, but that is not the case.
        there is much more to a happy life than spreading your DNA haphazardly around the globe.

        you seem to not realize my point about virtue based ethics.
        in order to truly trust your gut, you must be perfect, incapable of mistakes
        no one is perfect, everyone is capable of mistakes
        so no one should trust their gut.

        this ‘intuition’ you seem to support (based upon the myer-briggs scale) seems to imply a subconscious thought process that leads to the right result.
        as much as i wish everyone could simply follow this, that process is too illogical, too irrational, and too often wrong to be followed, in my opinion
        -ethan

        1. Hey Ethan,

          Glad to know how to call you!

          Well, the problem with logic is that you can go on forever coming up with various reasons why things are or should be.

          I do see your point about gut, and I’ll be honest, your argument is valid. I constantly question myself that same question — what if my gut is wrong? I am not a god, like you said.

          But yet, in my experience, all my mistakes have come from misinterpreting or rejecting my intuition, not from following it. I can’t tell you that my intuition is 100% accurate every time. It appears that way to me, but I haven’t done a scientific research. But I’ve been wrong more often from not following it, and I can’t remember a time when I really felt that I correctly followed it and thought that it was a wrong decision. So I’ve learned to trust my intuition over my logic.

          I’m not asking everybody to follow this, Ethan. Just like not everybody is meant to be opera singers, some people are simply not intuitive.

          I’ve always said “a few principles, infinite applications.” There is no one blanket advise that applies the same way to every person or situation — you have to look at the context to see the validity or how the principle applies. To tell an non-intuitive person to follow intuition is a bad advise. And that is the case to you.
          I can accept that.

          I’m simply asking you to also be open to the possibility that this advise may be a good one to other people, as other commenters indicated.

          ari

  8. Hi Ari,

    I found this a very interesting article as many of my decisions over the last year or so have been through listening to my intuition. More often than not the choices I have made through listening to my intuition have been the right choices and the most rewarding, yet as you mentioned, not always the easiest.
    Very recently I made a decision which was quickly acted upon, my intuition told me not to act on this decision but I did. The result was very bad and I immediately knew I should have listened to my inner voice, my intuition.
    A good tip, only really used on making small decisions to be honest, is to flip a coin. It isn’t left up to chance, here’s how it works for me.
    You have to decide between two things, yet you cannot decide on which choice is right for YOU. Make choice one heads and choice two tails. If you are unhappy with the result then you know to go with the other choice. For example, you can’t decide between chocolate or vanilla ice cream. So you flip a coin, heads is chocolate, tails is vanilla. If it lands heads up and you’re happy with the outcome, you’ll be happy with the choice, if you think “well I don’t really feel comfortable right now with that, but the thought of tails/vanilla feels better,” then go with it. I don’t know if it works well with other people but for me it helps me realise what I really want. I think it is because the choice is made for us, and in that way it is easier to sense if you like that choice or not.
    I will try to apply these 9 ways of listening to my intuition in my daily life, some of which I already do.
    Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking read!

    Dan

    1. Hey Dan,

      Welcome to OBV, and thanks for a great comment! I totally follow you with your coin toss trick — it’s a great way to simulate what you’d feel after you make the decision!

      Also, there are situations where the choices are so even that your intuition tells you “it doesn’t really matter which you choose.” In that case, a coin toss will be just fine. 😉

      I’ll doing that one of these days. Thanks again!

      ari

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  11. Ari – I well understand the incredible popularity of this post on Stumbleupon. (By the way, I’ll look you up there right away!)

    Like you, I’m a strongly intuitive type, and all my mistakes have come from not listening to that voice. Most of my professional work has called for quick decisions with groups, and they depend completely on timing. I don’t know why but I have so often held off from just the right comment at the right moment and lost a key opportunity. And the big decisions have gone the same way, as you say – I always know what’s right for me but often go with what’s good.

    This is one of the most important posts – in fact, blogs – that I’ve been reading. I’m only sorry that I haven’t gotten here a lot sooner.

    One other thing – the differences between your approach and ethan’s are exactly reflected in recent books, as I’m sure you know. For every book like Blink or Sources of Power, there is a contrary one like On Being Certain. Two completely different styles of making decisions – I can’t see a right or wrong there. Different minds relate to the world in different ways.

    All my best — John

    John D´s last blog post..Feeling Fine on Prozac

    1. Hi John,

      I see what you’re saying about timing, and not being able to follow impulse. I hold back, too, and sometimes I’m glad, other times I’m not. It sounds like you’re in a work where quick thinking is beneficial to you.

      Thinking on my feet has never been my strength, because I am also feeling-oriented. I have to wade through my feelings before I figure out what my intuition is telling me. But I am starting to figure out that once I remove some of my perceived threats (whatever I consider to be threatening) then I can begin to think clearly and quickly. Both in terms of following logic and listening to intuition. Emotions are important indicators of where we are or where our weaknesses lie, but letting them drive us unchecked is something I’m trying to steer myself away from.

      ari

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  13. Hi Ari,

    I have taken a major decision in my life depending entirely on my gut feeling. I keep on wondering whether I did right or reacted to my fears and insecurity. Your article reassures me that it was my gut and I do feel relieved after taking that action :).

    I have discovered this site y’day and its just what I need currently. Thanks…its a wonderful endeaver..


    Anushree

  14. Ari,

    Thank you so much for this information. I plan on sharing it with others.

    Whenever I listen to my intuition I get a sense of fulfillment and personal satisfaction. I also get a surge of relief and creativity that comes from the confidence in making the choice.
    Whenever I do not listen to my intuition I get irritable, achy, depressed, mad, etc. Like you said, pain can actually start occuring as your body’s way of telling you something needs to change.

    When making the decision: the right choice usually is the one that seems like I would be stepping off into the unknown (not a crazy “out of the blue” unknown territory, but one that comes from pushing past fears); the wrong choice usually is the one that does not leave room for growth and seems as though I’d be settling (for me, comes from a place of stubborness, inability to change).

    Hopes this helps.
    Thanks again!

    KIM

  15. Thank you so much for this article. I couldn’t decide whether the voices in my head was me being neurotic or ’emotional’ or whether it was my inner intuition screaming at me! I also feel physically ill when I do not follow my intuition, and on making my decision to follow it I feel more energized and clear than I have in years.

    Thanks again,

    Lora

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