Polly Campbell (author of You, Recharged) explains how to use your intuition when it comes to decision-making, innovation, and growth.
It may appear to you as a vision or dream. Some say they hear words almost like they’ve been spoken to. Others experience a slate of synchronicities or notice that colors become brighter, bolder.
My intuition usually hits as a feeling. A stomach-churning, buzzing, or sense of comfort and ease. But no matter how it shows up, I’ve learned to pay attention and use it at work.
Like many other CEOs and entrepreneurs, including Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, and Steve Jobs, who have all talked about relying on their gut instincts for guidance, I’ve found learning to interpret my intuitive sense has given me an edge when it comes to choosing projects, clients, and decision making.
When you rely on your intuition it doesn’t mean you abandon rational thought and data, says Kim Forrester author of Infinite Mind, and an intuitive consultant who combines science-based strategies with spiritual philosophy when working with clients.
But we can blend our rational thought with the knowledge and wisdom accumulated over years of experience and stored in our unconscious.
Often that information, which we call our intuition, comes to us as an unexplained knowing. But we must also learn to pay attention to any sensations, visions, hunches, feelings we experience and allow them to yield the kind of wisdom we all possess. And, when we learn to interpret that information correctly, we can use it to make faster and more accurate decisions, according to research led by Joel Pearson, University of New South Wales.
Tuning Into Your Sixth Sense
So how do we get better at accessing our intuitive sense?
Start with honing your self-awareness, Forrester says.
Stop. Be still. Turn off the phone and the music and relax your mind. Meditate or become mindful of your environment and learn to notice your thoughts without judgment.
Get used to tuning into your inner landscape throughout the day, while you are at work behind the desk, in meetings, or even driving to a new client interview. Get a baseline for how your body processes information and you’ll be more likely to recognize new feelings or those niggling thoughts as your intuition at work.
Try this: Sit quietly for five minutes. Pay attention to how you feel. What does your body feel like, how are your five senses showing up? What does stress feel like? And, joy?
Four Ways to Ignite Your Intuition
1. Start with a vision.
When I launched my writing career, I didn’t have any money in the bank. I did not have a detailed business plan. Not saying this was smart, just how it was. But, what I did have was a very clear vision. Vivid details and notes about how my office would look, what kind of assignments I would do, how I was going to grow my business, the types of clients I wanted to work with. This helped me stay on track, but it also created a feeling, a sense of how I wanted things to go.
In the months and years to come, when things would come up, I could apply those factors to that vision. Did the potential new client or assignment seem to fit? If not, why? Was it time to adjust my vision, or align with it and turn down the things that seemed removed from it?
2. Gain experience.
Firefighters, detectives, and other law enforcement personnel have told me about times “they just had a feeling” about a threat, or the pattern of a fire, thought there was nothing obvious from the outset. But relying on that that “feeling” information helped them stay safe.
They were able to access that information and interpret it correctly because of the years of accumulated knowledge, training, and experience. Experience does make a difference because intuition draws from our unconscious wisdom, much of which comes from the compilation of ideas and experiences and failures and successes we’ve accumulated throughout our lives. Things we may not even remember or think about years later.
Now, when it comes to writing an article, I often have a clear sense of how to structure the piece and who to interview without even thinking and long before I start writing. This is because I’ve been doing it for 30 years and all that knowledge is available to me without conscious thought. It just “comes” to me.
Ask me about buying stocks or how to fix a car, and my intuition won’t be as sharp, because I have limited experience with those things.
Experience matters. Engage with life. Meet new people, try different hobbies, activities, food. Explore different talents and access different business ideas — not with the commitment to launch anything new, but to learn. In time, that will develop your intuitive reservoir.
3. Keep proof pages
It took me a long time to begin to trust in my intuitive insights. So in the beginning when I was working with this, I read a variety of books on the topic and practiced on everything.
Which team would win the football game? Who was calling me? What would my husband suggest for dinner? I just played with low-stakes situations, asking myself questions, then paying attention to any sensations or hunches I received. Then, I’d write down my interpretation of them and follow up to see how it turned out.
I’d write my successes down in my journal on a sheet I called Proof Pages.
Every time I went with my intuition and reality showed up to support my hunch, I wrote it down. Very quickly I realized, my sixth sense was right more than wrong. It was a fun exercise, that also helped me build trust in my intuition.
When my hunch didn’t come through, I wrote down how I had interpreted the messages to see if there were any connections or links. I discovered that the times when I badly wanted something, I tended to lead with my rational mind and overthink things, often disregarding my intuitive sense altogether.
Try this: Develop your own proof pages. Each morning ask yourself a single, specific question, like Who will send me the next email? What project should I begin work on next?
Or pick up the stocks pages or sports section and decide “which stock will finish higher tomorrow” or “which team will win this game?” and then notice how you feel, or what you hear, or otherwise intuit the answer, and write down your prediction. Then, let the day unfold and check the actual outcomes against your intuitive response.
4. Learn to relax.
Of course, this is a no-brainer for those of us who want to create a sustainable business and live a healthy life. Stress can undermine all of that and batter our bodies and psyche. Anxiety and stress cloud our gut feelings too, according to research, and make it more likely we will miss our intuitive signals altogether.
Find a way to settle your mind. Deep breathing exercises can be a powerful antidote to our in-the-moment stress response, mindfulness meditation can help. Anything that can help us disconnect from ruminating thoughts and settle into the present moment will help us unwind and make it easier for us to tap into our sixth sense.
Trusting a Hunch
Nearly 30 years ago, I trusted my intuitive wisdom when I decided to leave my well-paying job to start a full-time writing career. The plan on paper didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I had a house payment, a new car, and no clients. I was self-supporting, had no other income source.
But I couldn’t get over the sense, the feeling, that it was something I needed to do and the time was right to do it. I didn’t just walk off the job, I gave myself a year. Did extensive research, prepared, but I also let my intuition guide me.
One thing I was instinctually driven to do, while still working at my previous job and preparing to set up my own shop, was to meet as many people in the media, writing world as I could. I reached out to graphic designers, artists, voice actors, newspaper reporters, broadcast journalists, public relations professionals, and more. I met more than 60 new people during that year and all of them, All. Of. Them. Encouraged me to go out on my own.
I felt like I was in the flow. Guided by some higher wisdom to move forward. When I did resign, months later, though, I had no money saved, no assignments, and no clients in sight to start my writing business, it just felt right. I knew on an intuitive level I would figure it out. Even writing this now, it still doesn’t make any sense, but it’s what I did.
On my first day as a sole proprietor, I got a phone call. A woman — a complete stranger to me — who needed a brochure written. She hired me and made a cash deposit that day. How did she get my name? She was referred by one of those professionals I’d met earlier.
I knew then, that there would be ups and downs but this career was going to work. It has.
Sometimes, my intuitive guidance shows up through my research process and the free-flowing or unencumbered information I receive. Other times, it appears in the form of constant barriers or obstacles — many of them unlikely and rare — such as traffic jams on side roads that I’ve taken to avoid traffic or one seemingly bad-luck scenario after another. Whether it’s prodding me forward or sending signs that I should slow down, I’ve learned to respect the flow of that intuitive information and follow its guidance.
Try this: Pose yourself a question about a decision you’ve got to make. Is this the right time to move ahead with the project? Is this a productive partnership to enter into? Should I invest the money? Then, just sit quietly and notice the sensations in your body, the thoughts that come through your mind. Began learning how your intuition speaks to you and you’ll be more likely to identify hunches when they appear.
As solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and creatives it just makes sense that we avail ourselves of any information resource that can help us develop our work and build our business. Cultivating and learning to work with that sixth sense, can serve as a powerful guidance system and one more tool you can draw from as you create a sustainable enterprise.
How to Beat Fatigue (Mostly), Amp Up Your Energy (Usually), and Enjoy Life Again (Always)
Small Steps, Big Energy. Self-help books for women often encourage you to throw out the life you’re living and create a fresh start. You, Recharged isn’t about that. You don’t have to quit your mundane job, cut out cocktails, or sign off of social media to recharge. Instead, Polly Campbell’s inspirational book is about adding things in―good habits, practices, fun, people, activities, self-care strategies―that ignite your essential energy, the sustainable source that fires you up from within and keeps you going during the good and bad.