Intuition – friend or foe?

Intuition, gut instinct – we’ve all got it. But do you listen to it? And what do you do when you don’t like what it’s telling you?

It’s easy to be selective in the power we give to our intuition.

When your gut instinct is telling you you’ve made the right decision, you’re in the right place and things are as they should be – happy days! It reassures us and gives us peace of mind that we’re doing the right thing, and we’re happy to give our instincts credit.

There’s a voice in my head, and it won’t leave me alone…

But what do you do when the opposite happens? When you’ve got anything from a faint niggle in the back of your mind telling you ‘something’s not quite right’ through to a full blown voice shouting in your head ‘This is wrong! This is wrong!’.

Unsettling as that can be, it’s easy to ignore this voice….or so you might think.

In my coaching sessions, I see clients battling against their intuition all the time. Why? Because it usually means accepting some sort of (sometimes radical) change is needed, worrying about upsetting/inconveniencing people or simply admitting that something in their life just isn’t working for them. All of those things can be challenging to deal with – and so, it’s easier to ignore it.

It’s easy to dismiss our gut instincts as a bit ‘fluffy’ or not really good enough grounds for making big decisions. But actually, they are a result of some fairly complex mental processing that goes on behind the scenes. But because we’re not consciously aware of it, it feels like it hasn’t happened, and therefore that maybe the resulting feelings shouldn’t be taken that seriously. And it’s this complex processing that makes it so hard for us to try and squash our instincts or silence those challenging thoughts – our brain will just keep serving them back up to us.

Don’t try to silence the voice – listen to it!

Did you know that science has actually proven that nothing beats listening to your intuition?

A study at Stanford University tested the difference between rational decision-making strategies and going with your gut, and there was no contest. Intuition led to the best choice 68% of the time, compared to a 26% success rate for more head-focused strategies. 

That’s all well and good, but listening to your intuition isn’t always that easy.

A good first step is to face it head on – verbalise what it’s telling you. Yes, I do mean actually say it out loud! When I ask my coaching clients to do this, their relief is tangible, and it can be quite an emotional moment. Often, they haven’t actually articulated it or spoken it aloud before. As simple as it sounds, giving a voice to what your gut is telling you can be a big release. Get it out of your head, acknowledge it fully, and you can then begin to examine it properly.

Yes, that might be when the scary feelings kick in. You’ve verbalized it, you’ve made it more real, and now you need to do something with it. But at least you know what you’re dealing with. You can then move into analysis and planning mode, and start doing something about it.

So, next time you’re struggling with your instincts, ask yourself what they are telling you, and really listen to the answer – don’t hide from it. I’m not saying every decision we make should be based on our intuition alone – of course in reality, things need to be weighed up and examined. But maybe it’s time to give your instincts a bit more airtime. Don’t be afraid of them – they’re there to help you!