Friday, September 3, 2010

The Truth about Intuition - Your "Sixth Sense"

I'm sure you're familiar with the term "intuition." But to most people it remains a mysterious concept.

I’ve heard people refer to intuitive ability as if it were a special “sixth sense” or psychic ability. Actually, intuition is a normal function of the healthy human brain. At one time or another, you may have been aware of a gut-feeling that spoke to the rightness or wrongness of an impending decision. It’s a feeling that you know something for sure, but you can’t explain why you know it.

Years ago I was walking down one of the many concourses in the sprawling Dallas airport. As I looked ahead at the dozens of fellow travelers in front of me, my gaze was suddenly drawn to a fellow who was about ten steps ahead of me. I saw only his back, but his head, posture and way of walking seemed profoundly familiar. As I closed the space between us, I had a feeling that it was an old acquaintance, someone I hadn’t seen in 25 years. My reasoning told me that it couldn’t possibly be him. But I caught up with him anyway, so I could get a closer look.

It was him. He appeared older, but I knew it was him. I introduced myself and we had an interesting, although brief conversation. Afterwards, I was amazed at my ability to immediately recognize someone I hadn’t had contact with in a quarter-century—without even seeing his face. I thought: What an amazing instrument the human brain is.

I also remember a conversation I once had with one of my business partners. We were discussing a decision we were about to make. I asked her if she agreed with my approach. She said yes and summarized the reasons why it made sense.

In spite of what she was saying, something didn’t feel right. So I said, “You don’t really feel good about it, do you?”

“No, I guess I don’t. I’ve been bothered by a particular issue.” She explained her reservations, which led to more dialogue and ultimately a different decision.

Once again, it was as if a voice in my head was telling me something. And I knew it wasn’t the voice of reason. The important thing is that I didn’t dismiss it. I listened to it and acted on it.

Should I request another assignment? Should I change careers? Should I get married now or wait a year or two? Should we lay off some of our staff? Should we stop developing this new product? After having to make a number of decisions like these in my life, I’ve learned to check for that “Yes!-feeling” or that “No!-feeling.”

Logic is a powerful tool. Without it, we'd still be in the dark ages. But logic has to be processed slowly and methodically as conscious thought. Meanwhile the rest of your brain continues to multi-task at an astounding pace on an untold number of other important issues. When it derives a conclusion outside your attention, that's the voice of intuition speaking to you. Amazing, yes, but there's nothing mysterious about it.

My intuition isn't always right. Not all my decisions have had good results. And I haven’t always done what my gut-feelings told me to do. But I’ve never regretted consulting them.

My review of How We Decide, the best book I've seen about intuition.

A Fortune Cookie...

Listen to the still small voice, and it will reveal its secrets.

The story behind the Fortune Cookies...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Beth Hewitt said...

Hi Denny,

Really enjoyed your post. We should be taught how to use intuition.

It is always there, our friend that helps us along the way.