Through hundreds of thousands of experiments analyzing the various aspects of human behavior, we have a pretty good idea of why we do what we do.
However, there’s a component of our decision making process that’s a little harder to explain — the existence of intuition.
We can all feel our inner wisdom gently nudging us on a daily basis, but we don’t really know where it’s coming from or why it’s pushing us in certain directions.
All we know is that it exists, and we can feel its power.
The following article will dive deeper into the idea of intuition and how it shapes our life.
Additionally, you’ll learn how to tap into your intuition and leverage it so that you can live a more authentic, fulfilling life.
What Is Intuition Anyway?
Most human behavior occurs automatically and unconsciously. We may be able to rationalize many of our decisions after the fact, and we’re pretty good at that, but in the present moment it’s difficult to find the real “why” driving them.
When you walk into a restaurant, you don’t need to consciously think about how to behave. If you did, you’d be no different than a toddler.
So instead, your unconscious takes over — it draws on past experience and takes in social cues that inform almost everything you do for the next hour and a half.
- You start your meal with the appetizer that you order every single time at this specific restaurant
- You spend time socializing with the other people at your table, asking them about their job, marriage, recent life changes, etc.
- You say “thank you” every time the waiter fills up your water or comes to the table with food.
There’s no deliberation or conflict with any of these actions — you’re just doing what you intuitively believe is right.
Intuition is an unconscious mental process that makes us feel like we know something without any sort of analytical reasoning. It’s an emotional response that makes us feel confident in a given idea, but we can’t seem to pinpoint where this confidence comes from.
Using our collective past as a guiding post, intuition helps us make quick judgments about what feels right and wrong, real or fake, and good or bad.
But intuition does far more than take care of everyday behaviors like conducting ourselves properly in a restaurant. It’s also an incredibly powerful tool for living out our deepest values and finding meaning in life.
The likely reason you want to learn how to tap into your intuition is because you get these gentle nudges every single day that steer you towards a better future. That’s your intuition at work — steering you towards good habits you need to start building, and begging you to avoid bad habits that push you closer to your self-defined hell.
Intuition is about the little voice that tells you it’s a good idea to check-in on someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.
Intuition is about the quiet whisper in the back of your head saying, “Maybe hitting the snooze button isn’t such a good idea.”
Just like you, intuition is certainly not without its flaws.
Sometimes our first impressions of people turn out to be wrong. Sometimes we make a choice based on a gut feeling that doesn’t work out the way we hoped it would.
It’s not perfect, but neither is the analytical side of your brain. Ever spent weeks or months obsessing about a course of action? And then once you make it, you think to yourself, “What the hell took me so long?”
Good, so does everyone else. When I decided to drop out of college and start a business, I obsessed and analyzed for four months before mustering up the courage to take a risk that my intuition felt was the right move.
The only thing that accomplished was wasting four months in limbo mode. So your intuition may not be perfect, but neither is the more deliberate side of your brain.
As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book titled “Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking.”
“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.
Very well said, Malcolm. The objective of learning how to tap into your intuition isn’t becoming an impulsive decision maker, it’s more about learning how to merge the insights from your inner wisdom and your rational mind so that you can change your life for the better.
Tapping Into Intuition: Pseudoscience Or Real Science?
Before we talk about how to tap into your intuition, it’s important to understand that intuition isn’t some woo-woo term designed to peak your curiosity.
There’s an abundance of research that proves we have a less deliberate, more instinctive operating system that helps us make decisions. Not just that, but this same research shows that relying on this system can help us make better decisions.
Does Intuition Beat Logic?
Research suggests that in many cases, trusting your gut is the optimal choice when you need to reach a conclusion about something.
One study conducted by Nalini Ambady asked participants to look at 10 second videos of professors and rate their overall ability as an instructor.
Their ratings ended up correlating strongly to the end of term ratings from the students who attended the class.
Interestingly, another group was forced to take on the role of the rational thinker. They too watched the short clip of the professor, and were asked to rate their overall effectiveness.
However, these participants were asked to spend one minute writing down the reasons for their judgement before giving their rating. In other words, they were forced to lean on their rational mind to reach a conclusion.
As it turns out, these ratings were far less accurate.
Further studies have shown that we’re more effective at determining what emotions people are feeling with a brief look at their facial expressions as opposed to when we’re forced to analyze first and then make a judgment.
Despite the research suggesting that our gut is smarter than our rational mind, other studies show that this isn’t always the case.
One classic example of the limits of intuition is the first-instinct fallacy. Oftentimes, test takers are advised to go with their first impulse during multiple choice exams.
There’s been a massive amount of research conducted on this topic. Generally, here’s what the studies show — students who change their answers on multiple choice tests typically gain three points for every one that they lose.
This suggests that in certain situations, deliberation and rational thinking are needed to come to the right conclusion.
How To Tap Into Your Intuition & Use It Effectively (5 Tips)
Now that you know what intuition is and its impact on your decision making, let’s talk about how to tap into your intuition and leverage the intelligence of your unconscious mind.
The vast majority of us don’t get the life we want because we let our rational mind prevent us from following our inner wisdom. We simply ignore the little voice in our head telling us to do more, become more, and achieve more.
If you never tap into this voice and learn how to make it work for you, you’re going to miss out on potentially life-changing benefits.
Here’s five powerful strategies for tapping into your intuition so that you can instill greater self-confidence and get the most out of your life.
#1: Recognize The Limits Of Intuition
As we’ve already discussed, intuition is not without its flaws. We must use our intuition, but we also must proceed with caution and recognize its limits as well.
Life is an endless series of decisions. Some of these decisions are minor, while others have the power to shape the trajectory of the next 5-10 years of our lives.
We have to make decisions about who to love, which career path to pursue, where we’re going to live, etc.
These are the kinds of decisions where we need to rely on our rational mind along with our intuition. Big decisions like this can’t simply be made on gut instinct because we run the risk of overlooking future consequences and potential risks.
- When faced with decisions that require quick, instinctive judgements, it’s best to let our inner wisdom take the reigns.
- When faced with significant life decisions that don’t have a time constraint attached to them, relying on intuition is simply not enough.
Let’s say that you’re weighing your career options. You have a gut feeling that you should start your own blog because it’s what you’re passionate about, but with this decision come inherent risks.
You need to weigh everything before making an impulsive choice, and that’s where you need to bring the rational mind into the mix.
After all, most people don’t start making a full-time income with their blog until the 18-24 month mark. So while your intuition is telling you to go all-in, at the same time your rational mind is considering whether or not it’s financially responsible to do so.
If you can come up with a plan to survive while you go all-in on your blog, then you’ve satisfied this concern. If your rational mind and intuition are in agreement, then you can press forward towards your passion.
However, if you realize that going all-in on blogging isn’t something you can survive financially, then you’ve got a problem — your rational mind and your intuition are in direct conflict.
In cases like these, it’s best to come up with a compromise between your intuition and your rational mind.
For example, you may land on a happy medium — spending two hours every morning on your blog before heading out to work. In this case, you’re satisfying both parties here:
- You’re satisfying your intuition by coming up with a plan to make daily progress on something you eventually want to turn into a full-time career.
- You’re satisfying your rational mind by having a safety net that will allow you to meet obligations each month.
These are the kind of compromises that can only be reached when you recognize the limits of intuition and combine your inner voice with the analytical part of your brain.
#2: Get The Reps In
If you want to learn how to tap into your intuition, then the best way to do that is to stop talking about how you should follow your gut and start doing it.
Many times, we’re scared to follow our intuition because we lack confidence.
Confident people have the ability to make a choice and trust their ability to handle the consequences. People who lack self-confidence are typically unsure if they can handle the potential repercussions of their choices, and end up in constant limbo mode because of it.
This lack of confidence stops many people from trusting their gut in a variety of situations. If this is something that you’re experiencing, it’s not going to get better without action — you’ve gotta get the reps in.
Remember, your intuition is largely based on past experiences. This means that the more you make decisions based on your intuition, the more feedback you get.
Whether the feedback is positive or negative is irrelevant. No matter the outcome, you’ll sharpen your intuition by accruing knowledge and wisdom that can be applied to future situations.
But what exactly does getting in the reps look like? Well, here’s an actionable strategy for tapping into your intuition on a daily basis.
- Each day, commit to making a certain number of decisions based on your intuition
- When you’re just starting out, try to aim for a small number like 1-2.
- Notice the moments where you feel yourself in conflict over a certain behavior and ask yourself, “Which route is my intuition telling me to go?”
- Follow your gut even if you feel hesitant or afraid. As you get comfortable trusting your gut, you can gradually scale this number up to 3-4 decisions or more.
#3: Learn To Quiet Your Mind
One of the biggest obstacles that you’re gonna face when learning how to tap into your intuition is your own mind.
One of the hardest things for people to do is be present. That’s why so many people who meditate for the first time say things like, ”I couldn’t focus on my breathing for longer than ten seconds before getting hooked by some stupid thought.”
This quote by Blaise Pascal illustrates this phenomenon perfectly:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Tapping into your intuition requires being a non-judgmental observer of your own mind. The problem is that our minds are like wild animals — we never quite know which way it’s going to run.
Your brain serves up thousands of thoughts on a daily basis. Some of them are useful, the vast majority aren’t.
Learning to detach from these thoughts will help you feel fully engaged in the present moment. It’s this state of hyper-awareness that allows you to pay close attention to what your intuition is telling you.
Just like everything else in life, lack of self-awareness can be improved with practice. There’s a variety of different mindfulness techniques out there that will help you filter out the noise that suppresses your intuitive feelings.
Here are a few daily habits that I’d suggest practicing to improve your mindfulness:
- Start Meditating for 5-10 Minutes Per Day: Meditation is one of the best ways to learn how to detach from your monkey mind. Start with a mini habit like 5 minutes per day and gradually work for your way up.
- Mindfulness Walks: Every day, simply take 10-15 minutes to go outside and take a mindfulness walk. As you walk, simply observe your thoughts without getting attached to them. If you feel yourself getting hooked by certain thoughts, focus on your surroundings and shift back to the present moment.
- 3 Deep Breaths: When you feel your mind obsessing over something or worrying about a potential outcome, bring your attention back to your breath. Simply take three long, deep breaths. As your focus shifts to your breath, that endless mental chatter will begin to quiet down.
#4: Pay Attention To Your Late Night Thoughts
Ever found yourself laying in bed and experiencing deeper than usual thoughts about your life? Well, there’s a reason that it seems like our intuition grows louder as it gets closer to bedtime.
This reason has to do with our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that’s responsible for attention, memory, and planning.
As we get tired, our prefrontal cortex begins to shut down. It’s still operating of course, but not at the peak levels that you experience in the few hours after you wake up.
This reduced activity of the prefrontal cortex means that the other parts of the brain are able to operate more freely. We’re more likely to entertain thoughts and ideas that our prefrontal cortex would likely shift off of earlier in the day.
When your head is on your pillow, there’s nothing urgent that demands your attention and focus, which allows your intuition to run free without any resistance.
Take advantage of this! I’ve found that the late hours of the night are when I’m hit with some of the most powerful insights about my own life:
- The long-term direction that I want to take this blog in
- Bad habits that I need to get rid of & Good habits that I need to start building
- People that I should spend more time with
- My deepest values and whether or not I’m living in alignment with them.
It’s not that these kinds of thoughts never come up during the day, but the chaos of the day can sometimes hinder the depth of these internal conversations.
Lean into these thoughts and try to notice common themes. If you want to take things a step further, keep a journal next to your bed and write down anything important that pops up in your conscious mind.
If before you get to bed every night, you’re hearing things like, “I really need to start exercising again” or “I’m not sure if I’m making my friends a big enough priority in my life,” that’s your brain signaling you to create a plan of action to address these thoughts.
These aren’t just blips on the radar — it’s your intuition’s way of announcing things that are in need of repair, and that voice isn’t going anywhere until you start taking consistent action.
#5: Read Books About How To Tap Into Your Intuition
There are plenty of self-improvement books that will teach you how to tap into your intuition, and cover the topic much more extensively than this blog post.
With this blog, I do my best to share insights about self-development with the hope that my work is able to positively impact the lives of others.
But by no means am I a leading authority figure in the self-development world — at least not yet:)
There are people much smarter than me who have written about tapping into intuition in great detail.
Here’s a list of a few of the best books on the subject:
- Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
- Gut Feelings: The Intelligence Of The Unconscious by Gerd Gigerenzer
- Second Sight By Juith Orloff
- How To Hear What You Know By Jan L. Bowen
Any of these books will teach you more about your own inner wisdom and the amazing ways that you can use it to your benefit on a daily basis.
FAQ’s On How To Tap Into Your Intuition
After reading all of the advice suggested above, you may still have a couple of questions about how to tap into your intuition.
Hopefully, the following section of this article answers some of those questions so you can get to work on developing your inner wisdom.
How Do I Activate My Intuition?
The good news about intuition is that you don’t need to activate it at all! It’s already there, speaking to you on a minute by minute basis.
It’s an unconscious process that’s been around for thousands of years. The question isn’t whether or not you need to activate it, the question is whether or not you’re going to listen to it.
How Do You Know When Your Intuition Is Talking To You?
“I feel like I should do this or stop doing this but I don’t know why.”
If you find yourself experiencing this kind of feeling, then that’s a good sign that your intuition is trying to speak to you.
With intuition, you’re not always gonna be able to pinpoint the source of your confidence in a particular course of action, and that’s okay!
Your unconscious mind is a black box. It’s not important to know the reasons for your intuitive thoughts, you just need to be aware of them.
Achieving the state of awareness that allows your intuition to flourish means being fully locked into the present moment.
So if your mind feels noisy, then the mindfulness practices mentioned earlier will help you quiet your mind, leaving more room for your intuition.
Final Thoughts On How To Tap Into Your Intuition
That wraps up this article on how to tap into your intuition and start harnessing the power of your inner wisdom.
Intuition is an incredible source of power in your life if you’re willing to act on it. That little voice in your head is there for a reason — to steer you towards a more meaningful life.
Despite its power, intuition does have its limitations. We touched on these limitations earlier so I won’t rehash them here, but the point is that you’ve gotta let your rational mind have it’s say as well.
If you can learn to strike a balance between following your gut and taking a step back to let your analytical mind work, you’ll start trusting yourself and your ability to handle whatever life throws your way.
Moreover, the feedback you get from following your intuition will make you wiser, which will help you make better decisions in the future whenever you find yourself in conflict.