The importance of intuition and five ways to developing your intuition
Developing your intuition means being able to access one of the most powerful tools of our mind, a tool honed by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Let’s find out how to do it in practice.
“I believe deeply in intuitions. Sometimes I can feel that what I’ve discovered is correct, even though I can’t know it yet.” – Albert Einstein.
Here we have always given ample space to practical and rational approaches to achieving our goals.
What can you do, it’s the condemnation of being an engineer!
As a lover of social sciences, however, I have learned not to neglect a whole series of abilities that doze in the depths of our mind and that often prove far more powerful than those of our pre-frontal cortex.
An example of these archaic and profound capacities? Our intuition.
Developing your intuition can in fact have benefits in the most varied areas of our life …
- The intuition in the decisions helps us not to make mistakes of which we could repent bitterly.
- The intuition to correctly judge people helps us to have better relationships.
- The intuition at work helps us accelerate our career.
Combining intuition and logic (heart and brain) therefore means fully exploiting our human potential.
In this article we will see together what really intuition is, why you must not ignore it and why developing your intuition to the maximum.
But let’s start from the definition of intuition and let’s try to discover it in an intuitive way!
What is intuition? This is its true meaning
See the picture with the 9 black dots above? Well, if it’s more convenient for you to reproduce it on a piece of paper.
In fact, to make you fully understand the true definition of intuition, I want to offer you a simple exercise.
Starting from the image above you will need to draw four straight lines (not one more) that connect all 9 black points. But you will have to do it without ever lifting the pencil from the paper. In short, every new straight line must start where the other ends. Can you do it?
Please take a few minutes to complete the exercise.
Once you have guessed the solution, you can verify that it is the correct one below proposal, which is only ONE of the possible solutions, but as soon as you see it all will be clear to you …
Did you do the exercise? Have you verified that you found one of the correct solutions? OK, then let’s continue.
If you managed to complete the exercise (without first looking at the solution of course), something very interesting happened in your head …
- At one point everything seemed clear, simple, almost banal.
- It is as if suddenly a new neural connection had been created between pre-existing knowledge and new knowledge.
- You instinctively understood that the solution found was correct.
In other words, you managed to solve the exercise thanks to an … intuition.
It is defined as intuition …
“The ability to clearly understand a problem, a situation or a person and quickly reach a correct solution or interpretation.”
Developing your intuition therefore helps to solve complex problems, providing us with original (and naturally correct) solutions. But what is even more interesting, it allows us to do it quickly, an indispensable requirement when, we have to find quick and functional remedies for challenges that threatened our own survival.
No, don’t worry, if you haven’t managed to solve the exercise above in a few moments it’s completely natural, it happens too many. It simply means that the time has come to awaken your intuition, and this is precisely the purpose of the article.
Let’s first look at how intuitions work …
DNA of an intuition
To understand how intuitions work, we must first understand what blocks our intuition.
If you had difficulty resolving the exercise of the lines and dots it was probably because …
- You had not understood the problem well, or rather you had taken for granted some hypotheses (e.g. “I can draw lines only within the imaginary perimeter of the dots”).
- You have fossilized about your initial idea and you have not been able to think outside the box (in short, you have not exploited the so-called lateral thinking).
- You have continued to apply the same (wrong) approach differently, instead of trying new ones (in practice you have drawn 732 different lines within the same perimeter, without trying to get out of that perimeter).
Faced with a new problem, a new situation or a new person, it is completely natural to have prejudices, that is to say, to apply ways of thinking to which we are already accustomed.
We don’t do it by malice: the prejudices and implicit hypotheses (also known as cognitive bias) are the way in which our brain saves time and energy.
Being aware of it, however, is the first step to broaden our views and strengthen our intuition.
If what we have just seen blocks our intuitions, what is it that facilitates them?
How intuitions work
“Intuition is the ability to see with our soul.” – Dean Koontz.
Mark Beeman, a Northwestern University neuroscientist and author of the book “Eureka factor”, is perhaps one of the greatest experts in the world on the subject of intuitions. According to Beeman, there are three elements that make up an intuition …
1) The solution is found at an unconscious level: We often have an intuition when we are not at all thinking (consciously) about that given problem. A classic example is the brilliant ideas we have while we are maybe taking a shower.
2) Our mind is relaxed: Taking the example of the shower again, many people have insights under the sound of hot water, precisely because that is one of the few moments in which we really relax. Here, calm and good humor are the humus for the best intuitions.
3) We are pervaded by a sense of surprise: When the sudden response emerges in our conscious mind it takes us almost off guard, but this surprise induces a fundamental sense of confidence to have new insights in the future.
Technically speaking, an intuition is nothing but a forgotten memory or a new combination of neural pathways.
Well, now that we know the genesis of an intuition, we discover how to have more and more correct intuitions.
5 practical strategies to developing your intuition
Expressions such as “female intuition” can suggest that intuition is something with which one is born (especially if one is born a woman).
There is no doubt that the female gender has a sixth sense that, at times, appears to be supernatural, but like most mental skills, intuition can also be trained and even boys can strengthen their own.
Let’s see some practical tips for doing this (whether you are a woman or a man) …
1) Expand your vocabulary
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein.
More and more studies confirm that language has been one of the most important achievements for mankind.
We take the ability to communicate through the written and spoken word so much for granted, that we don’t even realize how the world would be without our ability to communicate.
Another aspect that we underestimate is the impact that language has on our thinking.
In other words (and it is appropriate to say this), the poorer our language is, the more limited and repetitive our thoughts will be. On the contrary, having a wide vocabulary and evolved language skills allows us to have a more articulate, deep and varied thought, essential characteristics to make new insights blossom.
The first thing you can therefore do to developing your intuition is to strengthen our vocabulary and the most effective way to do it is without doubt to read, read and still read !
2) Give up
The personal growth industry is full of slogans and bullshit as “if you want you can”, “you have to believe it”, “never give up”, “impossible is nothing”, “we need ringworm”.
For heaven’s sake, sometimes a bit of ignorant motivation is also there, but we can’t live our lives thanks to injections of adrenaline motivation.
And this is also true for those problems or decisions we have been beating our heads for too long without getting to the bottom of them.
Forget about having the right intuition by continuing to give heads on the same wall.
Sometimes, the only way to move forward is to surrender.
Let me explain.
The more we get stuck on the same wrong solution (do you remember the exercise of the 9 dots), the more we lose sight of alternative solutions. According to the theory of inhibition of the psychologist Stellan Ohlsson, in fact, to make correct intuition mature we must inhibit the wrong solutions.
Here, in this sense, surrendering (temporarily), or freeing the energies used in the conscious effort to find a logical solution, allows our mind to activate the mechanism of intuition.
In short, the next time you find yourself going crazy behind an apparently unsolvable problem, pull the plug, take a walk in the outdoors, go out with your friends, and take a hot bath. Let intuition do its job.
And nothing, now meditation has become the panacea for all ills!
Seriously, meditation is undoubtedly one of the most effective tools for developing your intuition.
Unlike what many people think, meditation is not a relaxation technique (of course, it can also help you relax): meditation is a technique of introspection.
Meditating therefore means observing one’s mind without judgment.
Doing it daily helps us to become aware of the deceptions of our ego, but also of those repetitive mental patterns in which we often get stuck and that block our intuitions.
4) Cultivate your empathy
As seen, it is often the inability to get out of our usual mental patterns that blocks our intuitions.
In short, we live too much in our minds, in our subjective reality and we are not used to thinking differently, to putting ourselves in others’ shoes.
To strengthen our intuition we must therefore learn to cultivate our empathy, that ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others.
This is done in practice by striving to see the world, the problems and situations with the eyes of those around us, but it is also done by exploring different cultures and contexts from those to which we are accustomed and of course it is done traveling, traveling really, not flying over new lands in the all-inclusive bubbles of some travel package.
To conclude …
Well, we have reached the end of this article dedicated to intuition. I hope it tickled your neurons, but above all I hope it will prove useful to you.
The fifth and final strategy that I wanted to propose to you to cultivate your intuition has to do with creativity. In fact we will hardly have original intuitions if we let our creativity atrophy. For this fifth indication, however, I didn’t want to limit myself to a couple of paragraphs of advice. In fact, I thought to let you train your creativity immediately thanks to a test specially developed to reinforce this ability of our mind.