How to develop your intuition

The Oxford dictionary has a simple definition of intuition that I like: “A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning”. Intuition is the ability to quickly take different thoughts that may have slipped below one’s consciousness  and to put them together to create a decision, a direction, or an idea. We’ve all experienced intuition but rarely think much about it.

Leaders need intuition because it fuels agility and creativity in the workplace. Intuition guides those snap judgment moments where things become very clear even when you weren’t thinking much about them. They most often come from within you but may have been “sparked” by something in the external environment.

Seasoned leaders use their intuition often because there are so many “unknowns” in their work, their employees, and the world today. It enables vision for their organization and themselves. Even if you are a new or budding leader, you can start now to build your intuitive capacity. Here are some ways to begin to get better at it:

Notice what stimulates your intuition: You may already inherently know how to stimulate your intuitive gifts. Many people say that taking a shower is a good way to come up with new insight. Others like to take a walk in the woods or a drive in their car with the radio and other distractions turned off. If these work for you, continue using them. If not, consider the following.

Start reflecting: A reflective practice with questions you ask yourself is a great way to “see” patterns and to put together information in such a way that you get insight you haven’t had before. This kind of reflective practice doesn’t have to take long either – note this post on “Reflection in 15 minutes with bullet points” for a way to start a brief reflective practice.

Learn to pay attention to your physical sensations and emotions: One of the first places an “intuitive hit” can appear is in your physical body. You’ve heard the expression, “gut feeling”? Well, that is real, as scientists have discovered neurons in the gut (and the heart, as well as sensory organs). Noticing physical sensations that may lead you in a direction (heartbeat speeding up, a tightening in your chest or gut, a change in breathing pattern, etc.) and being curious about why you might be experiencing them is a great way to become more intuitive.

Embrace new experiences and learning: Travelling to an unfamiliar location is, for many, another way to build up your intuitive power. Trying a new creative pursuit or learning a new language helps others. Learning new things is good, because the more you know, the more pieces of information that create those all-important patterns will be available to you.

Leaders with intuition find it easier to make snap decisions and to create a vision. They also tend to have a developed sense of understanding about people, how they behave and how to best lead them. Developing your intuition can make you a better leader.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.