The power of intuition for smart decision-making

Great leaders including Steve Jobs often made profound decisions based on their intuition. Intuition, you will find, is something that has served them well. Ekaterina Voznesenkaia dives into the power of intuition.

How often do you listen to yourself? How often do you feel that something is going right or wrong? You cannot explain why, you simply feel it. How often do you follow your instinct, follow your gut – follow your intuition?

The concept of intuition, the idea of making successful decisions without analytical thought, has intrigued philosophers and scientists since the time of the ancient Greeks.

‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. But you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future’

Many people use the phrase ‘intuition’ to describe a sensation or feeling they have when making decisions. When we are asking “Why have you done this?” or “Why have you made this choice?”, in most cases we cannot explain, cannot give some logical reasoning why we are doing so. When you decide to change your profession and start something new, completely different and exciting, you have no doubt. Your simply know it is for you. When you feel in love with a person who will become your husband or wife, you feel it with your heart. And you have never analysed and never doubted why you have chosen these people as your best friends. Sometimes we cannot explain, but we feel.

Gigerenzer, author of the book Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, said: “In my scientific work, I have hunches. I can’t explain always why I think a certain path is the right way, but I need to trust it and go ahead. I also have the ability to check these hunches and find out what they are about. That’s the science part. Now, in private life, I rely on instinct. For instance, when I first met my wife, I didn’t do computations. Nor did she.”

At the moment when we do not intend to assess and to anticipate, when we know immediately that this is the solution and the right decision, when we have some intuitive knowledge without deliberate, effortful mental work, at this very moment we are are ‘thinking fast’. Daniel Kahnemann in his book Thinking fast and Slow devised two systems: System 1 and System 2. The author describes System 1 as “effortlessly originating impressions and feelings that occur automatically with no sense of voluntary control2. System 1 is intuitive, instant, unconscious, automatic, and emotional. System 2 involves deliberate thinking, effortful mental activities, analysis and complex computations. These two systems constantly interact with each other, as

System 1 generates suggestions for System 2: impressions, intuitions, intentions and feelings, which then turn into beliefs and conscious actions. Interestingly, we would rather identify ourselves as conscious and reasoning thinkers rather than intuitive thinkers.

Albert Einstein said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Developing the sacred gift of intuition

How can we develop the sacred gift of intuition? By learning to follow our heart. By learning to feel.

Remember yourself making life changing decisions that will affect your future. In most cases we need some time to think it over, consider all the details, assess the risks and predict the possible consequences, and only then after a long deliberate analysis we are coming to some logical conclusion and making a final decision. We tend to leverage the power of our mind – the ability to focus, organize, categorize, reason, and problem solve. But let us remember that our mind reflects the presence through the past. All the decisions we are making in our mind are densely connected with our past experience, our past anxieties, fear and doubts.

Ray Wikins said: “Follow your heart and your mind will create.”

Our heart and our mind can exist in harmony and create such miracles when we learn to open our heart to love, gratitude, inspiration and joy. When we learn to trust ourselves, we will access expansive heart energy – energy of peace and presence. And this energy will keep our mind calm, holistic and balanced. All is interconnected. Our intuitive feelings and impressions help generate our beliefs and choices. Emotions always come first, and it is very important to feel yourself in this moment. How do you feel? What do you feel? Does it make you happy or cause anxiety? Where do you feel it in your body?

Florence Scovel Shinn said: “Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.”

Vivien Ainley, a neuropsychologist at the University of London said that people who have a natural capacity to monitor the internal state of their own body have been shown “to be more intuitive, experience stronger emotional arousal, have better memory for emotional material, and perhaps be better able to control their negative emotions.” Attention to your feelings is absolutely crucial. What do you feel when you come to work – what do you feel in your body? Learn to listen to yourself and how emotions affect your sensations.

I can say that when I started observing my feelings every day in many different situations with different people, I have got to know myself better. Many things have become a revelation, and, most important, I have become a true revelation for myself. It helped me to trust myself, trust my intuition.

Looking back at my past, I can say that most life changing decisions I made were quick and intuitive, and I have never regretted it. Yes, they have changed my life. For example, when I got a chance to move to Ireland from Russia, I knew I would do it. Not because I wanted to leave Russia. I absolutely love Russia. Not because I wanted to change my profession and start a new happier life. I was happy in Moscow with my family and friends. But I felt I had to move, as I would grow. I felt it would be a big change for me, for my personality. I didn’t know what change it would be, but I trusted life.

Trust your gut

Picture of a young Steve Jobs with the words 'think different' in front

Albert Einstein said: “I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.”

From Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, both the most influential physicist of the 20th century and the co-founder of Apple agreed that one trait was at the heart of their success: intuition.

Great leaders make smart decisions and they come to it through prolonged practice. When people constantly learn, explore, research and are naturally curious, the knowledge is stored in memory and intuition comes subconsciously. Throughout his whole life Steve Jobs had never stopped exploring and creating new things. When he was twenty he started Apple in his parents’ garage and 10 years later Apple had grown into a two billion dollar company. When Steve Jobs just turned 30, he was fired from Apple. And he describes this period as the most creative period in his life. He started a company named NeXT, he then set up another company named Pixar, and fell in love with a wonderful woman who became his wife.

In his Stanford commencement address Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. But you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future. You have to trust in something: in your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing in the dot will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart even if it leads you off the worn-well path. Sometimes life can hit you in the head with a brick, don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

I truly believe in the huge power of intuition. Following your intuition is an exciting process of discovery, exploration and creation. You become a revelation for yourself. You are learning to trust yourself. You are creating your new self. You are getting more confident in everything what you are doing. When making a life changing decision, you are absolutely sure, it is the right one. Every day you are changing, you are different. Every day you wake up with a very special feeling. Feeling of yourself.

Main image: Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash  

Written by Ekaterina Voznesenkaia 

Published: 25 October 2019