6 Ways to Sharpen Your Intuition

The primary force is intuition. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their origin – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Practical Intuition

Your intuition is a shortcut to productivity, insight, knowledge, innovation, and decision-making. So how do you harness your intuition?

You Have The Ability To Solve Problems Instantly

Have you ever looked at a problem and known the root cause and the solution – instantly – without research? You’ve been taught to distrust that inner voice, right? So you test your intuition with empirical trial and your intuition is usually right, isn’t it?

You have the ability to solve problems instantly if you trust yourself. We all do. So how do we harness the power of our inner creator – the voice that cuts through all the bullshit and tells us the truth?

Six Ways to Strengthen Your Intuition:

1. Use your natural empathy – Imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. Better yet go experience what they’re experiencing. If you are working a helpdesk and someone calls from the factory floor complaining about the speed of the printer, don’t sit at your monitor looking at graphs and metrics. Get off your ass and go down to floor and see what’s going on. Go feel their pain! Get your whole self involved it will strengthen your intuition. Great battlefield generals know this. Get out of your bunker and ride up to the front line and see it, feel it, and act on it. Experience what others are experiencing.

2. Allow yourself to feel your fear and flow past it – You don’t like fear do you? I don’t either. But most of us will have to live with it and find a way to make it our friend instead of our enemy. Unless you are superman and have transcended fear, you’ll have to find a way to harness it for good intent. Fear blocks intuition and is strengthened when we resist it. Allow yourself to feel your fear. Don’t resist any part of it. Don’t bury it. Focus directly upon it and ride it through to the end. You will come out the other side stronger with more clarity. Allowing yourself to feel your fear strengthens your intuition because it teaches you to listen to you inner world and accept it for what it is instead of fighting it.

3. Connect with others on an emotional level – When you engage with another person, face to face, on the phone, or online, try to read their emotions. Name their emotions. Does the person sound angry, happy, hopeful, joyous, depressed, or sad? The more you connect with others emotions, the deeper your understanding of social situations and the better your intuition will function. Intuitive hunches and abstract ideas come from the same place inside you that form your emotions, so the better you are able to read and identify emotions in others the better you will be able to create and communicate via intuition. Identifying and naming emotions within yourself and others is a powerful exercise.

4. Shut down internal judgments – When you find yourself judging someone or something – including yourself – that isn’t intuition, its negative energy that blocks your intuition. When you hear the critic in your mind saying, “he’s stupid”, “she’s ugly”, “I’m fat”, or “I’m gonna lose.” Stop and think – Why did I say that? What part of me is out of alignment? When you hear your inner judge, shut him down – not by burying him, that won’t work, he’ll surface somewhere else – but by forcing a positive question into your consciousness. When I catch myself thinking, “I’ll never get this done.” I consciously change the thought to, “How can I this done?” If I am patient and I listen to my inner voice, it will tell me how I can get it done. When my inner judge says, “it’ll never work”, I ask myself “what part of this idea will work?” or “what is a better idea?” Once you start asking positive questions your sub-conscious mind will start handing over solutions in the form of intuition.

5. Find Solitude – The best way is meditation. Find at least thirty minutes a day to spend alone with your thoughts. Leo at Zen Habits has some great tips for finding time for solitude. Take time to sit alone with your thoughts, feelings, and visualizations. I’ve spent most of my life nearly unaware of all the stuff going on inside me. By taking the time to listen to your inner world, you’ll find out what an amazing magical being you really are. Learning to listen to yourself in solitude will train you to listen to your inner voice when you aren’t alone and will lead to catching powerful intuitive ideas right when you need them.

6. Ask questions – lots of them – This is what I call intuitive bodybuilding. Questioning is the best way to create stronger intuitions. The most powerful creative intuitions will come to you after long question and answer sessions. Get together with a group of curious people and discuss complex issues – philosophical, scientific, sociological, medical, or literary topics. The most power comes not from the answers but from the questions, bringing you down paths you hadn’t considered, spurring further questions and more answers. There is no better way to exercise your intuition than lively question and answer sessions.

Some say intuition isn’t scientific and isn’t reasonable. They are right and wrong. The creative intuitive idea isn’t scientific unless you can prove it. However, all science starts with hypothesis. And a hypothesis comes from where? Good ones, creative ones, original ones, come from your intuition – a mental flash – the Eureka.

All things find their origin in intuition – Emerson

32 thoughts on “6 Ways to Sharpen Your Intuition”

  1. One of the best lines from Dune:

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

  2. Thanks for sharing some practical ways to build intuition – one of those things that science cannot explain yet which we experience many times. (After several years of marriage I am a firm believer in female intuition.)

  3. Of all the excellent points you made, I find that #4 – Shut down internal judgments is the most important. It relates to meditation, which involves shutting down your internal voice, and a host of other things, that basically amount to, “shut up and listen!” This practice will also make you a better listener in general. Many people, especially in an emotionally charged situation, answer questions and statement in their head long before the sentence has actually been finished. One of the primary symptoms of this behavior is something that my wife calls, “Yabut disease”. In this case whoever you are talking to seems to answer every statement you make with “Ya, but… that won’t work because… (insert reason here)” What has happened is they have already crafted their response before you’ve even finished talking. Unfortunately, we all too often do this to ourselves as well. So if you really want to listen to your intuition, then do yourself a favor: shut up and listen 😉

  4. In the Notesbooks of Lazarus Long Robert Heinlein once said

    Man is not a rational animal. Man is a rationalizing animal.

    I don’t know about most people, but I know it’s true in my life. In the best of cases, as you described, this turns into something akin to the scientific method, with hypotheses being tested for their truth or falsity. In the worst of cases, it turns into bigotry and holding to a belief or attitude because you know it’s true. In either case, the starting point is intuition.

    Whether intuition is a separate faculty or not from reasoning, I don’t know. It may be reasoning done at an unconscious level. Separate or not, it’s much faster than conscious reasoning, as likely to be accurate for most of us, and its capacity to lead us to something new or creative is matched only by direct experience.

    That said, your numbers 5 and 6 have been the most useful to me. Meditation opens channels to previously unconscious areas we can reach in no other way. Questioning can happen only when we are looking at something from a new angle. It helps us look at things in a new way, gives us new data to work with, and builds more connections between the arrays of things we do know. With more connections, we have more to work with. More to work with, and the more likely our intuition is to pop up with something.

  5. Hey Steve,

    I would like to offer another view. We fear because we do not have the knowledge of what we are facing. We fear the unknown. To conquer fear is to understand why we fear, what we fear and how we can face it. Once you learn how to handle fear. Problems are easy to solve.

    And nice pointer on #4. I call it channeling your negative energy into a positive action.

    Great Post

  6. In point six you talk about getting together as a group and talking about whatever. For years I have wanted to do this but I don’t seem to be able to get anyone else willing to participate. I know I should be saying how can I get people interested in group discussions. I have tried several different ways but I am just not having any luck. Any advice would be great.

  7. Lifehacker baby!!! Haha, just saw they picked it up. Great post, Steve. I’ve found the more I educate myself, the more it helps me recognize the power of my intuition and act on it.

  8. @Phil – I’ve had groups of friends like that, but I don’t have one right now. I’m thinking of trying to create one online via Skype or something.

    @John – Never been linked to by Lifehacker. It’s a first and it feels good. Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. Lot’s of good stuff here. There is a definitive source for all one might wish to think about regarding a modern concept of intuition here In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell applies several anecdotes and scientific studies to support his “Thin Slicing” concept, which basically equates to intuition. Check it out. (I’m not affiliated with him or the book, I just liked the name.)

  10. Finding solitude is so important, but it’s one of the toughest things in the world to dedicate that time to yourself and setting aside all the other things you need to get done. Thanks for the pointer to Leo’s tips on how to do that….

  11. Pingback: Rethink.
  12. I thoroughly disagree with this post, but thank you for posting it: it is definitely well-written, to the point, and helped me clear up my own thinking on these issues.

    I’d better subscribe to your blog. I think I wanna fight about whether Reddit traffic is worth it.

  13. Ashok,

    I read you blog retort to my post. I admire your mind and have been reading your blog for awhile. I think I understand your disagreement…

    I firmly believe in the spiritual and the mystical part of life. I also believe in Emotional Intelligence and EQ. However, while I do love Emerson and Thoreau I am not a pacifist and I do not endorse universal tolerance. I abhor socialism and authoritarianism and I have used violence to defend myself and others I love and I won’t hesitate to do so again in the future if necessary.

    I love reddit and I like the traffic, but I don’t know if it is the long term audience for my writing. Again I believe in the abstract and non-tangible, the Reddit audience shuns that type of thinking.

  14. Great list. Facing our fears is probably the hardest one on the list. I haven’t considered trying it, but it will probably be ok. I’ve seen a lot of people with phobias who bypassed their fears by interacting with it constantly.

  15. Thanks so much for reading that entry! I’m definitely going to have something more positive to say in favor of where this post of yours is going, but it’ll take some time – intuition is actually a concept that gets treated in the Critique of Pure Reason, and I don’t know that I’m looking forward to rereading those entries.

    Reddit and I have had more than our share of disagreements, and they haven’t been pleasant. The crowd there is really smart with technical stuff – super smart with that stuff, actually. I wonder if that impacts their ability to make arguments? They seem to like stuff that is conspiracy theoryish.

    Do you use StumbleUpon? I like that crowd a lot.

  16. I agree with the list. Asking a lot of questions in no doubt a strong way to strengthen our intuition. With the increasing amount of information we have, the decisions we make are more accurate.

  17. Steve:

    You keep popping up in unexpected places! Is there a message in this? Perhaps…perhaps not. But I know that the universe is at work here. The law of attraction too. And then there is this intuition thing.

    I find that ideas flow to me when I’m doing other things and not focusing at the question at hand. For instance, if my pressing question is how to get my name out there or how to get more speaking engagements, ideas will bubble up to the surface when I’m taking a shower, working out at the gym or walking in the forest – alone. Sometimes I’m fortunate to have a notepad and pen on me. I carry one in my car because these ideas are fleeting and easily forgotten if one doesn’t record it immediately.

    Nice job. I find it interesting that your name keeps popping up in my “Internet life.” Hmmmm…..

    Oh by the way, since you write so well, I bet you’d have some interesting things to share with your readers about overcoming/facing adversity. I’m conducting an interactive experiment over at Adversity University about this. You can click on the link to my name above if you want more information. I hope you’re inspired to participate in this life-changing project I’ve launched. (At least I think it’s life changing because adversity does not discriminate – it affects all of us).


  18. My advice is to ask for the question, and listen for the answer. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and it’s amazing how clear and to the point the answers are now.

  19. Start check out some of your top reading post here. This is great tips.

    I have one little intuition secret to share here:
    Focus on NOW!

    future is illusion, past is past, focus on this moment to make a different. This words really help my intuition and productivity. To apply your tips above on this focus, i think this is create tremendous result.

  20. Great advice, probably the best things I have ever done have been because I have followed my intution (or my gut). I forgot that for a few years and my life was not as good as it was when I followed my intution. Since I’ve changed my outlook, my life is changing…. for the better.

  21. I join to the focus on Now advice and as a person that mediates everyday and has just recently moved to live in nature I can really say that it easier to listen to follow your intuition if you are in a quiet place.
    We tend to feel and echo other people’s feeling and thoughts so sometimes in order to gain clarity and understand what is it ours and what’s not one has to distance himself from the crowd.

  22. 6 Brilliant Ways to get better intuition. Wow, I love this blog 🙂

    Seriously though, I’ve been searching for ways to develop my intuition and I’m glad I found your blog. I’ve commented on a few articles but this is a very important one to me.

    I usually find that I don’t trust myself enough and that I judge things prematurely. The first thing necessary to curing something is to know that it exists.

    Thanks always and Cheers!

    Brad Spencer

  23. i have been intuitive my whole life, and most o my time and life is spent internally then out externally. Intuition is basically spirit guides. when each and everyone of us was born, spirits also were reborn to be our spirit guides. these spirit guides are also growing and strenghtening their spirits. Their purpose is to guide, teach, love, laugh, play, basically everything you would do with a friend. they are the best friends anyone can wish for because they are pure, and loyal. So intuition is your spirit guides helping you. they give you answers or thoughts or ideas etc. I feel our creator knew this world was way too much for a spirit to handle without their memory. To strenghten your intuition i would recommand growing the friendship you have with your spirit guide. build the trust between eachother. Sit in a quiet place and talk to yourself, and use your imagination. daydream, let your mind free. Create characters and pay attention to those characters. pay attention to your emotions and your tone of voice as you speak out loud. Your spirit guide will be mixed in the imagination. imagination is the best and most powerful gift our creator gave us. It’s the door to the spirit world. Also have patience, it takes time to start recognizing your spirit guides. they are very subtle and extremely positive. anything negative is NOT your spirit guide so pay no attention to it. peace

  24. I have little idea where intuition originates, but do not doubt that it can be learned and applied to great effect. Thank you for this user-friendly guide to tapping this magnificent and inexhaustible resource. I have already experimented with a few of these techniques which were new to me, with success!

    I came across this post in researching a recent article of mine (http://exm.nr/ji3BRq) regarding the role of intuition in our intimate relationships, and this was the clearest, most practical guide to getting started that I was able to find, even though it’s nearly four years old – bravo! I’d love to hear what you have to say on some of the conclusions I drew on the subject, should you be interested in checking it out.

    Thanks again for the advice. 🙂

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