As a child growing up in a gang-ridden section of Chicago, I learned about the importance of listening to my gut very early on in life. Over the years I've honed my instincts and consider keen intuition the most critical resource available to me. On more than one occasion it may have even saved my life.

From a subtle knowing that gently resides within, to a persistent, nagging feeling, your intuition demands your attention on a daily basis. It may tell you who's on the other end of a ringing phone before you answer it, or guide you toward the best choice to make when faced with a decision of any size. As it has for me, it may even keep you out of harm's way.

Yet many people aren't in tune with their instincts, or simply don't trust them. How do you tell the difference between an off-target or misleading thought and an intuitive hit? And how is it possible to rev up your intuition when you've never been consistently in touch with it? Here are a few of the ways that I do it, and you can too.

Get out of your head.

When faced with a decision or at a pivot point in life, avoid the stress of thinking about it until you're overwhelmed, confused, or frustrated. Instead, state your intentions to receive the guidance you need and relax. Go to sleep, take a soothing bath, exercise, or take a long walk in nature. Don't focus on your options, just give your brain a break and have a little faith in yourself. When the answer comes it may be in form of a sense of certainty, you might get a sensation in your gut or heart. Everyone is different, get to know how your intuition speaks to you. Listen to your body and don't question your new awareness. And seriously, don't go back to the brain to justify or question your choice, you've already examined the pros and cons relentlessly--just do it. 

Practice working with your sixth sense.

From time-to-time nearly everyone has a hunch about something. You know, those times you say, I just knew that was going to happen! Bring that voice out more often to gain confidence in it and to learn to trust it.

  • The next time you have a hunch about something write it down and check back later to see if you were right. Take guesses on things that will have a clearly defined outcome, like which team will win or if it will really rain, as the weather channel predicts. 
  • Work with a deck of cards to see how often you can predict the color of the next card. No pressure, forcing a choice will keep your intuition at bay. Just go with your first instinct and have fun. 
  • Prior to going to sleep at night, set an intention to wake up with the answer to something you've been pondering or don't have clarity on. Do this night after night and trust that the answer will come, probably when you least expect it.

Meditate, and no, you don't have to turn off your brain.

There's a misperception that meditation means to have a blank mind--that is nearly impossible! Thoughts will naturally come to you as you relax and focus on your breathing. Trying to block these thoughts causes resistance and will keep you from achieving your meditative state. Instead, create a visual representation for each thought: see it rolling away on a gentle wave, carried away in a colorful balloon, or simply vanishing into the air. 

Some of your most profound awarenesses may come during or soon after a daily meditation. The relaxed state induced by meditation is known as alpha. This is the state that helps you learn, memorize, interact, and read the thoughts and emotions of others and yourself. A daily meditation practice takes you into this alpha state, and therefore more in tune with the intuitive process.

Note: The benefits of meditation are many and go well beyond honing your intuition!

Get in tune with your body.

When you make a decision for the wrong reasons: like one that's fear-based or comes from a desire to please someone else, your body will clearly communicate the rift between your actions and the choice that, deep down inside, you know would be better for you. Sadly, many people are so accustomed to feeling crappy that they pay no attention to this communication. 

Your mind and body have the power to keep you in line with your  values and the choices that will best keep you in alignment with them. Think about a time when, deep down inside, you knew you were making a poor decision and your body told you so. Your stomach ached, you got a headache, your back or neck tensed up, or you simply had a nagging feeling in your gut. Don't ignore these messages, Go meditate and get in touch with your mindful, healthy self! 

From leadership to parenting to good health and  happiness, this gift possessed by each and every one of us has the power to make life and business so much easier. Just consider it as you would a great mentor and follow its advice!