It was 11:15 pm on a Friday night as I drove down the four-lane road toward home, I came to a red light and stopped accordingly in the center lane. I sat there for about four seconds before something odd happened. A strong feeling came over me, telling that  I should move into the left-hand turn lane. It made no sense because if I headed west it would take me off course. I was tired and just wanted to get to bed, but I changed lanes just in time to execute the turn. 

Within seconds I heard the sound of screeching brakes followed by the awful crashing sounds of an automobile accident. Back at the light, still red, a car had come barreling around the corner, colliding into the vehicle that had been in front of me in the center lane. Had I not listened to my instincts I would have been the victim of a serious accident. To this day, I'm grateful that I listened to that intuitive voice.

Successful people use and trust their intuition.

We all have these innate abilities but it's too easy to ignore the gut feelings, the subtle messages, and the visual cues that don't always make sense. 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."

Great CEO's, like Steve Jobs, say their intuition has led them to success. Jobs was known to frequently credit his intuitive mind as having a significant impact on his life and work. "You have to trust in something," he said during a speech at Stanford. "Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

Jeff Bezos is all about using his intuitive abilities. "If you can make a decision with analysis, you should do so. But it turns out in life that your most important decisions are always made with instinct and intuition, taste, heart," he says.

Intuition is invaluable to entrepreneurs since it can help you make sound decisions and choices, produce solutions, and give you creative insights and ideas. Practice honing your intuition; it's one of the most significant ingredients to success. 

Recognize your intuitive "hits".

How often have you thought about someone when the phone rings and there they are? You've probably seen a quick image in your mind and written it off, only to find out later that it was somehow relevant to what's going on in your life. Some people experience a gut feeling, nagging thought, and even physical responses, like goosebumps or dry mouth. For some, these hits come in the form of an inner voice or a knowing that they feel they can't explain. And some people receive what they refer to as "signs" that lead them in a specific direction or give them valuable insights.

You've had experiences like these, but have you paid attention? Keep a journal or app handy and write down anything that could be your intuition speaking to you. As you connect the dots, you'll have a greater awareness and appreciation of this natural ability.

Practice empathy.

People who have honed their intuitive skills are empathetic. They understand and respect how others feel and can easily build trust because of that knowledge. Instead of judging others, disregarding their feelings, or jumping to conclusions, practice putting yourself in their shoes. This heightened awareness will help you to tune into the instinctive senses that can help you build valuable, meaningful relationships.

Pay attention to sudden or unusual feelings.

Have you ever walked into a place and suddenly felt uneasy? Perhaps you've met someone for the first time and felt a strong, unexplained connection. Or, you know immediately that you really don't want to know them at all. Has there been a time that you're about to sign on the dotted line or otherwise agree to something when you get a strange or foreign feeling? You may feel as though you "know" it's the right decision, or that it's completely wrong.

These are all signs that your intuition is speaking up, sometimes offering a warning sign--sometimes telling you that what you're doing is just right. If it's the former, buy more time to sit on your decision.

Journal.

Many highly successful people cite journaling as a key to their success and wealth, including Tim Ferriss, Oprah Winfrey, and TOMS founder Blake Mycowski. Some of Hollywood's leading performers keep journals, including Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, and Jennifer Aniston.

Journaling is a highly effective way to access your intuition and capture the thoughts and feelings that come to the surface. Journal for just five or ten minutes a day to increase your clarity and sort out your emotions.

Visualize a specific outcome.

Olympic medalist, Lindsey Vonn, says her visualization practice gives her a competitive advantage on the course. "I always visualize the run before I do it," Vonn says. "By the time I get to the start gate, I've run that race 100 times already in my head, picturing how I'll take the turns."

Spend time each day reading your goals out loud and visualizing your success. This will activate your creativity, increase your awareness, and build your internal motivation. 

Meditate.

LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, swears by meditation, saying that it has a positive impact on his productivity and helps him to practice empathy and compassion.

Many perceive meditation as the act of emptying the mind. That's not even possible for most human beings, but we can calm and focus the mind. By letting go of everything but the moment you're in, you can learn to block the negative chatter in your brain. When you block out irrelevant noise will you gain more clarity and recognize your intuitive hits as they come along. Meditation also balances your right and left brain hemispheres, so that you can use both your strategy and instincts.

Make your intuition a top priority. Neuroscience research concludes that intuitive insights not captured within 37 seconds will likely never be recalled again. Don't let these valuable nuggets of wisdom slip through your fingers.

Published on: May 6, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.