The words intuition and business rarely go hand in hand. Or do they?
If you look at the most successful human beings--I'm talking mega-successful, like Einstein and Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs--they almost all have talked about intuition. Sometimes they've referred to it as "gut feelings" or "instinct," but whatever the name, it's a large part of what guided their steps, preceded their breakthroughs, and gave them access to their best ideas.
Yet Western culture tends to denigrate intuition as being soft or somehow less than logic. As Einstein put it, "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."
In other words, our culture heavily emphasizes rationality and totally neglects intuition. No traditional school teaches how to access intuition. No one (yet) teaches kids to meditate before they study; how to slow down, breathe, and relax their body before coming up with an idea for their science project; or how to do a mindful movement practice before writing their college admissions essay. Children are taught to use their rational mind only, even when it's painful.
Yet someone like Steve Jobs was no stranger to using his intuition. In fact, he had a specific strategy for it: walking barefoot.
Yes, Apple's fearless leader was well known for taking brainstorming meetings while walking around barefoot.
Interestingly, science now backs up use of the practice. According to a Stanford study creatively titled "Give Your Idea Some Legs," walking can boost creative thinking by up to 60 percent. As the researchers put it, "Walking opens up the free flow of ideas."
Opening up that free flow can help your career. In fact, according to Rick Snyder, author of Decisive Intuition: Use Your Gut Instincts to Make Smart Business Decisions, using your intuition is one of the most efficient ways for you to manage your business.
"We make better decisions when we integrate intuition with critical thinking," says Snyder. "Intuition is our deeper intelligence that is able to read the room or the marketplace, make decisions from a wiser resource, and extract data faster than the conscious mind can analyze."
In other words, using your intuition is often more efficient than doing things with the brute force of logic. "When you allow time to slow down in order for your intuition to find you, you arrive at a decision more quickly," says Snyder.
He's not the only one to say so. Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese's), says, "Listening to my gut has guided the most key business decisions in my life."
Stop and consider that for a moment: The founder of two multibillion-dollar businesses says that listening to his gut has guided his most key business decisions.
Are you struggling with something in your business right now? Do you need help thinking something through?
According to Snyder, "By relaxing your mind and accessing your deeper consciousness, the answer is already there waiting for you."
The answer is already there waiting for you. You don't have to push or strain or strive to reach it. You don't have to research a bunch of different options. The answer to your problem already exists in your deeper wisdom. The trick is slowing down, getting quiet, and allowing it to come forth.
If you want to practice, Snyder says the first step is to get clear on how your intuition communicates. "Do you get audio messages? A feeling in a part of your body when you have a gut sense about something?" he asks. "Tapping into your intuition is about becoming more self-aware."
Once you have the awareness, regularly put yourself in situations where you slow down, breathe, and allow it to come to the surface.
Listen to a beautiful piece of music you know relaxes your body and mind. Take a long, hot shower, and enjoy it. Meditate. If you like art, spend 15 minutes drawing or doing watercolors. Juggle (Einstein was a big juggler).
"When you create enough space to be receptive, you allow your deeper intelligence to find you," Snyder offers.
So create the space.
It's also worth pointing out that intuitive flashes are rarely actual flashes--they're often more subtle. According to Oprah, "It's really more of a feeling than a voice--a whispery sensation that pulsates just beneath the surface of your being. All animals have it. We're the only creatures that deny and ignore it."
Don't ignore it. Don't ignore it, even if the board is pressuring you to. "Maybe you need to take the company in a different direction or launch a product," Snyder says, "but your inner compass says it's premature."
Don't let outside pressures prevent you from listening to your intuition. It's there for a reason.
According to Oprah, "Learning to trust your instincts, using your intuitive sense of what's best for you, is paramount for any lasting success. I've trusted the still, small voice of intuition my entire life. And the only time I've made mistakes is when I didn't listen."
Think of your intuition like a wise, beloved friend. Spend time with it regularly. Listen to the advice it dispenses.
Go on walks with it regularly.