may have heard the Taoist tale of an old farmer whose horse ran
away one day:
bad luck,” his neighbors said sympathetically. “We’ll see,” the
farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing
with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors
exclaimed. “We’ll see,” replied the old man. The following day
his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and
broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy.
“We’ll see,” answered the farmer. The day after, military
officials came to the village to draft young men into the army
and passed his son by because his leg was broken. The neighbors
once more congratulated the farmer. “We’ll see,” he said.
farmer’s equanimity came to mind when I heard from a client who
was frustrated because his business wasn’t growing. “I might
have to get a job (horrible)!” he wrote. People of
may be disappointed about their careers, especially those who've sought logical solutions. (I tested an online version of
the John Holland Occupational Themes and found I’m admirably
suited to be a dental technician!)
The failure of logic is a cue
to use some right-brain approaches, to help you get in touch
with your intuition. Maybe you’ll get only a nudge: Something
feels right about this, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps you’ll
experience what seems to be a failure, at least in the
short-term. Keep your vision intact, no matter what
apparent obstacles appear.
recommend you read The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals, a
brilliant success story by Gavin de Becker. After a childhood
where his ability to sniff out his mother’s moods quite
literally meant survival, de Becker parlayed his keenly
developed intuition into a world-renowned business – serving
victims of domestic abuse and stalking, evaluating threats to
political and media figures, and proposing new laws to help
manage violence. His book could be a manual for healthy
have gotten great benefits from taking the voice of skepticism I
used to apply to my intuition and applying it instead to the
dreaded outcomes I imagined were coming. Worry will almost
always buckle under a vigorous interrogation. If you can bring
yourself to apply your imagination to finding the possible
favorable outcomes of undesired developments, even if only as an
exercise, you’ll see that it fosters creativity... Worry is a
choice, and the creative genius we apply to it can be used
differently, also by choice.”
thinking about how to teach clients to heighten intuition but
when I sat down to write about it, struggled for hours reviewing
books and articles, choosing quotes, feeling blocked – until my
back hurt so much I couldn’t sit at the computer anymore and I
decided to take a walk. While walking I let my mind wander and
suddenly thought, You’re trying to explain it rationally. Use
your intuition. Duh!
trained to be analytical, and consequently to
doubt intuition that isn’t tied to direct knowing or experience.
In her introduction to Inner Knowing, Helen Palmer admits
her “anchor in intellectualism made it difficult to accept even
profoundly convincing intuition as being meaningful and real.”
Palmer is referring to several incidents of her own inner
knowing, the first of which occurred when she was deeply
involved in the East Coast movement of resistance to the Vietnam
War: “My imagination became as believable and solid as the
furniture in my room.” She knew, for example, that a
friend must take a route across the Canadian border
different from the one planned and later learned that others who
original route were stopped and arrested.
describe intuition as a hunch based on experience. In a New York
Times review (1/16/05), David Brooks summarized the opening story of Malcolm Gladwell’s
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. The Getty Museum in California
to purchase a supposedly ancient Greek statue for almost $10
million. A team of experts with state-of-the-art measurement
tools had taken more than a year to assure its authenticity. Then
several art experts looked at the statue and knew instantly it
was a fake. When asked to explain how they knew, one said he
“heard” the word fresh, which seemed odd to him – on
further examination he realized the statue was too “fresh” to be
that ancient. Another felt a wave of intuitive repulsion. The
outcome? “The teams of analysts who did 14 months of research
turned out to be wrong. The historians who relied on their
initial hunches were right.”
encourage you to develop trust in your experience-based hunches.
But the intuition that has served me so well is the kind Palmer
experienced, the kind that led her to found the Center for the
Investigation and Training of Intuition. There are many ways to
put yourself in a state of readiness and to trust that you'll
know what you need to know. You’ll find good suggestions in two
articles by Lynn
Robinson. In the first, “Intuition in
Business,” she writes:
“Intuitive messages come in
numbers of ways. They can come through the brain's limbic system
or neo-cortex when you experience a hunch, visualize a symbolic
image, have a relevant dream, have a wholistic ‘aha’ moment, or
gradually become aware of a correct path among previously
divergent ideas. They can be expressed through the body when you
experience a tightness in one or more definitive body areas,
when you notice a distinct change in energy, when you hear a
helpful directive or have specific awareness of changed feelings
in a situation. They can originate in the outside world such as
happens with a (Jungian) synchronicity, an unavoidable
experience that leads to a new and right fit opportunity, or a
convergence of options into a single specific one.”
Robinson cites five truths about
intuition from Dr. Michael Ray, author of Creativity in
Business and The New Paradigm in Business, who
Creativity in Business at Stanford's MBA program:
can be developed.
You have intuition within you. Accept responsibility to develop
your individual style of intuition.
and reason are complements.
Combining reason, experience, information and intuition is
It involves paying clear attention to the most appropriate
alternative that comes from your creative Essence.
thrives on action.
Follow-through is important to make use of your creative ideas,
and intuition is strengthened by seeing its manifest effects.
Sometimes your intuitions will be on target and sometimes not.
The more you develop it, the more often it will be on target.
Your intuition will grow when you have faith that it doesn’t
make mistakes – it just offers new possibilities.
also many good books on logical processes to fine-tune hunches,
such as Gary Klein’s Intuition at Work (he describes his
method as “cognitive task-analysis”). But tying your hunches to
rational explanations often isn’t enough and may, in fact, be
limiting. How can I explain rationally that sometimes when
talking with clients I'll mention a name or a book or an idea
they say they were just about to mention? This is the knowing
I encourage you to develop.
In her second article,
“Developing Intuition,” Robinson offers suggestions to go beyond
your current level of intuition. This begins by suspending your
disbelief and opening yourself to what’s possible I’ve adapted
some of her ideas in the practice section that follows.
receive intuitive messages in various ways – dreams, hunches,
symbols, visions, sounds, tastes, a noted change in emotions,
smells, shifts of energy, muscular reactions, and other physical
sensations. This week, heighten your awareness of the forms your
own intuitive messages take:
your body to respond to “yes” or “no” questions you pose. You
can make up your own cues or use these:
is often experienced as a gentle release or subtle feeling of
by a tightening or sense of holding back. Practice this whenever
you have a decision to make. What have you learned about your
own body’s messages?
thoughts or feelings that unexpectedly appear. For example, if
thinking about someone, call to see if that person has been
thinking of you. The more you act on hunches, the more you’ll
reinforce your insights. Write down your intuitive “hits:”
a situation in mind you’d like to resolve, then let go of
“working” on it. Focus on your breathing, take a shower, or turn
on the sound of waves or chimes. Relax and allow your mind to
wander. Resist the temptation to concentrate. Be attentive but
not intense. Write down what comes to you: