When I was a teenager, my mother took me and my sister to visit a psychic. That was my entry point to the knowledge that there are deeper levels of understanding beyond what meets the eye. Some may call it “woo,” but ever since my introduction to a higher level of awareness (psychic powers, the ability to communicate with spirits, you name it), I’ve been profoundly aware of the power of intuition.
In my day to day, many of my decisions are guided by an intuitive gut feeling—and that feeling almost always leads me in the right direction. That has made my life so much easier! Trusting my gut has helped me be more confident in my decisions, and it only gets stronger as I use it, like exercising a muscle.
In fact, I have my intuition to thank for one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: starting my marketing and PR agency, Stanton & Company. When I launched the business 13 years ago, it was focused on female athletes, and so many people told me that I’d never be able to make money in the women’s sports business. In hindsight, I understand why they said that, and many years later, I have a clear sense of what the obstacles are. That said, my gut was ultimately right and has led me to a flourishing and expansive business that has broadened and expanded with the times.
Everyone has intuitive powers. But not everyone puts them to use.
Some people are very aware of their intuition and work to strengthen it as they would any other skill, sometimes even making a career out of it. Others simply don’t know when their gut is trying to communicate something because they’ve learned to suppress it.
There’s so much information out there—books, articles, and research—about how we can learn to perform at our highest levels. Many of these emphasize the value of hard work and discipline. But intuition, a soft skill that we can’t easily see or define, can be the most useful, powerful force for improving your work and personal lives.
A lot of the time, people either aren’t willing to trust their intuition or don’t know how. But the good news is that we can improve.
The foundation of intuition is awareness.
If you’d like to start using your intuition, begin by simply paying closer attention to the little things—subtle feelings and unexplainable pulls in particular directions. That’s where the magic is.
Pay attention when your intuition shines through, like when you think about someone out of the blue, then run into them at the grocery store or an event. I also always use the parking space example: I can literally visualize a specific parking space wherever I’m going, and more often than not, that space is open and available to me. (This, of course, is a combination of intuition and manifestation—a winning combo!)
Start by taking advantage of these small opportunities to notice and flex your intuition.
Then, you have to learn to trust it.
I trust my gut at work 100 percent of the time and encourage my team to do the same.
If one of my employees feels unsure about something, the first question I ask her is, “What is your gut telling you?” Much of the time, their intuitive feelings align with mine. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s only one right answer, but it bolsters my confidence that our gut instincts are leading us in the right direction.
Intuition can also quite easily be pushed away when it arises. This is especially common for busy, stressed professionals who feel like they don’t have time to reflect (we’ve all been there). Unfortunately, when you repress intuitive feelings over and over, you aren’t giving your intuition room to show you its power. Ignoring your intuition is like a bad habit.
Whether you’ve fallen out of touch with your intuition or have never consciously tapped into it, using your gut to make low-stakes decisions can help you better connect with it. For example, when buying a gift for someone, let your gut decide what you pick out. Or, when deciding between two equally enticing weekend plans, use it as a tie-breaker.
Simply pay attention to the intuitive feelings that arise here and there. Gradually, your intuition will gain strength and influence more of your daily decisions. And if you make an effort to notice when it guides you in the right direction, you’ll come to trust it.
Once you learn to trust your gut, it can extend to all areas of your life—even work.
When we wrote “The Feminine Revolution,” my co-author Catherine Connors and I wanted to get people thinking and talking about the true value of soft skills like intuition. Because, despite being incredibly powerful, many soft skills have long been dismissed as “feminine traits” with no use in the workplace.
We often prioritize data and even other people’s opinions over our own intuition. Early in my career, I worked in corporate environments where no one trusted their gut. Every single decision, big or small, had to be supported solely by data and research.
There’s certainly merit in this approach, but I think the best strategy—especially in creative fields—involves a combination of data and intuition. If you’re only willing to embrace what people are comfortable with because the data supports it, you forfeit the opportunity to surprise and delight your customers.
I’m not saying you should walk into a meeting at work and, totally out of left field, suggest your company shift its strategy because you had a gut feeling. That’s never going to be taken seriously. Instead, over time, prove your intuition’s usefulness and accuracy. Use it in combination with quantitative information, reports, prior knowledge and experience, and other data. Allow it to help you make an ultimate decision.
Using your intuition may feel funny at first, perhaps even difficult and uncomfortable. But it will get easier as you exercise it. Simply listen to your intuition when it speaks, both quietly and loudly. Learn to trust it over time. Eventually, it will become a truly powerful decision-making tool in all aspects of your life.
The starting point? When you’re debating something—big or small—take a moment and ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me?” Your gut will always be right.