How to Harness Your Intuition and Use It to Take You Places

A plain-English, no woo-woo guide to your gut.

Photo by Adrianna Clavijo on Unsplash

Driving toward an intersection in downtown Los Angeles. There are dozens of cars near me. My dog sits on the passenger seat. A podcast is playing, the sun is shining, and I’m thinking about what my girlfriend and I will eat for dinner later.

To my right, I feel my attention pulled to a car. Something is odd about the way the car is being driven. I can’t really put my finger on it. Without thinking, I resolve to wait for him to go away before I start driving.

The light turns green. Sure enough, he peels off, honking and swerving into my lane — right where I might have been if I hadn’t waited.

I put my hand on my dog and take a deep breath.

How did I know to do this?

Strip the Mystery

The first step to using my intuition was getting rid of the highfalutin language. Intuition is as simple as knowing when your friend needs a hug or when it’s time to take the dog out.

I was in the habit of saying, “I have no intuition” or “I’m too left-brained to have much access to my intuition.” I thought it must be some magical, far-away thing that I had no business with.

The incident with the car helped me realize how simple it is. I have a way to show you how simple yours is, too.

Imagine you’re at a party. In the corner of your eye, you see movement from a man. He jerks his arm down by his side. All his movements are jerky and harsh. He’s standing alone in the corner. His eyes are narrow, and his eyebrows are furrowed. You follow his gaze and see he’s looking at a girl who’s talking to another guy. The girl is your friend.

You make a note of that. In fact, if you were there now, I’d ask you to feel what it is like to know that he is standing in that corner. It almost feels like he is radiating negative energy. Like two magnets with the same polarity, you literally find it difficult to get close to him. You move around the room awkwardly to avoid him. That feeling is your intuition.

Later, you hear yelling outside. Instinctively, you glance at the spot where the man was standing. He’s gone. You hear two male voices. Without thinking, you turn to your friend. “We need to go,” you say.

She understands you with no more explanation. You both leave and probably avoid a bunch of drama.

Easy, right? Still, there is a way to go deeper and use this power for more than just avoiding drama. Here’s how.

Embrace the Mystery

If I can’t use my intuition — it’s because I’m gripping what I “know” too tight.

All passing and unclear notions are not good enough for my “logical” brain! I have to have clear and precise thoughts that I thought up! But — what does it mean to have a thought you thought, anyway?

The long and short of it is — we have no idea how thoughts work. As you read this, you are paying attention (more or less) to the ideas I have formed for you. Thoughts and comments might bubble up here and there based on their connection to your own world. What makes any of that happen?

Wouldn’t it be just as correct to say that thoughts happen to you as much as you think them?

Famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung said:

“It is not I who create myself, rather I happen to myself.”

Try this right now: Be very still for a moment and wait for a thought to come to you. Really try to see how it formed. Did you do that? How did it happen? Don’t worry — no one else knows either.

In my experience, intuition is less concrete and more general than verbal thinking. Less concrete doesn’t mean less useful! Just because you can’t put it into words doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to it.

The only way to get access to better intuition is to understand that we aren’t even in control of what we think. Once we accept this smallness in the face of the giant vortex of thoughts and emotions, we can finally let ourselves be guided by our intuition.

When we believe we are in control, we can only listen to thoughts we can fool ourselves into thinking we are in control of. Those thoughts are precise and concrete — but we miss out on a whole range of other, very useful, forms of thinking.

Put simply — we need to be humble to have intuition.

Humbled to Higher Knowledge

One of my favorite of life’s many paradoxes is that you have to be incredibly humble to have great personal power.

Understanding new levels of intuition can lead a person to think that they are the ones who are so great for realizing that higher knowledge. It’s understandable because it actually does give you power. However, the need for power takes away any power gained. Back to square one.

That’s ok! We can work with this. At least we had a glimpse. For me, it’s been years and years of glimpses that each last a little longer than the previous. Each time, I gain a new appreciation for things and people that I might have thought I was better than.

If you’re new to intuition, don’t worry about all that. All you need to know is that any sense of personal power or ego will come crashing down at some point. The crashing is fine — as long as we’re learning along the way.

The biggest trap of being human is falling in love with what you already know.

Don’t Fall in Love with Your Ideas

What you already know are useful tools that got you to this moment. Great. That doesn’t mean that they are going to be useful from now on.

I performed on stage before the pandemic. Before my first comedy show, I prepared and prepared and it never felt like it was enough. I thought I was going to throw up before I went on stage. I was in love with the idea of being funny — but I was afraid to be funny.

I walked on the stage and, suddenly, everything outside of the present moment was gone. I realized that I already had everything I needed.

I did well enough to attract the attention of a manager. It was all thanks to the power of my intuition. Don’t get me wrong, prep was important — it just couldn’t save me from the power of the moment.

It takes a tremendous amount of trust to do this, and that might not happen all at once. But, if you want to use your intuition, you have to get used to the feeling of letting go of everything and paying attention to what is happening now.

What you have already learned isn’t useless. You need to trust that the right lessons of the past will present themselves to you when you need them. Other than that, it is best to attend to the moment fully.

Notes, preparation, and rehearsal won’t save you from the overwhelming current that is this moment. Better practice being fully in it while the stakes are relatively low.

When the moment comes, and you need to give everything to the moment (like for a job interview), you will be ready. You will bring out the full power of your intuition.

Give Gut the Green Light

Me and my gut have an on-again-off-again relationship.

Sometimes I get so caught up in what I think I am that I forget all about how I am being. My intuition no longer feels welcome and shows up to the party less and less frequently.

When I realize that this has happened (usually when something goes wrong), I ask my intuition to come back to the table. She has her feelings hurt at first, and it may take some time, but things are always better when she is around.

In my experience, the best practice is to get in the habit of bringing intuition to the fore when you don’t need it. This could be:

  • Meditation
  • Walks
  • Long, hot showers
  • Prayer (if you’re into that sort of thing)

You know the drill. It’s the stuff you know you need to do.

If you want intuition to be a bigger part of your life, you have to invite her in.

It’s best not to wait until you’re desperate.

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