Friday, March 18, 2016

Developing Intuition

In The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals, Gavin de  Becker described a childhood where his ability to sniff out his mother's moods quite literally meant survival. As an adult he parlayed this 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 intuition:
I 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.
We're all 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 admitted that her "anchor in intellectualism made it difficult to accept even profoundly convincing intuition as being meaningful and real." Palmer was 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 took the original route were stopped and arrested.

Many people 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 had planned 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, but 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."

I encourage you to develop trust in your hunches, whether experience-based or seeming to come out of nowhere, the kind of intuition that has served me so well and that led Helen Palmer to found the Center for the Investigation and Training of Intuition. Maybe you'll only feel a nudge. Something feels right about this, though I'm not sure why.

Dr. Michael Ray, author of Creativity in Business and The New Paradigm in Business, offered five truths about intuition.
  1. Intuition can be developed. You have intuition within you. Accept responsibility to develop your individual style of intuition.
  2. Intuition and reason are complements. Reason, experience, information and intuition are a powerful combination.
  3. Intuition is unemotional. It involves paying clear attention to the most appropriate alternative that comes from your creative Essence.
  4. Intuition thrives on action. Follow-through is important to make use of your creative ideas, and intuition is strengthened by seeing its manifest effects. 
  5. Intuition is mistake-free. 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.