Amazing things have happened to many founders as the result of following their intuition. Here are three ways to do it.
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I’m just going to say it: I’m a big believer in intuition and energies — especially as a creator. There isn’t an idea I’ve acted on that didn’t come to me first as a vision. I lead from my gut with my career decisions, and so far, that has served me tremendously. It got me thinking about how many other entrepreneurs lead from their intuition as well. Has it served them like it’s served me?
After some fruitful conversations, my suspicions were confirmed: Intuition is a guidepost in career. Sure, we may have facts and data that help us decide whether or not to do things like hire that assistant or quit that job. But there’s something deeper and more implicit that really leads us in the right direction. Just as Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95 percent of our purchasing decisions are made emotionally with our subconscious mind, it’s likely that most of our decisions involving our career, financials or otherwise are, too.
Here are a few ways to get started with cultivating a relationship with your own intuition.
1. Practice trusting the “tug”
You have to learn from experience by trusting every time that tug comes up. One of my own stories of intuition-gone-right was last year, when I felt a tremendous tug to speak at a summit in L.A. even though it was the same day as my best friend’s graduation from college. I trusted the tug and met my lash manufacturers in the audience after my talk — an opportunity I had wanted to pursue for years.
Some don’t know what exactly this tug is or how to know it’s speaking up. I was recently talking with Dani Evans, model and founder of Monrowe, and she explained what to look for: “However you identify your inner guidance system, it’s created to lead us to the paths of our lives that are carved out specifically for us. It can be as simple as a fleeting thought or gentle nudge, or it can be as strong as the equivalent of an audible voice. It’s a knowing deep within you that’s difficult to explain but accompanied with a quiet assurance.”
2. Learn through reflection
We can also develop a closer relationship with our intuition when things go wrong, too, because it’s all about getting a sense for what internal sensations mean what. For example, another entrepreneur friend of mine, Stephanie Thoma, tells a story in her book Confident Introvert about a time she felt a gut instinct to stay home and not attend an event but forced herself to go anyway, thinking she needed to network as usual. On the way home from the event, she got into a car accident and had to go to the emergency room. In her book she writes, “I thought a lot about the value of life and how we spend our time. If that were the last night of my life, would I have wanted to spend it at that event? No. I attended the event for the sake of attending it, valuing quantity over quality. From that point onward, I now make sure to check in with myself about why I am attending something, leading with what feels true to me.” In other words listen to your gut! Don’t go to anything that you feel apathetic about.
Think through the times in your life that you did listen to your gut and it turned out well, and the inverse of that: when you didn’t, and it didn’t turn out well. You’ll hone this intuition in business. Perhaps when you’re around someone you trust, you feel a sense of warmth in your heart space. And perhaps if you’re making a business decision that isn’t best for the business, a sense of panic starts to kick in. Learn to trust yourself first.
3. Become okay with ignoring what’s “rational” if your intuition is saying otherwise
Of course, also implicit in trusting intuition is sometimes choosing it over rationale. The tug between mind and heart is a battle we all face from time to time. So, practice being okay with it if your intuition speaks against what seems rational at the time. For example, when I quit my job, it wasn’t necessarily rational. But my gut knew I needed to do it. This seems counterintuitive, because business generally requires rationality, but Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, famously said, “I can tell you that when I have to decide whether or not to go ahead with a new venture, I have often found that intuition is my best guide.”
Aishwarya Balaji, a serial tech entrepreneur and the founder of Imperfect CEO, has a story along similar lines. She told me that when her last startup shut down, she went to Bali for a three-week vacation but felt she shouldn’t leave when the time was up. Rather than making the rational choice to go back home, she ended up staying over three months — and met the founder of the wearable tech healthcare company she now leads product development for.
Many of us think of intuition as abstract and hard to pinpoint, but we all have it within us. If we can strengthen our relationship with it in relation to our career and businesses, we can tap into a hidden wisdom and trust ourselves more. Amazing things have happened to many founders as the result of following their intuition.