As little kids, we intuitively listen to ourselves. We hang out with friends we like that have similar interests, play sports we enjoy, create art projects without any thought about who might or might not like it, we dance, sing and skip through stores. We do what we feel we need at any given moment. As children, it is that “knowing” that we listen to without even thinking about it.
As we grow, we start hearing things like...
“Don’t dance in the store, people will think you are crazy.”
“Girls don’t play football.”
“Boys shouldn’t study ballet, that is only for girls.”
“You really are more analytical than creative, so you should be an engineer.”
“Construction is hard work, you don’t want to do that. Get an office job.”
“Don’t get that degree because you will never make any money if you do.”
By the time we are pre-teens, most of us have lost the ability to listen to our instincts and instead base a good deal of our decisions on what those we cherish most think. At times, we even base our choices on how others around us react. Once culture starts taking over, whether it is parents, teachers, sports trainers, scout leaders, church clergy, etc., we tend to decide and act more from a “what will they think” perspective. So, how do we learn from the child inside us so that we can become more of who we truly were meant to be, to find our true purpose on this earth and be true to ourselves?
Years ago, a dear friend recommended I start this process by writing down my dreams every morning. I remember saying to her that I don’t remember them. She gently told me that if I could just start writing down the few bits I remember, they would come to me more and more. She was an incredible mentor to me, much older and wiser, so I did what she suggested. Amazingly, over time I did start to remember more and more. I awoke some mornings feeling so happy, as if while my physical body slept, my soul was somewhere else having the time of my life. To this day, I can remember vividly many of my dreams. This was the beginning of me finding my inner knowing I had as a child.
By following a few ideas below, you will be surprised by how quickly you can develop your intuition and start listening to your gut...just like when you were a young child.
When a question pops into your brain, pay attention to the very first answer that comes to you. This sounds simple, but it is actually trickier than you think. Our brain tends to flood us with several answers at once, so you really have to be aware. You can practice by walking into a grocery store or an ice cream shop and asking, “What do I want?” Listen to the very first thought that comes to you and ignore the next ones like...but I need protein or I had that flavor yesterday or what is on sale...just pick the first thing that comes to mind.
Exercise the creative side of your brain. The right hemisphere of your brain is where your intuition stems from. Spend time creating, painting, dancing, imagining, visualizing, skipping, playing, brainstorming. All these activities involve the part of your brain that controls expression, holistic thought and nonverbal communication.
Listen to your gut. Literally, your stomach will sometimes feel uncomfortable if you “knowingly” make a wrong decision.
Meditation, which helps clear your mind of repetitive and worrisome thoughts makes it easier to truly listen to your gut. If you have never meditated, start with two minutes a day and increase it by a minute every week. Meditation takes practice, so begin slowly and I promise, it will get more comfortable.
Believe and trust in your instincts. There are decisions you will need to make based on facts, figures and qualifications. Yet, others will not be as obvious which is when intuition is all you really have to rely on.
Along with the tips above, you might also find some of the following books helping in figuring out the difference between the thoughts coming from your rational mind versus your actual intuition. Also, be gentle with yourself, this is a self learned process that takes practice.
Books on Intuition
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
The Intuitive Way: The Definitive Guide to Increasing Your Awareness by Penney Peirce
The Art of Intuition: Cultivating Your Inner Wisdom by Sophy Burnham
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker