Why intuition is more powerful than intellect
And how to recognize true intuition
“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” — Jonas Salk
Have you ever had a bad feeling just after meeting someone? Perhaps you knew how a situation was going to turn out beforehand. This happens to everyone, including you and me. These ‘hunches’ are quite common.
Think about the last time you said to someone — “I knew that was going to happen. I don’t know how, but just knew!” That’s your intuition at play, whether you remember it or not.
Search for intuition on the web and you’ll see every article quoting Steve Jobs. So at the risk of following the herd, I’ll do the same! After all, Steve was one of the few who talked bought intuition to the business world.
“The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.” — Jobs (in his biography by Walter Isaacson)
He demonstrated how intuition can be superior to the intellect by using it in his own work. Even today, one could feel that the products designed by him and his team were not coming from an ordinary mind.
The more time Jobs spent in India early on in his youth, the more he saw the deeply spiritual culture that was nothing like the materialistic American culture he had experienced growing up. His intuition led him to take random courses like calligraphy and reading books that had to do nothing with his work.
Yet, in the end, he seemed to learn a lot from all of them. And eventually, use that diverse set of knowledge in his work.
Intuition vs Intellect
We’re all born with intuition. It’s not something outside of your influence. With practice, you can learn to use your intuition as your life’s compass. And the people that seem more intuitive have just trained themselves over the years.
Intuition is even scientifically proven to be more effective than the intellect. In a Salk Institue study, participants played a card game where they picked cards from two different decks. The decks were rigged — one deck had more winning cards than the others. Of course, the players didn’t know that.
It took about 50 cards for them to consciously realize that there’s something wrong. And about 80 to figure out the exact difference between the two decks.
Yet, interestingly, it only took 10 cards for their palms to start sweating every time they reached for a card from the “losing” deck. Simultaneously, they started favoring the winning deck.
In another study, car buyers who relied on a careful analysis of all facts were happy with their purchase 25% of the time. But the buyers who made quicker, intuitive purchases were happy 60% of the time
Just when your intellect analyses all the information you make the decision and the mind quiets down. That’s when you suddenly realize that “No, it’s the other one!”
Thus, intuition simplifies decision-making. All the list of pros and cons you make are worthless if your intuition is trained enough to make the right decision. Whether consciously or not, you’re using your intuition every time you’ve to make a quick decision.
Finally, your intuition gives you a sense of certainty. The intellect will always be ready to doubt the moment a new piece of information represents itself. But the intuition knows, regardless of the facts you throw at it.
To define the difference clearly, the intellect solves problems like solving puzzles — putting together pieces together to form a whole. The intuition on the contrary, just knows — it doesn’t need elaborate thought.
How to Cultivate Intuition
Cultivating your intuition is not a mystery. It’s a simple process. Here’s how you do it.
1. Slow down
To listen to your intuition, you need to get away from your normal state of consciousness. This is especially if you’re just starting to use it. It might take a day or more to come up with an intuitive answer to your problem. But it will be there. And it will get faster.
Consider taking a long walk, meditating, or spending a day in solitude (if the decision is significant). Also, make this a part of your daily routine. Don’t expect the answer to present itself if you only do it once in a while. The more you train, the better you become.
2. Follow your voice
The next time you have a gut feeling, follow it consciously to see where it goes. Experiment with your intuition and test its validity. See if it makes sense.
Using your intuition doesn’t mean leaving your intellect forever. Intuition will just point your intellect in the right direction. It’s your job to dig deeper and take action.
Often you’ll be able to tell the difference if you test it continuously. You’ll not be able to describe it to others, you’ll just know.
3. Practice mindfulness
The main purpose and effect of mindfulness is a rise in awareness. You can only be aware of your intuition if you have a deep enough awareness.
Everyone is born with the inner guiding voice of intuition — only those who are attuned to it can listen. Every distraction in our life is like static on the radio. Mindfulness helps you get rid of the static to tune yourself to the right ‘frequency’ — a land where answers are waiting for you.
4. Observe people
One of the traits of intuitive people is they seem to have higher levels of empathy. They’re not mind-readers. Instead, like being aware of their own gut feelings, they're also aware of what the other person is thinking and feeling.
Try to practice this, and again, test it for yourself. Notice how people are thinking and feeling versus what they’re saying and doing. It’s a fantastic way to form deeper connections and it’s fun!
5. Get creative
Creative pursuits like writing, painting, music, etc are full of opportunities to exercise your intuition. You learn to give material form to what you’re feeling and thinking.
The best artists always have a touch of intuition that makes them drastically different from others who seem derivative at best.
6. Start with small decisions
When we’re not aware of our intuitive powers, it’s best to start with small decisions to test our abilities. When you follow your intuition and things go well, then it may be the right one.
Remember that it’s not a one-time decision. If you feel inner guidance to do something, do it and then watch your reactions as you go. If the same feeling becomes stronger, then you’re on the right path.
This reminds me that relying on intuition is not a ticket to procrastinate. You have to take action and figure things out as you go. Intuition, in most cases, is not a skylight that will solve all your problems. It’s a spotlight showing you where to go.
The Three Tests to Recognize True Intuition
The biggest challenge on the path of intuition is this — how to know if a decision comes from intuition or a mix of intellect, emotions, and desires?
Luckily, there are ways to know this. Swami Kriyananda gives a great test in his book Intuition for Starters:
To recognize the kind of feeling that indicates true guidance, look for three qualities: calmness, clarity, and joy. Intuition is always based in a deep sense of calmness and detachment.
Intuition is a calm sense of understanding and not an exclamation. When you get guidance that makes you feel excited or restless, then it’s safe to assume that you’re going with your desires and emotions. Emotions are mere reactions to your surroundings your inner conditioning. It’s easy to mistake emotional decisions for intuition.
All said and done, if you find yourself jumping up and down, it’s worth questioning — “My intuition tells me I should go on this trip! Yay!!” Instead, it should come from a place of detachment with an attitude of “Whatever it is, is. It doesn’t touch me personally.”
The second test is that of clarity. If you’re still weighing different alternatives and comparing scenarios, then think about it again. People also think that analyzing dreams is a good way of getting intuitive guidance.
Yet dreams can be of two kinds — subconscious and superconscious. The former tend to have dim colors and cloudiness to them. The latter has bright colors, pure images filled with radiance. This clarity of the dream is a strong sign of true intuition.
Finally, look if you feel inner joy. Again, this joy comes out of calmness and detachment, not excitement. It should give you a higher level of joy and inner surety that it’s the right decision. Swami Kriyananda writes in this regard,
“Like a current of energy, this kind of joy should take your consciousness inward and upward — not inward in the sense of self-congratulation, but upward with a sense of soaring freedom.”
Every day we have difficult decisions for which either we don’t have enough information or a clear intellectual answer. These are the moments when you desperately need your intuition. Wouldn’t it be great to have honed your intuitive faculties to not only make the right decision but make it faster and with more certainty?
Since intuition is often one of our least-developed skills, start testing your intuition now. You have it and you can use it — apply it in little situations so you’re ready when a big decision comes. The more you sweat in training, the less you’ll battle in the war.