A mistake that you would have avoided had you listened to your intuition is in a certain way a lesson that you already knew but ignored. This is the avoidable bad. Why not learn other lessons that you don’t know yet about?
So much noise
We live in a world that is much noisier than it used to be.
We are now close to 8 billion people, and many of us live in big cities with high density population. Everywhere you look, there are tons of people walking and talking. There are cars, trucks and motorcycles zooming by, trains rumbling, airplanes jetting off, and new buildings being constructed with hammering and power tools drilling.
We also use some powerful tools that fuel our internal dialogue. First, it was the TV. And later, it was mobile phones, giving us a 24-hour door into the vast world of the internet. Now there is social media, which connects us to thousands of other individuals. Never in history have humans been exposed to so much information and conversations among other people. This internal noise is equivalent to the noise generated by the trucks, cars, and trains in the external world.
The main sufferers from this everyday increased level of noise are our attention and our ability to listen. This is very palpable in verbal communication: If I’m having a conversation in a street where there is construction work, I may not be able to listen to what the other person is saying.
There are other types of communications that suffer from all this noise too. For example, the one we have with our gut feeling. The issue is more troublesome in this case though, because we are not even aware of the problem.
Our gut feeling or intuition
Intuition is the ability to understand something without the need for conscious reasoning. Science hasn’t figured out yet exactly how intuition is formed or how it works. We only know what it is.
The way I see intuition today is that it contains all the experiences and knowledge that you have had in your life, conscious and unconscious, and that it also contains learnings that have been passed to you through your ancestors.
All this vast amount of knowledge and experience is stored in an imprecise and disperse form, as if it wasn’t fully born, not fully formed. Intuition has a voice, but its normal range of volume goes from zero to very low, and when it speaks, it’s usually not eloquent.
There are very specific situations where your intuition will be really loud, though: if you found yourself in a cage with a tiger, it would scream at you: run!
However, we are usually not facing life-or-death situations, so it’s very likely that in any given day, your intuition will be in low to zero volume, dispersed and hard to access. Combine that with the incredible levels of noise that you are exposed to and you’re losing access to this powerful source of knowledge and insight.
Where is the problem exactly?
There are four critical points where any type of communication can fail:
- The origin
- The language
- The delivery channel
- The destination
This is true for verbal communication (written and oral) and for non-verbal communication (body language, facial expression, touch, etc.). It’s true in the deepest levels of the internet, where millions of machines send data packages to other machines. It’s also true in any communication within your own body. For example, the pancreas communicates with the cells via the insulin that it delivers through the bloodstream.
And this, of course, is no different with your gut feeling. Below are the four critical points where you can miss the communication with your intuition:
- Your gut (origin)
- Your body (delivery channel)
- Your feelings (language)
- Your awareness (destination)
If you have trouble listening to your gut feeling, most of the time the culprit is in points 3 and/or 4.
With 4, there is no wonder that your listening abilities and your awareness are completely messed up, considering the amount and the loudness of the noise that you deal with every day. Your “noise receptors” are unsensitized, making it very difficult to listen to your intuition when it whispers.
With the language (or point 3 above), what usually happens in our modern hectic world are two things:
- Our pace of life is so fast that we just don’t have time to feel for long enough. This is especially true if the feelings are labeled as negative, in which case we’ll try to do anything that can help us escape from them.
- We pay a lot of attention to reactive feelings: something bad happened to you and you started to feel sad in a pretty intense way. We perceive feelings when they appear in this sort of reactive manner, but we don’t do as good with feelings that are permanent and aren’t as loud.
When I lost it
Over the course of my first 18 years, I spent a total of 3 months per year in a rural area, with no internet and lots of nature and animals around. I spent a lot of time playing, wandering and exploring by myself, and that helped me develop a strong connection with my intuition.
Over the next 14 years of my life, I stopped spending as much time in a rural environment, and I transitioned into a more permanent urban life. It was not only my external environment that changed. As I fully dove into the tech world as a software engineer, and later as I ran startups for over 6+ years, I spent countless hours with a computer and on my phone. For many years, I was available 24/7, and I started to lose that strong connection that I once had with my intuition.
I was not aware that it was happening. As with many bad things that slip through, we only become aware of them when the shit hits the fan. In my case, it happened within a span of 2 years; there were a few critical decisions I made in which I completely ignored my intuition. The result was bad.
I hate saying that something is plain bad, as inherently anything that doesn’t kill you is not bad over a long enough period of time if you learn something valuable out of it. However, I make the distinction between the unavoidable bad and the avoidable bad. I’m all about the former but highly suspicious of the latter, which I consider suboptimal at the very least.
A mistake that you would have avoided had you listened to your intuition is in a certain way a lesson that you already knew but ignored. It’s sort of “tripping over the same stone twice.” This is the avoidable bad. Why not learn other lessons that you don’t know yet about?
What I did it to recover a strong sense of intuition
I spent some time figuring out what went wrong and what I could do to regain that connection with my gut feeling. Here are the 5 main things that helped me:
1. Spend time in nature, alone.
There is more silence in nature, which helps recover sensitivity in our awareness. One could argue that you can find quiet rooms in buildings as well; however, it doesn’t work the same. I think it has to do with the fact of doing something (being in nature) that our species has done for 99.9% of the time that humans have been humans. Combining it with some exercise is even better, as some moderate activity will get rid of the “noise toxins” that this hectic life leaves in us.
2. Put down technology.
Our mobile phones are attention suckers. We need to deliberately have hours where we transfer the attention spent in the vast world of the internet into the vast universe of ourselves.
Being playful is one of the activities that uses our senses and our intuition more than our logical and analytical mind. Whatever you like to play, just play. In my case, one simple adjustment was to go on bike rides without measuring all that I used to measure: speed, kilometers, a lot of planning, etc. Now I’ll just get on the bike and go wherever I feel like going.
4. Spend time with children.
Children are all about playing and doing whatever they feel like doing. Their analytical mind is still poorly developed, so they rely much more on their intuition, and while it is still not fully developed, it works better. Spending time with them will help connect with your inner kid and get closer to your intuition.
Any type of meditation will help you get in touch with yourself and with your own body. I especially like silence meditation or body scans for increasing my awareness of myself and my body.
While these don’t seem like life changing actions just by themselves, they are. In a world where you get so much noise and distractions, the ability to set external boundaries and connect with yourself is a superpower.
You aren’t going to be facing critical decisions every day, every month or even every year. But when those times come, you don’t want to use them to train your intuition. In those times, you want to already have a strong connection with it and be able to listen to it and trust it. The way to get there is by giving it space and attention on a regular basis. As with almost everything that is worth it, repetition of the basics over a long enough period of time is what makes a massive difference.