People say "Follow your intuition" all the time, but what do they mean by it, and how do you listen to it?
How many times have you asked for advice on a decision that could change your life, your relationships, or your career and been told to just go with your gut? The problem with being told to listen to your gut is that most people have no idea what that means. Does it mean we must stop thinking too much and go with what "feels" right?
Your intuition is a powerful tool. Many people across the globe have spoken about how a strong signal from "within" saved their lives or those of loved ones. But unlike what many think, our intuition is not a made-up concept. Scientifically, your gut is where most of your important neurotransmitters are produced. This is why whenever you feel unsafe in a new place or weird when someone gets too close to you for comfort, you feel it as a knot in your tummy. It is your survival instinct as well as innate wisdom talking to you as intuition.
Your intuition is not some magical force that you draw out of the universe, it's an innate part of you, a voice in your head telling you that logic won't save you in this situation. The power of intuition is not exactly a skill you can finetune, but learning to listen to it is certainly something that you can practice until you're better at it. Often, you will feel it as a physical sensation in your body or as a strong emotion around your chest. You might also hear a clear voice in your head that speaks from a place of wisdom. For example, many women have reported a "sense of dread" or "discomfort" when entering a room or a house party. The human body is a result of millions of years of evolution, so trust it to know when some place, person, or object "feels" dangerous or just "not okay."
When you're not sure how to go about solving a problem or making an important life decision, think about the most logical courses of action and their pros and cons. If you find something that seems to be the most logical or reasonable course and you're still not okay with it, ask yourself why. Argue with yourself until you've brought out all your thoughts and feelings on the matter. You may eventually realize that you favor a certain decision over others, even if your reasoning doesn't heavily point in that direction. That is a sign from your intuition.
Quite often your intuition can point you in a direction that may not appeal to you because it requires immense effort or sacrifice or because it requires you to face your fears and confront obstacles. But you will often feel an irresistable pull to follow a certain path. A pull that you cannot counter with reason or logic. If you're in a relationship and are thinking of getting married, your gut may tell you that you're only trying to make a bad thing work and you should break things off before they get messy. If you're in a highly competitive job with a promotion looming in sight, your intuition may be telling you to quit or you'll burn out.
When your gut points you down a path that seems difficult and full of uncertainties, your natural response is to shut it out and ignore it. You tell yourself it's "too hard" or "too risky" and leave it out of your options. However, if you want to learn to listen to what your gut says, you're going to have to confront your fears, face seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and do painful things. Your intuition can give you a bigger perspective when your mind is focused on the little things. If someone is asking for a "yes" or "no" response, tell them you need some time and borrow sometime to check-in with yourself.
Not everyone will support you or encourage you down the path your intuition takes you. You can't always explain to them why you have to do something because more often than not, you just know what you have to do. You may sometimes find it hard to convince even yourself that what you're doing is what's best for you, but the longer you keep at it the more you realize that you were right to listen to your gut.
Especially if you have chosen a difficult path, it may take a while before you bear the fruits of your decision. You may not immediately see the benefits of having gone with your gut, but you need to learn patience and give it time before people can see that you did indeed do what was best for you. You may break off an engagement with someone who isn't right for you and find your soulmate two years later. Or you may take on a project that encounters a number of obstacles before it becomes successful. With time and perseverance, you'll understand not only how to listen to your gut, but also why you should pay attention to it.