Did you ever have this feeling that you did something wrong – the moment you did it? Not that anything happens or that someone starts howling in despair. It’s just this gut feeling saying, “Well, maybe I should have thought about this a bit longer.” The thing is that it probably doesn’t matter for how long you thought about it. Rather, the question is where did you get your information? And how did you get it?
Usually, when we have to make a decision we gather all the available information and, if we have the time, consider it carefully before we make up our mind. Unfortunately, there are situations where we don’t have the time to gather information or simply no way to get all the information we might want and so we are left to our own devices. That is when these moments of “Maybe I should have” happen most often.
But why is this? Are we incapable of making proper decisions at a moment’s notice? Or are we so dependent on facts that we can’t decide anything without having them all? Or is it that we are so unsure of ourselves that we can’t believe that we made the right decision if there isn’t a fact or another person to back us up?
I don’t believe that this is so. We make quick decisions all the time: What shall I make for dinner? Shall I turn left or right here on my walk? And we make decisions without having all the facts: we order a take-out dish without knowing all the ingredients; we hail a cab without knowing the driver or when the car was last inspected. And we are certainly sure enough of ourselves when we stick to the love of our life no matter what other people say. So that can’t be the reason for those “bad choices”, or at least it can’t be the only reason.
I believe that we make those “bad” decisions because we are listening to one-sided information: we are really making “ill-advised” choices. We are so busy trying to get the facts and opinions that we don’t listen to the inner voice that informs us about our emotions and our internal reaction.
That inner voice is a quiet voice. It comes across in words, as a feeling, a physical sensation or in an image. It speaks to us all the time. And in our everyday life we are so used to it, we don’t even hear it anymore consciously. But we listen to it. In a conversation, we hear ourselves say something we didn’t even knew we knew. We turn around when we get that feeling in the belly as if someone is watching. We get a strawberry shake rather then our usual vanilla because it just “feels right” today. We don’t buy that shirt because it isn’t exactly what we had envisioned. In everyday life that quiet voice is so persistent and omnipresent that it doesn’t has any problems being heard.
In special situations, though, we want to do it right and we decide, more or less consciously, not to listen to those “vague notions” and concentrate on the facts. We have been taught that this is the prudent thing to do. We have learned that following our hunches is no basis for the important decisions in life. And we are constantly reminded that almost all decisions are important now. So, when we are put on the spot all these other pieces of information become so loud that we can’t hear that quiet voice anymore – and we base our decisions on incomplete information or even bad data.
This quiet inner voice is often described as intuition. Intuition is not something that just happens to fall out off the sky into our heads. Nor is it limited to women, the specially gifted or those with psychic abilities. It is really our sixth sense: a sense organ that can perceive a level of reality that we can’t grasp with our eyes, ears or hands. As such it can be trained or neglected. It’s our choice.
Having an intuition doesn’t always have to be a huge thing neither. Sometimes it is so subtle that it is difficult to distinguish our intuition from the other senses. Intuition is an inner experience and it usually doesn’t change easily, just like a tree doesn’t disappear just because we can’t believe it is there. But our intuition can become confused like our vision. Anyone who ever looked at one of those inkblots used in psychoanalysis knows how confused the eye can get. Intuition, being subtler and more dependent on our inner awareness and our trust in ourselves, can get confused, too.
Intuition is usually tied to a very specific indicator: a physical sensation; a moment of clarity and absolute certainty; a specific memory or vision. In the beginning these indicators might be faint and we might need time to find them. But with practice it will become increasingly clear what these pointers are.
However, if we are almost overwhelmed with an emotional reaction we are most likely not dealing with intuition: i.e., a person begins planning his/her future because the manager at the last interview smiled nicely and shook his/her hand at the end: “I can see myself in this big office already. I have a secretary and everything is great.” Although such intuitions are possible, if the emotions are so strong that they don’t allow for reality to be seen as well they are probably only that – emotions. Remember? Intuitions are an additional source of information. And that means that all the other information will also be available.
The more often we decide not to listen to our intuition in moments of conscious decision making the less we will trust our intuition when it comes through. Indeed, since the information it carries is still there, no matter if we want to hear it or not, we might get completely bugged down and incapable of making any decision. That is not to say that we have to do what our intuition tells us. But if we are trying to pretend it isn’t there, we will confuse ourselves into non-action – or wrong action.
Have you ever tried to walk straight ahead even though you see a big tree standing three feet in front of you? Probably not. You would most likely walk in the same direction but find a way around the tree. We can do the same with our intuition. When we are faced with a decision, no matter how much time we have to make it, it is a good idea to take a moment and to get the information from inside as well. If this information shows us a major road block ahead – heart ache, problems, hurt for another person, etc. – but all the other information points in this direction we can decide to move forward while looking for ways around the road blocks. And, most importantly, we won’t feel trapped, cheated or wronged when we encounter them. We knew they something lay ahead. We decided to move on anyways. We decided that we can handle this and we can! We just need to keep getting all the information!