Our intuition is always trying to tell us something, if only we would listen.
But too often, we don’t. We drown it out by overanalyzing or second-guessing. We dismiss intuitive feelings as “unreliable,” “silly,” or even “witchy.” Eventually, our intuition becomes a muffled whisper we push further and further into the back of our minds.
This is a mistake — and a potentially life-changing one, because intuition is powerful.
Intuition can help push us in the right direction when making difficult decisions, provide foresight, and serve as an intangible yet beneficial force in our lives, if we let it.
I’m not just talking about small, everyday decisions like what to eat for dinner, or when to avoid the freeway and take back roads instead. Rather, you should be drawing on your intuition when making serious, high-stakes professional decisions like which direction to take your business in, or whether to accept a challenging, career-altering job.
And while intuition is often considered feminine, or at least more typically associated with women, both men and women can benefit from reconnecting with, or further embracing, their intuitive feelings in professional settings.
Quite simply, the reason most of us don’t trust our intuition is because we’ve been socially conditioned not to.
The business world has long privileged traditionally masculine traits, like assertiveness and the tendency toward action rather than reflection. Career-minded people are encouraged to fight their way to the top of the food chain, then demand their slice of the cake. Data and logic are considered all-powerful.
In this kind of environment, intuition may not seem valued. It may be hard to find space for intuition to play a role.
My co-author, Catherine Connors, and I discuss this at length in our book, The Feminine Revolution, set to be released November 6. If we recognize how dynamic today’s workplace is and consider the very real need for flexibility and versatility, especially in today’s economy, we would realize that intuition is incredibly valuable. Both men and women should embrace intuition’s power to help us better react to the unexpected, and to inform how we look ahead to the future. Our intuition and emotional insight enable us to understand, explain, see, anticipate, and internalize experiences. Granted, this is often uncomfortable — for us and often for others (who hasn’t had the experience of “spooking” somebody with an insight?). But it’s uncomfortable precisely because we have, as a culture, denied legitimacy to these special, feminine ways of knowing.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should forgo logic either. The point is to allow our intuition and our rational brains to complement each other.
Intuition is what led me through a key turning point in my career: when my position as chief marketing officer (CMO) at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was abruptly eliminated.
I was a high achiever and very career-driven (and I still am). Admittedly, I had felt fairly invincible up to that point. The experience, then, served as a rude awakening.
Soon, though, I was able to find clarity. I had the space and energy to focus deeply on a business that I’d already started conceptualizing. It was my intuition that began to push me hard in one specific direction: a marketing and PR agency that would help develop positive female role models, specifically in women’s sports.
This was 12 years ago, when women athletes and women’s sports in general were still being dismissed. People thought I was crazy for building a business model around this idea — I was told, “There’s no money in women’s sports,” and “female athletes aren’t marketable.” Twelve years later, that “crazy” agency I founded, Stanton & Company, has helped build the brands of dozens of influential, powerful female athletes and other female role models. And it has evolved into a bigger concept, now focused in the broader healthy, active living space, still with a large focus on women. It’s clear that I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to be.
I’m right where I belong — because I listened to what my intuition was telling me.
At Stanton & Company, I’ve worked hard to develop a culture that values the power of intuition.
While we embrace the many data-led initiatives that are available to marketing companies today, and we certainly use data and analytics the way other agencies do, once we have the facts, intuition can provide the nuance. It’s what helps guide us through the more confusing, challenging, or knotty decisions that we must navigate (and there are many of these).
It’s not always easy to create a culture like this, and doing so requires consistent encouragement. So there are simple things we do to help our employees develop their own intuitive natures.
The first is to give people time to think, and time to make decisions, rather than creating pressure for employees to offer their input immediately on the spot. If we want to hear what our intuition is telling us, we must be allowed to take time, quiet our minds, and listen. Naturally this can be challenging when everyone’s moving quickly and it doesn’t seem like there’s time to spare.
The other thing you can do is to ask your employees what their gut is telling them. Validate the power of those gut feelings. I’ve made it a point to do this with my team and it’s been enlightening. I’ve found that certain team members have great instincts — they just don’t trust them. When I ask them, “What’s your gut telling you to do?”, nine times out of ten, they have the right answer. They just weren’t ready to take the leap and rely on their intuition.
If you’re not used to trusting your own gut feelings, there are easy ways to begin connecting with them.
Start small: try to tap into your intuition on something trivial, like whether or not there will be a parking space in the next lane of a packed parking lot. Text someone, and try to predict how long it’ll take them to respond and what they’ll say.
I bet you’ll find that you’re more intuitive than you might think.
Then, once you genuinely trust your intuition, you can begin allowing it to factor into progressively more impactful decisions. The reason I’m so confident in my intuition is that I know it works. I’ve trusted it for a long time, and it’s rarely led me astray.
I encourage everyone, men and women, to find, embrace, and hone this powerful ability. If approached with an open mind, it can become a faithful guiding light — both in your career and your personal life.
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