Is It Intuition, Fear, or Wishful Thinking?

The number one question clients ask when trying to learn to trust their gut or intuition is “How do I discern whether or not this idea, image, or feeling is valid intuitive guidance or just a fearful or wishful thinking response disguised as intuition?” Have you ever wondered that yourself? Our ability to rationalize our way to an answer that sooths our fears or delivers something to us that we really, really want now is well known, so you have good reason to be cautious about an answer that just pops into your head.

That’s why I wrote my new book, Aha! Moments: When Intellect and Intuition Collide, about those sublime Aha! experiences. As I explain in the book, Aha! Moments are so powerful because we literally feel the frisson of energy in our body that tells us we’ve hit upon the idea, answer, or next step we need. An Aha! Moment is not simply an idea, image, or sense popping into our head—it’s a whole body experience that we can’t miss.

However, sometimes we need to make a decision without having the benefit of that sublime Aha! Moment experience. When that happens to you and you can’t tell if that feeling or thought is really your intuition,  your fears, or wishful thinking, consider the advice Tim Koogle, former CEO of Yahoo! offered during a session at the 2000 World Economic Forum with Scott Cook of Intuit and Durk Jager, former CEO of Procter & Gamble.

Koogle first said to “Trust your intuition and lead.” Scott Cook then asked Koogle “What do you do when you’re faced with a challenge so overwhelming that you fear to trust your intuition?” Koogle responded: “Make a prudent change and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work, shoot it. Then try another and if it works, grow it.”

Don’t be afraid to take small steps to check if your “hunch” was really your intuition. Stay focused on what you want and pay attention to the power of synchronicity. If you’re on target, the right people and things will show up at the right time. If not, take a step in a different direction and see what happens.

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