You know far more than you give yourself credit for.
However, trusting yourself to know this and using your intuition to help you grow a business is not a natural way for many of us.
If you are like a lot of people who I work with, you have spent much of your professional career thinking your way through challenges and problems. Your default setting has been to seek answers externally (AKA ask other people what they think) and engage your frontal lobe, the part of your brain behind your forehead where you access to process information, analyse, think and plan.
You probably already use phrases such as ‘I knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do’ or ‘I felt the tug on my heart strings’. But using these insights in a business context often get swept away and ignored.
In doing some digging around for some quotes on intuition, I came across this article from Harvard Business Review from way back in 2003.
“The trust in intuition is understandable. People have always sought to put their faith in mystical forces when confronted with earthly confusion. But it’s also dangerous. Intuition has its place in decision making – you should not ignore your instincts any more than you should ignore your conscience – but anyone who thinks that intuition is a substitute for reason is indulging in a risky delusion.”
I’d like to think that using our intuition in business has come a long way since this article was first published, but if you are a Gen X like me, it’s hard to get away from the cultural programming we’ve had.
We have grown up in a culture that favours logic; at school we were programmed into learning, sitting in rows and changing lessons each time the school bell rang, followed by working our up a hierarchical career path that celebrated success measured by numbers and time.
Today, we have access to an endless supply of productivity apps, automation systems and bluetooth devices all designed to send us constant notifications and help us do more in less time. Our smartphones can tell us how well we are eating, sleeping and exercising, which means we don’t have to think for ourselves.
And when it comes to our business and marketing, we look to the algorithms to make decisions on when to launch a new programme or what content to create.
But first, why is your intuition so important to access?
If you allow yourself the space to connect and access your inner wisdom, you often find far simpler and easier answers to your challenges and problems. There’s no need to spend days analysing spreadsheets or writing up lengthy reports.
The answer often comes through as a clear path forward; it just feels right.
The official definition of intuition is:
“the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.”
And if we go back in time to see the origins of the word in mid-15c:
intuicioun, “insight, direct or immediate cognition, spiritual perception,”
“Hang on … instinct? spiritual? Are you going down the woo-woo route and telling me that all we need is to simply burn incense sticks and spend our time meditating on problems?”
No. Spend too much of your time going within, and there’s no doubt you can find yourself ‘away with the fairies’. Very little action happens and if you then find it hard articulate or communicate your business direction with your team or customers, it all becomes very ethereal.
Logic still has a place and can helpfully sanity check ideas, bring concepts to form and create the structure, process and systems to allow you to run your business with ease. But without giving yourself the opportunity to open yourself up to feeling, listening and sensing what your instinct can tell you, you are missing out on some of the simplest and easiest options available to you and your business.
Your intuition will always have your back. It’s giving you feedback and insight into what is right for you, the person you are and what it is you truly want out of life.
So how to go about learning how to access your intuition?
For me, I have had a crazy relationship with my logic head.
I am naturally wired to be ruled by my head, which serves me well when working with clients and working through business infrastructure and systems quickly, and seeing the commercial opportunities linked with a bigger vision. However, when left unchecked, I can power on through and forget to take breaks to conserve my energy.
I crashed and burned when I was in my early 40’s, so I have learnt the hard way. When this happened, I realised I had lost all my connection with myself from the neck down. Burn out can do that to you! I remember being a class teaching pelvic floor exercise and sobbing silently into my yoga mat when I realised I could not engage any muscles in my pelvis area; there were no connections between my brain and core muscles. So was it any surprise that my intuition had very little chance of being heard?
A big part of my recovery journey, and understanding my midlife hormonal changes and menopause shifts, became looking at how to connect with my body. I stopped running and started dance classes instead. Nia Dance has become a regular part of my fitness routine now, connecting me to my hips and allowing me to literally shake away tension in my body.
I tried my hand at meditating but to be honest, it’s not a practice that I find much time for. I know that goes against the trends but I prefer a slow walk through the trees and spending my time watching the sun set, rather than sitting still, trying to calm my mind.
I’ve come to realise that, although every one of us has the ability to connect with our intuition, I have had to work at how to do this. And I know from speaking to many other business owners over the years, that I am not alone.
So here are my four simple steps that got me started.
1) Take the time to know yourself.
There are a tonne of psychometric tests and personality profiles available, often affordable and without the need to attend lengthy programmes. My favourite ones include MBTI Basics, Insights, Talent Dynamics (and also called Wealth Dynamics) and Human Design. Profiling oneself is not about trying to fit in.
Each one of us is unique and we don’t arrive on this planet with an operations manual. So the more we can understand our idiosyncratic quirks and behaviour traits, the less it becomes about what others expect of us and more about what it is that we want and value.
2) Spend more time in your body.
Many of you will exercise for the sake of fitness and health, measuring success by steps or sweat. But because so much business is often solved in our heads, these kinds of exercises can feed the logic brain. Spending time on moving your body consciously can really help you connect with the neural pathways that run around your body.
Movement such as dance – prancing around the kitchen rather than following a structured class – and slower walking focused on your posture – noticing how your feet connect with the ground with each step – can be simple ways of sensing your body and spending time ‘out of your head’.
3) Recognise that fear is different from intuition
… and sometimes it can be good to take the moment to ask the fear what it may be trying to tell you. Is there anything that you can put in place to make your next steps less risky for you? Perhaps you need more time to put your decision into action … maybe you need to hire some help.
If you choose to ignore your fears, you may find that you pull yourself back from taking action. So use your fear to shine a light on anything that you may avoid simply because it feels uncomfortable as this can be helpful in making sure you don’t avoid taking action on your decisions.
4) Create content without an agenda.
So much focus is given to the call to action and making sure whatever content we create in our business has a purpose. This can stifle creativity and stop many of us from exploring our ideas and methodology of our work. I’ve seen clients of mine flourish when I suggest that they blog without agenda; just write for the hell of it and see what comes out. I find writing incredibly cathartic and helps me form my ideas. Journaling can be incredibly powerful for this, too.
But if writing isn’t your thing then tune in to what form feels good for you; it could be that you paint or doodle your ideas. The important thing is that you give yourself permission to create for you … and you alone. This doesn’t have to be published or be made into a marketing campaign; you are simply allowing your creativity to come into a form that allows you to see patterns and recognise the power of who you are and what it is you want to express.
I believe that now, more than ever, is the time for you to place more emphasis on what’s within you and who you are.
Much of the expert space – coaches, consultants, trainers, designers, creatives- is now over-crowded, and the few market leaders rising to the top are simply being copied; their marketing and branding being bastardised.
Rather than looking outward first and choosing how you run your business based on logic success metrics, such as having to have a 6 figure business, give yourself the space to design and grow your business starting from within you and being clear on who you are and what you stand for.
I get that it may be easier to ask other people for answers to your questions about your business, but be aware that for every person you ask, you are going to get different answers.
When you start from within, and learn to trust your instinct, you can design and grow the right business that will support and enable you to show up and realise your full potential. And, in my experience, you’ll have an easier ride, reduce your mental bandwidth and feel less stressed in the process.
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.
About the author
Karen Skidmore is a midlife leadership & business coach for entrepreneurs scaling their purpose & profit. Business Books Awards finalist 2020 & podcaster, Karen uniquely combines the being-ness and doing-ness of business to help you grow, without burning out.
The first step in discovering the True Profit in your business is to take the True Profit Test.