April 25, 2018

Direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.

When I hear the word “intuition,” I think of “just knowing” something. As an extremely rational person, I have a hard time with that “just knowing” without knowing why I know it – know what I mean? We’re often told to trust our instincts, but that can be hard to do when we don’t know why we have those instincts.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger is a leading authority on entrepreneurship. In his TEDTalk, “Learned Intuition,” in August 2012, he mentioned that, though it seems like a kind of “super power,” intuition is really just a result of combining experience and expertise. When we have a lot of knowledge about something, we don’t have to think about it as much in order to do it. We don’t have to go through all those steps to remember and rationalize why we are doing what we’re doing. It’s like muscle memory with sports. When you have performed a physical activity several times, your body tends to remember how to do that activity without you having to take the time to think about it each time you perform it. Take swinging a bat in baseball, for instance. When you’re new to baseball, a coach will teach you each motion you need to complete in order to have a good swing. Once you have put those steps together a bunch of times, you don’t have to actively think of each individual step in the process to complete your swing and hit a ball. You’ve lumped them all together into one process that just happens “naturally.” Experts at baseball can even intuit what pitch is most likely to be thrown at a given time, based on subtle cues that even they may not be able to put their finger on – they just know.


So intuition isn’t really a guessing game, and it should probably be used more than it is. Author Bob Samples interpreted Albert Einstein’s perspective on intuition with the following summation: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift” (1976). That “servant” of our rational mind does the work in the first place to gain expertise on a subject, but we need to re member to let the “gift” of intuition take over sometimes in order to get the best results.


According to an article called “Trusting Intuition” in Psychology Today, not trusting our intuition can actually be detrimental to our mental health. When we don’t trust our instincts, we tend to over think things and that can lead to anxiety and depression (Marano, 2004). Sometimes we really do “just know” what the right decision may be, and having to rationalize that knowing can interfere with our decision making. Once you have put in the work to have knowledge of a given situation, it’s often best to go with your gut and realize that the two processes are working together.


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