Regardless of personality type, we all have a sixth sense that makes us do, feel or say something that we already know. It might be a physical sensation, like sweaty hands or a knot in the stomach that alerts us to some kind of danger. Or it might be a deep conviction that something is ‘right’, even if we’re not sure why it’s right or what led us to that conclusion.
For roughly one-third of the population, intuition is a process that seems to underpin their entire decision-making process. These people are Intuitives – they have an ‘N’ as the second letter of their Myers and Briggs personality type. And while they don’t rely on hunches as their sole decision-making tool, to others it can look a lot like the Intuitive is following their instincts rather than relying on any real-time data that’s right in front of them.
Many of us look at the so-called sixth sense with a certain amount of skepticism. We all want our decisions to be reasoned, sound and robust in the face of challenge. Is it normal, then, to be taking your lead from your instincts? And what are you supposed to do if those instincts turn out to be unreliable?
How Intuitives deal with information
Intuitives take in information seemingly out of nowhere. Suddenly they get a hunch about something, or an idea pops into their head that doesn’t seem to have any connection to deliberate, rational thought. Sometimes it will be a complete mystery how the Intuitive has subconsciously assessed a situation and reached a conclusion. They’ll think, “I’m right about this! Where did that come from?”
But even if he can’t articulate it, the hunch is the Intuitive’s personal North Star. It plays an essential role in how the Intuitive navigates the world.
In reality, the hunch has not come out of nowhere. Rather, an Intuitive has been taking in floods of information consistently. When they get a hunch about something, it simply means they’ve integrated that disparate information into some kind of viewpoint or judgment call – although they may not for the life of them be able to recollect where the original information came from or any facts to back the idea up.
Intuition in the Myers and Briggs sense, is not the same as intuition or instinct in the dictionary sense, although we often describe the Intuitive's thought processes by using these terms. Essentially, Intuition describes these properties:
Trusting ideas, symbols, imagination and flashes of inspiration more than what is experienced
Reading between the lines to create a new idea
Looking at the bigger picture
Having no explanation for your actions – you simply get quick insights into information and the relationships between information, and come up with almost self-evident 'understanding'
Analytic reasoning exists in spades, but it seems to happen unconsciously
Hunches are rooted in patterns, or the breaking of patterns, and are based around the question “why?”
What can’t be seen plays a part in how you perceive and ‘know’ things
Is your Intuition on point?
When things are working properly, an Intuitive will listen to their inner voice and trust the direction it is leading them. Their intuition is an important guide.
How do you know your intuition is working? Well, if you can find the right answers without being trapped in a merry-go-round of “should I or shouldn’t I?” – with your intuition telling you one thing then immediately afterwards cancelling its own decision – then you’re operating successfully as an Intuitive.
If on the other hand, you make a decision or take a stance only for it to feel forced and difficult, or you’re forever stuck in analysis paralysis, then something has hijacked your gut instinct. You’ve lost your intuitive driving force.
The bigger questions are why, and what can you do to stop yourself from coming completely undone?
What gets in the way?
First up, there’s no evidence that your intuition can get rusty with age, like joint flexibility and eyesight. While personalities mature with age, in the sense that we learn to play to our strengths and minimise our weaknesses, our core traits remain the same
But as you get older, you do start encountering an array of conflicting motivations. For instance, you may want to travel but you also want your children to have the familiarity of a stable home life. You may want independence in a relationship but you also want to be taken care of. You may want to take risks and build a business but you also want financial security.
With so many opposing motivations competing for your attention, it’s easy to get stuck. Your instincts get pulled in multiple directions, to the point where you no longer have any boundaries for your decision-making and every decision feels like something is at stake. It’s easy to wind up overthinking all the countless outcomes and overruling your own ability to pattern-spot.
And for Intuitives, the longer they think about something, the less certain they become. They get bogged down in all the infinite ‘what if’ scenarios and endless conceptualizing, to the point where all those nuances throw up a giant mental block.
How to get your intuition back on track
For Intuitives who don’t tick as intuitively as they used to, it’s time to pep up the subconscious pattern-recognizer in your brain. Here are some tips.
1. Do something – or lots of things – completely new
Intuitives are stimulated by challenges and inspiration, and are entirely discontented with routine. To reconnect with your intuition, then, you have to break away from your old routines of thought and behavior. Switching things up exposes you to a whole new set of data, conversation and relationships. Could you start a new hobby? Strike up a new conversation? Read 10 books at a time instead of just the one? Do something you’re really familiar with, but in a completely new and unexpected way?
2. Seek stillness
Sitting in silence and stillness is important to Introverts as it cuts out all the background noise and allows them to re-center and recharge. But it also serves a purpose for Intuitives, and that’s to leave you alone with your thoughts where you can reconnect with your intuition. It’s where you can let your mind wander, break down the barriers to your imagination and simply daydream, free from your frenetic lifestyle (EPs!) and all the external “shoulds” and conflicts that are keeping you disconnected from yourself. Keep a notebook handy to write down those flashes of inspiration, even if they make no sense.
3. Do something physical
Doing something physically challenging is the surest way to get out of your own head. The choice of activity doesn’t matter; it might be running, swimming, gardening, yoga or going to the gym. The point is to clear the air around your overthinking brain and give your intuition the space it needs to breathe.
4. Talk to other Intuitives
Sensors bring so many great gifts to the world, like pragmatism, an eye for detail and breaking complex problems down into their component parts. But if, as an Intuitive, you’re constantly surrounded by Sensors, then you might start to disconnect from your inner thoughts. Sensors are fond of asking the “how” and “what” questions – how do we fix this problem, how do we achieve this, what is our number one priority? Your Intuitive brain prefers the “why” questions – why are we doing it this way, or at all? – and it will feel backed into a corner when asked to focus on so much detail.
The obvious solution is to let your intuition loose with a group of like-minded people. Intuitives need exposure to different perspectives and the opportunity to argue from multiple different angles and viewpoints – other Intuitives will follow you down these rabbit holes and gladly! Pay attention to the opinions of others, especially those you don’t share. It will force you to connect with all the mysteries and interpretations out there in the world, scan through those variables and formulate your own viewpoints – and quickly. From there, it’s just a matter of having the confidence to go with it. Good luck!