When – and How – Should You Follow Your Intuition?
Your intuition rarely makes sense.
Have you ever had a funny feeling about something even though it looks absolutely perfect on paper?
Or has your gut ever told you that you’re right about a decision that doesn’t seem to make sense?
Reason and logic can only get you so far. Here are the 3 times you definitely need to listen to your instinct, and 5 ways to do that.
Listen to your instincts when…
…meeting someone for the first time.
You can tell a lot about someone in the first ten minutes of meeting them. Sure, sometimes you’ll be wrong, and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – after all, if you suffer from Resting Bitch Face, people’s first impressions of you will be that you’re a resting bitch.
But sometimes you just know. I knew within the first five minutes of my first date with my girlfriend that she was The One. It didn’t make sense – we were from two different countries, didn’t have anything in common, and weren’t each other’s type, but something in my stomach just knew. That something was right.
So if you feel weird about meeting someone you’ve met on Tinder, don’t go. If you feel uncomfortable in the first ten minutes of a date, don’t feel obligated to sleep with them or text them back or, hell, even finish the date. Sometimes your gut tells you it’s okay to be rude.
This goes for jobs as well. How did you feel during the interview? Maybe the salary is perfect, the work is interesting, and all of your coworkers are gorgeous…but something doesn’t feel right. Don’t ignore that feeling.
…you feel like you’re in danger.
I have a theory that people of color and queer people are more attuned to danger. We spend a lot of our time looking over our shoulders, vulnerable to just about everyone. It’s like we have ESP: Extra Safety Paranoia.
When the hair raises on the back of your neck, or when you get the feeling that someone is following you, or if something just feels off about the place where you are, pay attention to that feeling. Check your surroundings. Take extra precautions. And if you really don’t feel right, get somewhere safe as soon as you can.
…you’re making a major decision.
You want to change your life. But where do you start? You can make a list of pros and cons. You can get advice from your mother and your ex-girlfriend and your imam. You can do hours of research. With enough Google research, you can talk yourself into thinking that anything is the right choice.
But what is your heart telling you?
Remember, just because something looks right on paper doesn’t mean it IS right.
By all means, do your research. Snap life decisions don’t always work out well. But as my best friend says, in your heart of hearts, what do you really feel like you should do?
Now that you know when to let your gut guide, how can you actually do that?
Write in a journal.
When making a major decision, pause before hitting that young Google search bar. Take a breath. Write down how you honestly feel about the decision. What are you scared of? What do you hope for? What would make you happy? When you’re finally ready to make your decision, keep this paper in mind.
Know what you want.
This is easier said than done. But sometimes your instincts tell you something you don’t know about yourself. For example, if you get the perfect job with the perfect boss in the perfect city, but you still feel miserable about going to an office everyday, then maybe you’re a creative type who shouldn’t be working in an office at all. Knowing this about yourself will make it easier for you to follow your instincts to a job you really do enjoy.
This is especially true in dating. People can be perfect in theory but completely wrong for you in real life. What do you really want in a partner? What do you prioritize? You’ll find that your instincts usually line up with the values you didn’t know you had.
Flip a coin.
Heads, decision A. Tails, decision B. Flip the coin.
Are you excited about what it landed on?
Or are you disappointed?
Go with what you excites you.
Listen to your body.
Is there a pit in your stomach? Do you have goosebumps? Does your heart flutter? When your mind is confused, your body will tell you what’s really going on. Listen to it.
Talk to a friend.
Friends know you inside and out. When you’ve overthought something so much that you’re no longer sure what’s right and what’s wrong or whether you’re crazy, a friend will be able to cut to the chase. They want what’s best for you, so their instincts are just as strong as yours.
Sit down, close your eyes and take a deep breath. What is your gut telling you to do today?