Following your Gut and Intuition in Business
INTUITION. It’s the “sixth sense” that we’re all born with – but most of us have barely scratched the surface in terms of leveraging it to create magical results in our lives and businesses. And that’s a shame, because as an entrepreneur (or a future Biz Lady), your intuition can be your greatest ally.
When you know how to partner with it, your intuition will help you to steer clear of sticky situations, easily make decisions, do more of the work you truly love, and maximize the moolah flowing into your bank account.
So, if you’ve ever thought “there MUST be a better way!” when it comes to figuring out this whole “being successful in business” thing, you’re right!
Your intuition is the immensely powerful tool that’s just waiting for you to perk up your ears and listen, so that it can help you make your dreams come true. And all you have to do to get the party started is decide you’re ready to ditch the struggle and open up to what’s possible for you.
The Old Paradigm of Business
So you get the terrifying-yet-amazing idea to start a business, and somehow you manage to swallow your fear long enough to get it up and running (woohoo!). But as any entrepreneur knows, the real adventure begins once you’ve officially hung out your shingle.
If you’re like most self-employed people, it isn’t long before you’re wearing all kinds of hats, dealing with uncharted territory at every turn. As fun and exciting as it can be, it’s also pretty darn stressful, and let’s face it: no one gave you a roadmap for this stuff.
So you spend a lot of time penning extensive lists of pros and cons, or making decisions semi-randomly, and just hoping for the best.
Or you might look around at what other people are doing in their businesses, and try out those same techniques. You’re doing the best you can, but the bottom line is: you’re lacking a foolproof guidance system.
Which brings me to an important question: what if instead of looking outside of yourself for the answers, you looked within?
That’s the name of the game when you’re using your intuition to guide your business activities. With intuition on your side, rather than spending your precious time trying to keep on top of the latest and greatest marketing plan or social media strategy – not knowing whether they’ll actually create results for you – or spinning your wheels in indecision about what direction to go with your new project, you can do a quick tune-in and listen to that voice inside of you that knows all.
Because you truly DO know all! Your intuition will never steer you wrong. It’s literally infallible. Which means that right now, at this very moment, you already have all the information you need to do what’s right for you in your business. Is that a relief, or what?
So, let’s dive in! We’re going to begin our exploration of intuition by talking about what it is NOT.
Is It Intuition? Or Something Else?
Have you ever noticed that there are two different voices duking it out inside your head? If you’re not actively working with your intuition on a regular basis, the first voice tends to show up rarely and unpredictably.
It pops up out of the blue (perhaps while you’re in the shower) to dispense earth-shattering wisdom and brilliant ideas, and as quickly as it arrived, it’s gone.
Alternatively, this voice can hit you over the head with strong gut feelings that feel like unmistakable warnings – as in, “this guy’s trouble – stay away.” This voice is your intuition, also known as the voice of your Higher Self.
The second (less fun) voice is the one that makes up the narrative of your regular old day-to-day thoughts. This voice is useful (after all, we can’t think about anything without it!), but it also has a darker side.
This darker side likes to tell you that you suck, that no one will like your new product line, that you should probably just take a Twitter break instead of finishing the article you’re writing, and other such unhelpful things. This is the voice of your ego.
Now, when I say “ego,” I’m not referring to being arrogant or full of yourself. I’m referring to the function of a part of your brain (the reptilian brain) that’s designed to keep you safe (more on this in a second).
It’s important to know how to recognize the voice of your ego, so that you can make a conscious choice to listen to your intuition instead.
Ready to experience the voice of your ego firsthand? Right now, I want you to think about something that makes you really happy and excited: something you’ve been longing to do, be, or have. Maybe it’s that trip to Maui you’ve been dying to take.
Or the idea of you, as a bestselling author, appearing on Ellen to talk about your latest book. Or that gorgeous piece of jewelry you’ve been drooling over ever since you laid eyes on it. Whatever it is that’s the ultimate object of your heart’s desire right now, allow yourself to think about doing it, being it, or having it.
Allow the excitement to fill your body as you go into daydream mode. Enjoy the sensation of happiness for a few seconds, really letting yourself deepen into it.
Okay… done? Now, how long did it take before a negative thought butted in? Perhaps a “you could never afford that,” or a “yeah right… you’re not talented enough,” or a “you don’t have time for this… better get back to work?”
If you’re like most people, you probably only got to enjoy five or ten seconds of happy daydreaming before a not-so-nice thought popped up to say hello. Congratulations: you’ve just met the voice of your ego!
It’s Your Ego, All Up in Your Biz
As a business owner, learning to monitor your thoughts for the stuff that’s ego-based, vs. the stuff that’s coming from your intuition, is crucial.
When you’re in business for yourself, your ego is perpetually on high alert. It’s running on overdrive, frantically feeding you discouraging thoughts all.day.long. More than it does for most people who are employed by other people. A LOT more.
Why is the ego constantly terrorizing the brains of Biz Ladies across the globe, you ask? Because as I mentioned a moment ago, the ego’s main role is to protect you.
It tries to keep you playing small, NOT doing the work you’re meant to do in the world (the work that your intuition tries valiantly to inspire you to do), because the ego believes it’s not safe for you to stand out.
Remember how I said the ego’s home is in the reptilian part of your brain? That means it’s “animal” in nature – and if you think about how it works out there in the forest, or on the savannah, being a creature that stands out is definitely NOT a good move.
Unless you’re at the very top of the food chain (or a beautiful bird that can fly away when threatened), as an animal, you want to blend in. Eye-catching animals get eaten.
And this is the line of thinking that your ego is operating under, so it’s constantly coming up with new ways to keep you “safe” – by distracting you from your mission and the work that lights you up inside (because doing that work might put you in the spotlight, which freaks the ego out like nothing else, because it could lead to you being preyed upon).
So if you’ve been wondering why you’re not yet where you want to be with your business, and you didn’t know about the ego before… well, now you understand what’s really been going on! Any indecision, procrastination or fear surrounding putting yourself out there, creating new products or services, or having sales conversations usually stems from your ego.
As an entrepreneur, you will constantly be contending with your ego’s unpleasant intrusions, because the very path you’ve committed yourself to is one big, massive threat to the ego.
Rather than playing it safe and going to work for somebody else, you’re blazing a brilliant trail forward, and people are watching. The ego doesn’t like that one little bit.
Your ego is never going to go away (and that’s a good thing, actually, because the ego also powers all the logical thinking that you need to run a business), but the good news is, you can learn how to work around it.
And work around it you must, if you want to crack open its shell and allow your intuition to come through and light the way to business heaven.
Which brings us to…
How to recognize your Higher Self
The ego likes to natter at you all day, and on particularly stressful days, it’ll even keep you up at night. It facilitates your worrying about whether you’re going to have enough customers to cover your costs this month, trying to figure out which new service to launch next, and deciding on the perfect color scheme for your website.
It’s an endless loop of thoughts that runs through your head while you’re awake: nearly impossible to ignore.
But your intuition has a different M.O. Aside from those massive ah-ha moments that pop up out of the blue occasionally, your intuition is prone to show up as a faint whisper. After all, it’s usually drowned out by your blowhard ego.
So how do you boost the volume on your intuition, so that you can act on the golden nuggets that it has in store for you, and put them to work in your business?
I’m going to give you some of my best strategies for this, but before I do that, let’s look at some additional intuition facts, so that you’ll know it when you see (or hear, or feel) yours:
Because intuition is usually so quiet, and our lives (and ego-based thoughts) are generally loud and busy, you literally need to make space and silence for your Higher Self to come through and be heard.
When called upon, intuition responds immediately (because it’s literally a part of you, it doesn’t have far to go to chime in).
Intuition tends to communicate via feelings in the body; or, if communicating with words, it does so via very short phrases – sometimes only one word. Alternatively, if you’re more of a visual person, you may find your intuition speaks to you through mental pictures in your mind’s eye.
The voice of your intuition will always be loving, kind and empowering. You’ll know it’s your intuition talking, and not your ego, when you instantly feel relieved, happy, energized and/or a deep sense of “rightness” when you receive guidance inside your head.
The ego will almost always chime in immediately after your intuition has dispensed its wisdom to you.
It may simply add on its own (complicating) thoughts and ideas, it may distract you in an attempt to make you forget what you just heard, or it may try to get you to NOT listen to your intuition, by saying annoying things such as “that can’t be right,” or “but what about ______,” or “that’s too easy.”
Be aware that this will happen a lot – but you are the master of your mind, and thus you can tell the ego to shut the hell up.
All you have to do is be aware of the point at which the ego thoughts kicked in, and make a point to mentally return to the simple, feel-good truth of your intuition. Then you can act according to what your Higher Self is telling you to do!
The Juicy Stuff: 5 Business Oracle Strategies You Can Use Starting Right This Second
It’s true that you need to make space in your day (and life in general) to allow your intuition to come through in a way that you can understand and readily use.
But you don’t have to sit on a cushion and meditate for hours in order to get at this precious information from your Higher Self. Nope, the following techniques require minimal effort, and yet work remarkably well.
If you incorporate these tricks into your regular Biz Lady routine, you’ll be amazed at the quick and dramatic changes you’ll see in yourself and within your business.
Business Oracle Strategy #1: Morning psychic inquiry
When to use this in your business: At the start of each working day.
This tip is about starting your day by intentionally creating an opening through which your intuition can be heard.
At the start of each day, before you take a single peek at what’s come into your inbox, check Facebook, visit a website, turn on the TV or radio, or do ANYTHING that will give you sensory input of any kind or put you into reactive mode, go sit somewhere where you won’t be disturbed, and bring two pieces of paper, or a journal, with you.
Your first to-do is to write down all your business worries or things you’re feeling confused about on a piece of paper. Write until you can write no more, knowing that all this stuff is being captured on paper, and you can always refer to it later.
This process will “clear your channel” of all the mental gunk that’s lingering in your head, so that you’re ready to receive guidance.
Next, mentally address your intuition, and ask it “what do you want me to focus on today?” You might receive your answer in the form of a feeling, phrase, word, mental image or a general impression or knowing. TRUST WHAT COMES UP.
Whatever surfaces virtually instantly is the “right” answer. On your other piece of paper or a separate page in your journal, write it down.
Next, ignore any ego-based thoughts that pop up in response to this nugget of wisdom, and immediately go and do something that’s in line with the focus your intuition recommended for you. If it feels good (which it likely will!), keep working on that one thing for as long as you remain in a space of inspiration and flow.
Don’t check your email or Facebook or anything else until you’ve spent some time dedicated to the task that your intuition suggested you start your day with.
This will allow your intuition to guide your day from the get-go, preventing you from going into reactive mode, comparison-itis, or anything else that doesn’t serve you. You will have automatically started your day with the action that will serve your highest and best good.
This practice alone will completely transform how you feel about your ability to be a confident business owner. You’ll have a sense of ease, fun and clarity that will last the whole day. You’ll also automatically be dialed into your purpose, because your intuition knows your purpose inside and out.
Try it yourself: Put “do a morning psychic inquiry” on your calendar for first thing tomorrow morning, and set the event to repeat every day, Monday to Friday (if you use Google Calendar, this is super easy to do, using their “repeat” functionality).
Business Oracle Strategy #2: The 60-second tune-in
When to use this in your business: Whenever you’re struggling with a decision, such as how to price a product or service, or whether to sign up for an online course or not.
At any point in your day when you’re feeling confused about a decision you need to make, turn off your computer monitor (or, if you don’t work with a computer, go to a spot where you can be alone), and close your eyes.
Formulate a crystal-clear question in your mind surrounding the thing that’s bothering you. For example, you might ask “how can I best handle this uncomfortable issue with this client?” or “why is this design giving me so much difficulty?”
Then release the question to your intuition (you may want to imagine your question being carried away on the leg of a carrier pigeon, or a Harry Potter-style owl), and stop thinking about it.
Do 60 seconds or so of deep breathing, keeping your focus on your breath and filling up your lungs all the way down to your belly, exhaling fully every time.
Once you feel thoroughly relaxed, mentally say to your intuition “I’m ready for the answer now,” and observe what comes up.
Usually, you will immediately get a feeling or impression that will have a feeling of “rightness” to it. It will probably be very simple, but it will be clear. This is the answer to your question!
Try it yourself: You can try this right now with something that’s confusing you about your business. You’ll see that your intuition is only ever 60 seconds away from giving you a wise, compassionate answer.
Business Oracle Strategy #3: Step away from the madness
When to use this in your business: When you feel too confused or stressed out to use Business Oracle Strategy #2.
When you’re facing a real business conundrum, rather than trying to force your rational mind (ego) to “figure it out,” either by making endless lists of pros and cons, or simply by sitting there deep in thought with your brow furrowed, try disconnecting entirely.
Turn off your computer (this sends your brain the message that you’re done with trying to work out the answer with your logical brain), and go do something that engages your senses and involves movement. Intuition is dynamic and flowing, and it can communicate with you much more easily when you’re in a state of motion.
Plus, when your senses are engaged and you’re moving around, your ego takes a rare backseat. Few things will shut up your ego faster than this, so you may as well take advantage!
Some of my personal favorite techniques for engaging the senses/moving around include putting on some music and dancing, folding laundry, or going for a walk through a local park or beside a body of water. Bodies of water are great intuition activators.
You may even want to play around with setting your desktop (screensaver) image to a gorgeous photo of a lake, river or ocean, to reap the intuition-boosting powers of water even when you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest coast.
The moments when you feel the most stressed, lost and confused are the moments when getting away is an especially important practice. Your ego will try to tell you that you “can’t afford the time,” or “this needs to be dealt with right now,” but it’s not true. Few things are truly emergencies.
Virtually anything (other than administering CPR) can wait a few hours – and the fact is, you probably won’t come to ANY kind of solution if you’re sitting there trying to force it. So, let your intuition pipe in with some sage advice, by getting away from it all for an hour or two!
If you feel you’re ready for a major business transition – such as moving into a new line of work, totally rebranding, or overhauling all your products, here’s your intuition prescription: take a full-blown vacation.
There’s nothing like travelling to a far-off place, and taking yourself OUT of your business, to help you to see new perspectives and solutions.
On vacation, your ego takes a hiatus of its own, and your intuition will be ready and waiting to pick up the slack, coming through more strongly and distinctly than it ever would if you stayed at home.
For me personally, my intuition comes through loud and clear when I am in the tropics. What’s your secret location where you feel totally in tune, clear-headed and inspired?
Go there – even if you feel like finances don’t allow for it. Just set the intention that you will go on this trip and refuel your receiving muscles.
You’ll find that you usually make a bunch of sales while you’re off enjoying yourself (case in point: I once made $20K in two days while drinking beer on the beach in Thailand!), or at the very least, your intuition will give you amazing new ideas for generating money when you get back.
This “step away” technique seems really obvious and simple, but the fact is, most of us don’t give ourselves permission to do it. So if you needed a reminder that this strategy works (and permission to unchain yourself from your desk), here it is. 🙂
Try it yourself: Dare to clear your calendar for the rest of the day. Head out to a spot in nature, or a dance class, and enjoy the newfound clarity you have when you get back to your desk/workshop/wherever you work.
Business Oracle Strategy #4: Trust your gut
When to use this in your business: When considering whether to take on a new client, partner up with someone for a joint venture, or sign a contract.
As I touched on earlier, your intuition can give you “bad” feelings as well as good ones. It’s these strong, sudden, unpleasant feelings of aversion and ickiness that are especially important to listen to.
To illustrate this point, let’s do a quick little exercise. Think back to a time when you met someone and instantly, strongly disliked him or her, despite knowing nothing about this person.
If you eventually got to know each other, or had future interactions, did your gut instinct about him or her turn out to be right?
Was there some trouble or difficult situation with that person that could have been avoided had you decided to consciously not befriend or associate with him or her?
Chances are, the answer is yes – and that’s why it’s so helpful to develop the discipline to trust your gut instincts, no matter how irrational they may seem, and no matter how vehemently your ego tries to convince you that you must be “overreacting.”
When you ignore a gut instinct, at best, you’ll end up wasting valuable time and energy dealing with the personal or opportunity in question, but at worst, you could end up in a business (or personal) nightmare.
So, make a point of saying no to opportunities that just don’t feel right, even if your logical mind is yelling at you about how they could potentially be lucrative or result in awesome exposure for you and your business. Your intuition, and not your ego, knows best.
And in conclusion…
Learning to work with, trust, and act on your intuition is a gradual process. It’s like building any relationship: you meet for the first time, you see each other around more and more, you start hanging out now and then, and eventually, you become fast friends who share an unbreakable connection.
If you stick with the strategies I’ve shared in this article, you’ll soon be able to count on your intuition to give you guidance whenever you need it, and you’ll even find that it starts coming through loud and clear without you even asking it to (much to your ego’s dismay!).
There will of course be times when you’ll doubt your own intuition, even if it’s given you accurate, helpful information dozens of times before, and that’s okay. Your Higher Self doesn’t judge. It’ll be there whenever you decide to ask for its help next. And it sure hopes that’ll be soon, because your intuition is there to serve you and help you make your biggest, boldest business dreams come true!
This article was written by Stephanie Todaro and published in Design Sponge.
Writer by trade and designer by practice, Stephanie Todaro has always pursued a career in the creative realm and continues to seek out opportunities that allow her to stretch her artistic muscles.
Design Sponge is a design blog run by Brooklyn-based writer, Grace Bonney. Launched in August of 2004, the site updates between 4 times per day and was declared a “Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials” by the New York Times.