How To Use Intuition To Navigate Tough Career Choices
I once was in an interview process for a job I thought I really wanted. Deep down though I had a feeling that maybe it wasn’t the right job for me. Something just felt off. But I didn’t listen. Instead, I learned the hard way that those small inner nudges and gut feelings we have - they really do know what’s up. And (sometimes at least) we’d really benefit from listening to them.
Collectively, I would call these feelings, inner sense, or nudges our intuition. Accessing our intuition is particularly helpful in situations where our rational/logical mind can craft seemingly well-reasoned, good cases for either side of an argument or for multiple different choices and we’re left feeling confused and unsure. This happens both in navigating major decisions in our career and day-to-day at work. Tapping into the wisdom of our intuition can provide additional insight to take into consideration and help us make the choice at hand.
The challenge is that we are often so used to making decisions with our conscious mind - using logic and rationality - that we can easily dismiss or miss this other source of crucial information.
So, how can we cultivate being more in touch with our intuition?
We can’t hear the signals from our intuition when we are stressed. When we are too stressed our body is in survival mode and the only signal it’s sending is to get out of this situation. So reducing stress levels is a primary first step in being able to tune into our intuition. Perhaps you’re thinking that reducing your stress is easier said than done, but even just taking a few slow breaths to calm your nervous system can help you tune in. My next point can also help lower stress levels.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School teaches that through meditation we can gain greater awareness of our thoughts. And while we can’t stop our thoughts, meditation can lessen our natural tendency to identify with, believe, or get hooked by them. In my experience, meditation creates space for us to see and feel things more clearly - the space we need to tune out those arguments spinning in our mind and tune in to our genuine selves. So, if you’re not already a meditator, give it a try. Headspace is an app with some fantastic introductory 10-minute meditations. It doesn’t have to be a lot of meditation time to start being able to tune in. After you’ve experienced the mental space and peace meditation can bring, you can try to access that when you’re in a situation where your mind is chattering away when you’re trying to make a choice.
Try listening to your intuition and see what happens when you take its cue!
A great way to start getting familiar with your intuition is to start small with “low risk” decisions at work or at home. Maybe as simple as deciding where to take the team for lunch, or what movie to watch with your partner. When a decision point arises, try to tune in, then take the option your intuition is telling you. Observe the result. This builds your muscle for tuning in and builds your experience in taking the actions it suggests. As you experiment you can reflect and fine-tune your ability to read yourself and build more confidence in the information your intuition provides. Over time you can begin to use it for choices that feel more “risky.”
Imagine yourself in future scenarios and observe
When you’re struggling to make a decision, imagine yourself having already made the decision to do X. For example, imagine you’ve already accepted the job (ex. you have the salary, the title, you’ve been at the desk with the window view for 3 months). Now, in this future hypothetical reality, how do you feel? Do this again for each option (ex. with the option of not accepting the job, or accepting a different job). Try to find the option that once taken feels the best. Note: just be aware of fear tripping you up. You can still take an action that feels good and is what you really want, but also have it be a bit scary - fear is often a normal part of stepping outside of your comfort zone or trying something new.
With all of this I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t listen to our mind and logic when making decisions. But, sometimes our intuition can have a lot of helpful information to add to our decision-making process. And I, for one, on many past occasions in my professional life wished I had checked in and listened to it more.