12 Ways to Sharpen Your Instincts to a Razor’s Edge

“What were you thinking when you decided to wear a nametag every day for the rest of your life?”

Well, that’s just the thing – I wasn’t thinking.

I was feeling.
I was listening.
I was trusting.
I was testing.
I was risking.
I was reacting.

But I definitely wasn’t thinking.

And, interestingly enough, that decision turned out to be the single most important one of my life.

LESSON LEARNED: Thinking is overrated.

Allow me explain that ridiculous blanket statement before I start getting hatemail from Mensa.

First of all, thinking is (technically) my occupation.

As a writer, speaker, mentor, consultant and entrepreneur – I literally make a living off of my brain.

At the same time, part of being a Professional Thinker – that is, one who dedicates his life to the persistent and honest pursuit of ideas – is recognizing when to stop thinking and start instincting.

This reminds me of John Cusack, whose character in the movie High Fidelity confesses:

“I’ve been thinking with my gut since I was fourteen years old, and frankly speaking, between you and me, I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.”

Ever felt like that before?
Like your instincts were about as sharp as Fisher Price butter knife?

I know I have. It’s sickening. All you want to do is be able to trust your gut, but every time you roll the dice, you crap out.

THE REALITY IS: Instinct is not a self-sharpening blade.

As much as you’d like your instincts to be as sharp as the Miracle Blade – which, if you recall, could slice through a steel hammer, a leather boot and a tomato, back to back, with no hassle (and no shipping and handling!) – then you’ve got to be willing to hone your intuitive muscles.

Here’s a collection of practices for doing so:

1. Look back at the path that you followed to victory. That way you can see the sequence of moves that led you where you are. Try this: Make a list of three situations where you trusted your instincts. Maybe it was a key business decision. Or the choice to end a relationship. Or that time you took a left down a gravel road even though the annoying British voice on your GPS kept telling you to turn around.

Whatever your situations were, write the answers to the following questions for each one: What were your intuition triggers? Where did you feel a sense of self-trust in your body? What questions did you ask yourself? How long did it take to make your final decision? And most importantly: How did that situation ultimately turn out? You’ll be amazed. Are you polling your past successes?

2. Look back at the path that you followed to failure. Next, I want you make a list of three situations where you ignored your instincts. And I want you to write down the answers to those same questions from the first example. My guarantee: Simply by making these two lists, you will immediately double the sharpness of your intuition through the power of self-awareness.

In the same way that getting the appointment is making a sale in itself; simply asking yourself these questions like pressing the ON button of the intuition sharpening saw. Remember: Self-evaluation is the impetus of self-improvement. Would your instincts be sharper if you became a more contemplative person?

3. Audit your instinctual abilities. Now that you’ve brainstormed a series of experiences, the next step is to give yourself an overall intuitive evaluation. Ask questions like: How do you treat your own intuitive promptings? In what areas of your life are you most intuitive? Under what conditions are you most intuitive? Who murdered your intuition?

This provides further insight into the origins of your instincts. Very helpful. Are you allowing yourself to trust your more spontaneous instinctual abilities?

4. Make paying attention to your intuition a priority. This is the crucial mindset for achieving deeper intuitive validity. Affirm to yourself, “I’m committed to listening to my body,” “I trust my resources,” and “I’m committed to honoring whatever arises.”

That’s how you plant the intuitive seed within yourself. And if you keep watering it, over time, you’ll yield a bountiful harvest of instinctive goodness. Are you dedicated to listening to your deepest self?

5. Be always guided by your body’s wisdom. It will never lie to you. And don’t have to climb to the top of a mountain or pay thousands of dollars for some weekend seminar to attain that wisdom. All you have to do is listen to what your body trying to tell you.

Here’s how: Think about where you manifest stress. Back pain? Stomach acid? Migranes? Then, notice patterns in how you feel when doing certain activities. Anticipatory waves of anxiety? Immediate biofeedback? Emotional hangovers? These are all the clues you need. And you’ll find that when you put yourself in direct touch with the one thing that will always tell you the truth (and that you can always learn from), your instincts will thank you.

But only if you become a consistent congregant of your bodily temple. If your cells could speak, what would they say to you?

6. Commit to stillness. After three years of practicing yoga, I’ve found my instincts to be sharper than ever before. Here’s why: The most challenging component of practicing yoga is the stillness. Especially in Bikram, when it’s 110° and sweat gushes out of every pore of your body for ninety minutes straight. Kind of hard (not) to wipe, itch, scratch, pick, pull or adjust something.

But that’s the whole point: To be able to practice perfect stillness amidst surrounding chaos. That’s when you’re confronted with who you really are. That’s when you can’t hide from your truth. Sounds simple, but it’s actually the most challenging part of class.

Hell, anyone can touch head to knee. But to just sit there and do nothing for sixty seconds? Ha! Most people are so voluntarily overbooked and crazybusy that the mere thought of absolute stillness gives them an ulcer. The cool part is: If you can practice stillness in the studio, you can practice stillness anywhere. Muscle memory is a beautiful thing.

The best part is: From stillness comes lucidity. And from lucidity comes the ability to listen to your intuition. Ask anyone who does yoga: The highest benefits are found outside the studio. Them instincts will get sharp as steel. How much time did you spend yesterday just sitting?

7. Float a trial balloon. Set a goal to achieve one small intuitive victory a day. Whether you’re deciding what shoes to wear, choosing which route to take to work or listening for which specific thought wants to be tweeted, the sharpening will continue.

And by practicing instinctive/intuitive behavior in small moments, you’ll start to become more receptive to future whispers about bigger moments. How many intuition reps do you usually get in each day?

8. Regularly ask yourself intuition-tapping questions. In no particular order, try these:

*What do I need to remember to be most aware of right now?
*What direction do I need to go right now?
*How do I need to take care of myself right now?
*What is it that I don’t want to know about myself?
*What remains unexpressed within me?
*What message is my body trying to give me right now?
*What are the signs I need to look for in myself that tell me I need to do something different?
*What is within me that’s trying to come through right now?

You might post these questions on sticky notes. Or ask them to yourself as you fall asleep. Or make a list of one hundred answers to each question. Or repeat them as mantras during meditation. Or write them in blood on your bathroom mirror. The point is to use whatever works for your learning and motivation style – then allow the solutions to your problems suggest themselves. How do you punch yourself in the face?

9. First thoughts, best thoughts. When you start writing, it doesn’t matter what you write or how you write – as long as you’re writing, the truth eventually arrives. The page doesn’t lie. It just takes a while. Usually about twenty minutes. Give yourself permission to keep writing, to write what you feel, and to write what wants to be written. The truth has a sneaky way of slipping out.

Often times, right under your nose. Ever experienced that before? The moment when you look up from your laptop think, “Holy crap. Is that how I really feel?” Well, here’s the reality: It is. You just needed that container of honesty, safety and patience to invite that naked truth to make an appearance.

Remember: Off the top of your head usually means from the bottom of your heart. Beatnik author William Burroughs was right, “Rewrites are a betrayal of your own thoughts.” Don’t edit yourself. Words contain truths. Are you using them as intuitive weapons?

10. Beware the dulling forces of intuition. You can’t train your instincts if the velocity and volume of your life never recedes. Here are two practices I’ve found great success with. First, keep your distance from people whose sole purpose is to pollute your head with toxic noise. Life’s too short to surround yourself with people who don’t challenge and inspire you.

Second, learn how to disappear from the world. Press the mute button on life. Be quiet. Listen. Your questions will be considered, if not answered. Sometimes that’s all your intuition needs – to be nudged out of hiding and onto center stage for a sound check. What rust do you need to remove from your life?

11. Behind every problem there’s a question trying to ask itself. Your challenge is to spy on yourself in the spirit of self-inquiry. To step back from life’s situations and figure out what the question of the moment is. And to call upon untested faculties awaiting your discovery.

Then, to make yourself available to any spontaneous feelings that begin to arise. The cool part is: By asking yourself questions about your current experience, you attune yourself to promptings of inner wisdom. Have you established an ongoing inner dialogue with yourself?

12. Discern the voices. There’s nothing wrong with hearing voices inside your head. What matters is listening to the right ones. What matters is courageously identifying the angry voice of your ego that is making it difficult to hear the subtle voice of intuition. Which do you hear?

REMEMBER: Instinct is like creativity – the more you use it, the more you have of it.

Employ any (or all) of these practices, and you’ll be sure to sharpen your instincts to a razor’s edge.

That way, you won’t even have to think.

Do you trust your gut?

For the list called, “99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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