Let Your Intuition Be Your Guide

Let Your Intuition Be Your Guide

Two 'One Way' signs pointing in opposite directions.
Tony Lee

As the job market continues to improve, the possibility that you could receive more than one job offer may become a reality, especially if you work in a field where the demand is rising fast and the supply of attractive candidates in your market dwindles daily.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in this position, congratulations. However, now the tough part begins. How do you decide which position is best. If you’re like most people, you’ll start by reviewing the facts. You’ll pore over the details and scrutinize the pros and cons of each position. Since you want to be certain you make the right choice, you’ll put your trust in logic and objectivity. Your thinking likely will be orderly and calculated.

But as your decision-making process continues, you can’t help but recognize your gut feeling. As you lay awake in bed or stare out the window deep in thought, you may consider that one offer, perhaps the one offering fewer benefits and a lower salary, really is the best bet. A flash of intuition blazes across your mind. You immediately realize that this impulse has nothing to do with the merits of each offer, but simply feels right.

In this instance, what do you do? Follow your logic or your heart?

If you feel that using intuition may be too simple, and say to yourself that hunches are no match for cool objectivity, you may be discounting your most dependable decision-making tool. Many psychologists believe that intuition actually works particularly best in stressful, life-altering situations. Your mind and heart are silently comparing and contrasting your options, and intuition signals the direction you should take.

In an experiment conducted at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, researchers tested hundreds of business managers for their intuitive ability. They chose 25 managers who had held top decision-making jobs for at least five years. All were from small manufacturing companies to ensure that their decision making hadn't been effected by committees and corporate hierarchy. The results were remarkable: Of the 25 men selected, 12 had doubled their companies' profits in five years, and of those 12, 11 scored high on the intuitive test.

Using Intuitive Thinking

Of course, some people are better at following their intuitions than others. To help develop your skills of intuition so that you’re better prepared to select between job offers (and manage other difficult decisions in your life), consider the following suggestions offered by psychologists:

Watch for bias

Don't confuse intuitive thinking with personal preference, which often emerges as a result of your prejudices, biases, fears, fantasies or emotional reactions. Also be aware of the biases from those around you, such as your spouse, children or siblings. Those advisors often have a vested interest in your decision, which you must consider, but shouldn’t be confused with intuition. Constant analysis of your thinking is the only way to separate genuine intuitive thought from less-trustworthy emotions.

Keep a record

To determine how strong your intuitive ability may be, keep a record of your intuitive insights, or hunches, as they happen, then try to rate them objectively. If a reasonable number have worked out, cultivate and pay attention to your intuitions.

Keeping a diary is a great way to separate genuine intuitive hunches from wishful projections. If you discover that many of your hunches turn out to be wrong, know that your intuition is unreliable. Try to learn how your personal interests, wishes, fears and anxieties tend to distort your perceptions and block the way to having valid intuitions.

It's a normal function

Realize that intuitive thinking is a normal function of the brain, not clairvoyance or some other questionable phenomena. Intuitive thinking requires thorough research on a problem. You've got to have the basic facts and information before intuitive processes can take over. The university researchers reported that, "Individuals who have extensive familiarity with a subject matter appear more often to leap intuitively into a decision or to a solution of a problem -- one which later proves to be appropriate."

A combined approach

Use intuitive and analytic modes of thought together. The intuitive approach should never replace rational, cognitive thinking, but should complement it. Typically, intuitive thoughts will both precede and follow your exhaustive use of research and logic. Depending on the problem, decide which approach is best for you. Never rely solely on your intuition without also considering the facts.

Analyze and wait

You can’t really predict when genuine intuitive insights will happen. The best approach is to tackle your problems logically, and usually an intuitive hunch will follow. The common expression, "sleep on it," refers to allowing your intuition to incubate. In fact, the researchers said that many people report finding solutions to difficult problems either in the morning when they wake up, or when daydreaming.

Jonas Salk, discoverer of the polio vaccine, said: "It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it, and rely upon it. It's my partner." After tedious, long-drawn-out experiments seeking ways to immunize against polio, Dr. Salk said he made an intuitive leap to the correct vaccine just as he awoke one morning.

Use and act upon your intuitions. As research has found, they will help with most difficult decisions, including making the tough choice among job offers.

A photo of Tony Lee, publisher of Careercast.com.

Tony Lee is the Publisher of CareerCast.com and JobsRated.com

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