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Check the facts, weigh all your options, and take your emotions out of it.

According to research published by Project Management Degrees1, 50% of Americans said they trusted their gut. Only 62% of top business executives said they relied on their gut feelings when it came to decisions for the company. We’re conditioned to ignore our intuition, and we’re raised to think that intuition is reserved for women and mothers. In reality, intuition, a hunch, or a gut feeling, is a resource that is beneficial to personal decision-making and advantageous to business.

It makes logical sense why optimism and resilience are essential tools in your toolkit, but why is intuition helpful? In cases of danger, it gives you a head start, and in cases of opportunity, it allows for more time to maximize the moment. How can you benefit from picking up on intuitive signals and predicting outcomes while everyone else is waiting on a form of hard data to be revealed before taking action? What can you accomplish before the storm rolls in?

Growing up on a farm provided me with the ultimate training ground for acting under the guidance of intuition and making proper preparations. Is a storm coming? Will there be hail? Will there be a tornado? My adrenaline elevates just thinking about those experiences as a kid. How fast can you run? How quickly do you act?

Intuition is something that I started to pay attention to in my 30s. I’m sure it was there earlier in my life, but I didn’t notice its presence until retrospection. Intuition has guided me through personal choices and business decisions without conscious reasoning. I’ve trusted it in various situations, which I believe wouldn’t have been the same without its existence.

Oprah Winfrey said: “I’ve trusted the still, small voice of intuition my entire life. And I’ve only made mistakes when I didn’t listen.” What does it mean to “listen” to your intuition? It’s not as intangible as it might seem, but it’s in reach and ready to be relied upon… all you must do is listen.

4 ways to access your intuition

So how do you dig deep and tune in to what you’re hearing? When we’ve been trained at home and school to rely on data and make “educated” decisions based on facts, it is challenging to wrap our minds around learning to trust our intuition. I’ve found that these four actions make that inner voice more accessible, allowing you to harness the secret weapon of instinct to use it to improve your personal or professional life.

Pay attention

It sounds too simple, but we have become so wrapped up in the details of our busy days that we rarely take a moment to observe. Start paying attention to the signals you are receiving and become as observant as possible. Be observant of others, practice self-awareness, and be open to what your gut is signaling. When you actively listen, observe, and become more open to that “voice,” you’ll start hearing it more often.

Declutter Your Mind

I have learned about developing intuition over the last decade and that having actual access to intuition depends on what other “stuff” is occupying your mind. Worrying about little things and listening to noise can be so consuming that intuition can’t yell loud enough. I needed to shed unproductive activity to allow space for intuition to develop and present itself in a way that I could receive it.

Contradict yourself

It would be best to look for data that supports and (more importantly) counters what your intuition is telling you. Be careful that you aren’t blindly heading in the wrong direction. The signals that differ from your “hunches” should be heeded so that you can calibrate your intuition. This will allow you to continue to develop your intuition, making it a more reliable guide for the future. Looking for facts that support your intuitive thoughts will give you more confidence to access those gut feelings and utilize them for your benefit.

Practice and experiment

The ability to anticipate the unexpected and see what others don’t see is a skill. Think about honing your intuition muscle to improve accuracy for future use in personal and professional circumstances. Practice, experiment, and take risks. If your intuition leads you astray, don’t let that keep you from reaccessing it in the future. Intuition will take some trial and error to nail, so don’t give up easily.

In some circles, intuition has a credibility problem, and women are often discouraged or mocked for using intuition to make decisions. I firmly believe intuition is for everyone and that it’s not a woo-woo, willy-nilly, whimsical, in-the-clouds type of thinking. Harnessing your intuition provides insightful intelligence that will only elevate what you’re already doing. When was the last time you listened to your gut? What is your intuition telling you?