Updated on 5/18/23
Intuition is a skill I believe that can be developed. Every one of us has it to some degree, but a lot of times we ignore it, or we deny it.Mark Divine, Navy SEAL Veteran, SEALFit Founder
Mark froze in his tracks.
An innate warning commanded him to “STOP”. A split-second later, a bullet flew past his skull, so close, he felt the wind brush his hair. This commanding voice, of inner nature, had saved his life.
The Mark I am referring to is no ordinary soul. He is Mark Divine, a 20-year military veteran and former trainer of Navy SEALs. His story of life-saving intuition is recounted in his Unbeatable Mind podcast.
You might think of elite-military special forces as commandos fueled by a cocktail of toughness and aggression. It would be natural to think that listening to gut feelings and intuition would have zero role in their training. In fact, you might that that such capabilities would be purposely ignored and replaced with cold-hard logic and fool-proof strategic planning.
You would also be wrong.
Mark shatters the stereotype. He focuses on awareness and intuition as one of the “five mountains” of his SEALFit training method. In Mark’s lived experience, being relaxed, present and aware of the moment was the pivotal capability he honed as a SEAL.
Beyond the realm of the ego, it turns out there is a deeper intelligence and “knowing” that comes from a quiet space within the human mind. Having an intimate relationship with this deeper intelligence is a secret weapon when everything really seems to be on the line.
Let’s explore this more deeply, and how it can help anyone, even if your “battlefield” is your business, career or life!
The military’s secret weapon
Mark Divine is not alone, Navy SEAL Mike Jaco has written a book on the topic called “Intuitive Warrior.” Jaco states, “By fine-tuning my intuition as a Navy SEAL, I was able to predict and avoid attacks to protect myself and my fellow soldiers.”
These are not two isolated cases. In 2011, the Navy funded a $4 million and 4-year long study into intuition, and it’s military application, slyly referred to as a study in “sensemaking”. In a job where one wrong step could mean life or death, I can see how greater sense perception can be worth its weight in gold. More than $4 million worth of gold for sure!
This is all about cultivating a broader sense of awareness for what is really happening, both externally and internally, with regards to a human observer. When awareness is broad, more data is captured and bias is removed. With a broader and unbiased data set, intuition can flourish as it flows in the background of your consciousness, making sense of all the data and bubbling up insights and ideas to guide your way forward.
The development of (and trust in) such a capability is especially vital in the midst of uncertain circumstances where the stakes appear to be high. The surface level intellect, the thinking mind, can only work so fast and crunch so much data, whereas the intuitive and deeper intelligence within the mind can see more and respond more appropriately to the present moment, be it chaotic or clear.
Any leader would be well-served with being curious this deeper intelligence flowing through their life.
Intuition and sensemaking in your life
If the armed forces see value in the cultivation of intuitive and sensemaking powers, what is the relevance for those of us who are business owners, students, athletes or merely looking to get along more effectively in life? Let’s explore this idea.
Business owners could benefit from the enhanced understanding of the viability of a deal or investment. Not to mention the massive improvements to the quality of overall decision making.
Students could benefit from a better sense of how to communicate ideas and cross-pollinate thoughts when writing papers, in exams or engaging in class.
Athletes could better tune into and engage with their bodies in motion, the environment and other players on the field.
Working professionals could benefit from massively improved communication, listening and collaboration skills. As leadership can be defined as one’s capacity to communicate and create an engaged following, there is perhaps no superior way to be a stronger leader than to strengthen one’s sensitivity to what’s going on around them.
Improving your intuitive capability
There is no magic bullet to tapping into intuition. However, there are a few steps that can help if you are struggling to differentiate between what is an intuitive signal and what just the noise of your intellect.
Try the following process for a week and see what you learn.
Step 1: Be Curious
Improving intuitive capacity is no different from improving any other sense or skill. The first step is to become curious about your ability to make sense of the world, and navigate through it, in a more natural way.
Logic and reason are vital, but never paint the full picture of what is happening around us or within us. Be curious about the truth of intuition, and your capacity know, decide and realize things at a deeper level.
Without ample curiosity and interest about your deeper capabilities that lie beyond your routine thinking, it can be very difficult to gain further insights on the matter!
Step 2: Relax
The next step is to learn to relax. Relaxing is not just physical, but mental. In fact, it’s possible to be relaxed even in times of extreme physical exertion. This state of mind, sometimes called “The Zone” is coveted and sought-after athletes.
Relaxation is not being lazy, it is slowing yourself down so you can move deftly through life with a good feeling and trust that you are operating authentically and making choices that are best serving the present moment.,
For non-athletes alike, you can practice anything that helps you arrive more fully into the present moment. Relaxing helps to lower the “noise” of the mind, so deeper awareness and listening to deeper aspects of yourself can occur.
Go for a walk, look out a window, pet your dog, or just sit quietly and allow your mind to settle. Choose whatever tactic seems effective in relaxing your body and mind.
Step 3: Be Present
One you notice the mind and body is settled, a next step is to broaden your awareness to the present moment. Mindfulness meditative practice is one way to do it, and such attention can be cultivated when moving as well as stationary.
As you move through your day, tune into inner signals (what is going on in your mind-body complex) and outer surroundings (passively noticing any sensory signals without judgement. Turn off your smartphone and other distractions and tune into the real world, especially the inner world of your mind and body!
As you tune into what is occurring in the present moment, begin to notice how you are making choices, and operating in a way that moves you into each new moment. Do these as you continue your work, play and other activities.
Notice that intuition communicates in ways that are often subtle and feeling-oriented as opposed to forming language in the mind (though in the case of Mark Divine, when his life was on the line, his intuitive warning to STOP was clear and abrupt). So pay attention to the subtle and deeper feeling that emerges.
Step 4: Capture Insights
A last step is to reflect on your intuitive sense on a daily basis (or a few times throughout the day!) and notice what it is telling you.
Are you able to correctly interpret your intuitive signals?
Where is it spot-on? Where does it leave you confused? Where is it dead wrong?
Keep a journal of your intuitive signs and insights to help you get a grasp on how it works and it’s reliability in various circumstances.
For example, you might choose to keep a log in your journal of decisions you make, where your intuitive sense plays major part. Notice your decisions and actions about what meals to eat, how to respond to those tricky Slack messages and emails at work, what to say to a partner in conversation, etc.
As time goes on, how are the choices working out for you? What are these choices teaching you about the reliability of your intuitive sense?
Logic and reason are powerful capacities. However, it’s also important to harness latent intuitive power for the sake of making better choices and moving through the often chaotic and always uncertain circumstances that life presents.
Intuition is no longer limited to the realms of mystics and seekers. It’s equally relevant to anyone looking to make their way in the world with less struggle and more success.
As you explore your own capabilities, remember that being in touch and aware of one’s deeper capabilities is a life-long process. It’s not a game you “win” but a journey to enjoy. Even small improvements can make a transformative difference in one’s quality of life and performance at work.
As you put this into practice, please leave a comment below and let me know what you learn about yourself!