I am exploring a more intuitive way of living and decision-making, and in general I feel comfortable letting my sixth-sense take the lead. But this question has always nagged me. Can intuition be wrong, and if so, how can I trust it? I don’t know if I have the answer, but below I’d like to outline my current line of thinking on this.
Logic Can Be Wrong
First, let’s be honest here. We humans are perfectly capable of coming up with some pretty far-fetched, faulty logic. We can prioritize wrongly. We can justify wrong purposes. Relying on things “making sense” is finding comfort in deceptions — we can make sense out of anything.
Experience Informs Both Logic and Intuition
A lot of times, we base our assessment of future on our past.
Now let’s examine the statement there. We are basing our future on our past — but yet, future is always a wide-open book. There’s no guarantee, obviously, that what happened before will be what happens again. Is it likely that future will be like what happened before? That depends on the situation, but yes, I can agree with that. But there’s always a margin of error. Meteorologists often get forecasts wrong. That’s because they base the forecasts on analysis of the past. Are they allowed to forecast based on intuition?
But that being said, my experience is that experience informs our intuition, too. When I encounter a familiar situation, intuition seems to form stronger and quicker. I may be mixing up intuition with instinct — if you encounter certain patterns often enough, you naturally jump to conclusions more and more, and rightfully so.
So either way, we’re casting our past into the future. It’s a risky business, but we don’t know any better. Or do we?
Predicting vs. Deciding
When we’re trying to make decisions, I think it’s helpful to know what we’re trying to do. Most of the times, we’re trying to predict the future and making decisions based on that prediction. As I established above, predicting is unreliable at best, but we don’t know any better.
But is predicting really necessary to make decisions? Can we feel comfortable deciding, even when we can’t really predict how things are going to turn out? I would say that deciding without predicting in many cases are better than prediction-based decisions. Here are some reasons why:
- You are not locked into certain outcomes. This allows the paths to unfold more organically.
- You are more adaptive. Because of #1, you know and are ready for uncertainty and unexpected even if you feel that you made right decisions. There are less surprises, less assumptions.
- You have less tainted view of the reality. Again, when you don’t put on the colored glasses that are your predictions, you can assess situations for what they are more easily.
An Example: Intuition Seems to Do an About-Face in Assessing a Job Opportunity
Here’s a situation I’ve been in. I was in an interview process for a web development project. At first I didn’t particularly feel good about it, my intuition was telling me that this was not a project to pursue. There was lack of clarity in terms of the specifications or the scope, but yet they had firm deadlines and budgets. But there were other qualities that were very attractive about the job, too. So instead of turning it down I pressed on with the interview process, asking many questions. Which brought out clearer answers than I was predicting to find, and my intuition began to change.
So, was my intuition wrong to point away from this project in the beginning? That depends on how you frame that question. Had I turned the project down in the beginning, that would have been perfectly right and correct — there are abundance of web development projects out there, I would have found good ones sooner or later.
But was I wrong to pursue the project further despite my intuition telling me not to? That’s what I am still trying to figure out. Clearly, when the circumstances changed with more information, more exposure to the vibe of the factors involved, my intuition started pointing in a direction that seems contrary to my earlier inclination. Perhaps I jumped to the conclusions earlier, perhaps I didn’t explore it enough — for example, I failed to ask myself, “can this situation have any chance of changing enough so that I feel comfortable taking on this job?”
Note that what ended up happening with the job is not the point here, as whatever results come out, we can always interpret that as a positive outcome. If the deal didn’t end well, I can chalk it up to “that was the lesson I needed at the time.” See, how murky it is to judge a situation by predicting the result and deciding whether it’s good or bad?
Another Example: Buying a Camera in an Intuition-Led Splurge
A couple of years ago I bought a DSLR camera. I had always been interested in photography, but the decision to buy one at that point in time didn’t make sense to me. I was coming off of a full-time employment and having another go at making a full-time work out of my music. Why would I need a DSLR then?
But my intuition was so strong, that the longer I put off the decision to buy, the worse I felt. To the point where I started feeling ill. So I finally forked out a few hundred dollars and bought one, and I immediately felt better, relieved.
The camera arrived and it was great. I played around with it — but soon I lost interest. I had a tool, yes, but I couldn’t make heads or tails about how to use it to create the kinds of images I was interested in capturing. I knew I could take classes and perhaps invest in more equipment, but at that point I realized I wasn’t that interested. My camera spent more time hanging on my wall, and I eventually sold it.
Today I am at peace with my decision to buy the camera and explore the photography terrain. In the end, I realized that I’m more interested in the end result of getting access to some cool images, than the process of creating them. But how I interpret my intuition and the journey it led me to, is still a picture I can’t make complete sense of. Yes, it was a learning experience. I tried it, I don’t need to try again in a hurry. If I thought my intuition was a reliable prediction machine, then my intuition failed miserably. But my intuition led me down a path that I did need to explore and experience. It did not yield the outcome that I was hoping to produce — but I could argue that that’s what I needed.
Can Intuition Be Wrong?
It depends on how you frame ‘wrong’ but I do believe in the notion that nothing is perfectly infallible. So then it follows that intuition can be wrong. But then, so can logic. None of us are perfect.
A better question to ask is, can I trust myself? Do I trust my logic or my intuition? Obviously we have both play a factor in our decision-making. If they seem to be in a conflict, the situation needs careful assessment. As a man living in a developed society, though, I would say it’s much more acceptable to ignore intuition and follow logic. We have established methodologies for verifying and reviewing logic, much more so than evaluating a situation energetically through intuition. But seeing that we are all dealing with energy fundamentally — today I still feel that it’s in my best interest to develop and learn to trust my intuition. If the two sides are equally developed, intuition points to the right direction faster and more reliably, because of this access to the layer much deeper than human logic.
So — can intuition be wrong? I would say yes. Proceed very carefully where your head and your heart don’t match up. Intuition is a skill, too, so depending on who you are and what paths you traveled — it may be less developed than the other. But once developed, intuition can help us navigate by detecting the deeper energy of the terrain, in areas where logic can tie itself in knots that it can’t get out of. Of course, the ideal is that you explore every situation until both sides come together to point to a singular direction. But to me, operating from the head without regarding your intuition poses a greater risk.
What Do You Think?
So, that’s where I am today, and having written these thoughts out I feel more at peace with where I am today on this issue. I contend that this is not a well-researched essay that consults other sources and stories, but doing so turns this post into a novel. I felt it best to just share my inner thoughts and see what one man’s experience inspires in your life.
If you have any opinions on the issue of intuition, please feel free to share in the comments below. Thanks!