Can Intuition Be Wrong?

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:

  1. You are not locked into certain outcomes.  This allows the paths to unfold more organically.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Posted in Decision Making, intuition, Questions to Ponder | Tagged | 5 Comments

9 Ways to Tell You’re Listening to Intuition

Intuition is a very confusing thing.  It’s not a feeling, it’s not the voice of reason.  Oh, it’s a voice, all right — it whispers in your ears.  But other than that, it’s really hard to explain what it is.

You see, there are actually 3 voices in your head, and that’s if you’re normal.  The voice of reason, the voice of feelings, and then — intuition.  “Gut” feelings, we call it, as it appears to come from somewhere deeper, but it also feels pretty indistinguishable from feelings, especially strong emotions.

It’s quite easy to misinterpret intuitions, or confuse something else to be your intuition.  Over the years I wrestled with this issue, I started developing a system in which I can gauge my internal bearing.

Below is a list I use to test my intuition to see if it’s truly my intuition, or something else (like fear or greed) masquerading as one.  Consider it a scoring system — if your inner voice meets a good number of these criteria, the chances are, it’s the voice of your intuition.  An important note:  I’m taking here about intuition as in decision-making system.  Other kinds of intuition exists — like actually foretelling future or sensing what’s wrong with someone’s health — but that’s outside of this post.

Continue reading

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How to Rise to the Occasion

This final installment of the series “How to Enjoy Challenges” examines how a challenge can bring the best in a person — or the worst.  By diligently removing threats you associate with challenges, anyone can become a brave soul who rises to the occasion and pulls out the best in him/herself.

A challenge can bring out polarized reactions from people.

Most everyone I know cracks under stress.  By that, I mean that people revert to the most immature coping mechanism in their arsenal.  It’s as if the stress reduces them to a mere child.  Some people say nasty things.  Others cower in a corner.  Some turn violent.

Who I Become Under Stress

For me, I have a number of built-in reactions to stress.

Verbally, I tend to become silent.  It feels too vulnerable to speak and express my stress, so I hold it in and let it fester.  Another impulse I have is to try to make myself blameless, by either wiping my tracks or coming up with rational-sounding justifications of why I am having a problem.  I revert often to lose-win deals so others are less likely to get upset with me.

The problem is that this kind of fear is really hard to hide.  I’m sure you’ve seen a child who makes up silly reasons for doing naughty things.  You can see right through such a child — and if you are mean-spirited, you’ll know exactly what to say or do to push the child exactly where s/he is afraid, and manipulate him/her.

Regressing under Threat

It appears that being threatened reduces us to a point in life when we first formed the defense mechanism to deal with such a stress.  Perhaps you got bullied as a child — or perhaps you were punished severely for an innocent mistake.  Whatever the incident, all of us acquire some kind of trauma in the process of growing up, and most of us carry defense mechanisms that we employ to prevent that painful event to happen again.  Except, these defensive tactics tend to be entirely fear-driven and immature, and often the effect is that it invites exactly the kind of threat you’re trying to prevent.  It’s just like a child who lies to cover up a mistake.  You have to keep on lying to cover up the lies you made up, and you drive yourself deeper into a hole.

Why would some of us become the very worst of ourselves when challenged, while others seem to do just the opposite — pull out the best in themselves?

The difference lies in how one perceives the challenge: whether it threatens them or not.

James Bond Remains Cool

I’m not a 007 fanatic or anything, but one of the things I’ve always liked about the James Bond character is that he seems to remain perfectly cool and collected in the most dire situations.  He doesn’t even lose his wit and humor.  Or in a more realistic example, I know people who are EMT (emergency medical technician — in US, they are the ones that arrive in an ambulance in a medical emergency) who are trained to function at their best under circumstances where most of us would be terrified and reduced to tears.

The reason James Bond and EMTs can function in gravely challenging situations is because they don’t feel personally threatened by the situation.

Notice I said they don’t feel, not that they aren’t.

The difference lies squarely on the perception of the threatened.  Sure, people are trying to kill James Bond.  Or as an EMT, if you screw up in a medical emergency there can be dire consequences.  These people have all the reasons in their world to feel threatened.  Except they don’t.

And because they don’t feel threatened, there’s no need to revert to childish defense mechanisms.  They can remain level-headed and rational, and deal with the situation in the most mature manner.

It’s the perception of threat that makes us crack in challenging situations, not the challenges themselves.

Every Challenge Is an Opportunity

Throughout this series we’ve been discussing how to remove the element of threat from challenges/problems facing you.  When you do stop associating the two elements, then there will be no more need to revert to coping mechanisms when facing challenges.  You’ll be able to remain calm and grounded, and call up necessary resources to overcome the obstacles.  In the process, you’ll gain fresh insights, acquire new skills, and boost your confidence.  Problem-solving becomes fun, just as a good board game is fun when it’s not too easy.  Worthy problems start motivating you. The more you build the history of rising to the occasions, the more you welcome such challenges, even to the point of craving them.  A positive cycle of growth ensues, and your childish coping mechanisms get left out in the dust, moldy and rusty from unuse.

A lot of people hate math.  It is said that girls/women tend to hate it more often.  Yet, my 5-year old daughter is doing 2-digit additions  for fun, and she figured out multiplications without being taught.  My wife loves to pass time doing logic puzzles — and she welcomes difficult ones.  Ones too easy are boring.  Obviously, they never learned to associate math with the frustration of not being able to understand or the threat of being embarrassed.

Rise to the Occasion

Disassociating threat from challenges frees you up to rise to the occasion, to pull out the best in you to meet the challenge.  And that reaction forms a new habit, and you grow to become able to meet bigger challenges.  This is how greatness develops.  A person’s greatness can be measured by the scope of the challenges they can face and overcome.

This potential is available to all of us, not just select few.  Work to separate threats from problems, because challenges are opportunities.  You have the power to make them so.  And when you acquire the ability to enjoy challenges, then little will rob the joy out of living.  Life is filled with worthy problems to solve.  You’ll gleefully go about your days, immersing yourself into bigger and biggest challenges you can find, enjoying every minute of pouring everything you have into solving them.

If you learn to enjoy challenges, then you’ll enjoy life.  I guarantee it.

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Why Passion Can Feel Like a Burden

In this essay I’m going to share a bit of my struggles with my so-called “gifts.”  A lot of us yearn to pursue our passion, yet it comes at a bit of price, it turns out.  What is it, and are you willing to pay it?

I once had a co-worker who told me that she loves to write.

Naturally, I told her that I’d love to read what she wrote.

But her reply was like this: “I don’t let anyone read it. It’s too important to me.”

The Burden of Gifts

Often, when I share that I am a musician and that I play the guitar, people say things like this: Oh, I have no musical talent. I don’t have any talents. Continue reading

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How to Climb Up the Ladder of Healing and Growth

In any journey, it’s nice to have a map. Healing and growth is no exception. In this essay I employ a system of classifying your emotions, to help you see where you are in your journey and what’s next in your evolution.

In a hurry? Read the digest version.

Elsewhere, I defined what I called Emotional Guidance Principle, the concept that fulfilling life is built through pursuing of good Level 2 feelings (“Satisfaction”).

Here, I want to continue our examination of the emotional terrain, as a tool to discern where we are in our growth and what our next steps may be.  Anyone can find themselves broken and unfulfilled whatever their life circumstances are — but once you realize where you are, you can also start to discover where you need to go in order to further move up the path to healing and fulfillment.

The Emotional Guidance Scale

In the book “Ask and It Is Given,” authors Esther and Jerry Hicks discuss the concept of Emotional Guidance Scale. Now, this book is about Law of Attraction — but when I came across this system, I felt that it is a great way to articulate the whole concept of healing and growth I’ve been discussing here at OBV. Whether you buy into the Law of Attraction or not is irrelevant, as this is simply a scale, a measuring stick with which you can figure out your current location in the healing/growth spectrum.

So, here is the Abraham-Hicks Emotional Guidance Scale, slightly modified by yours truly. 😉 Continue reading

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How to Apply Process-Oriented Principles in Real Life

In this final installment of the 4-part series on process-oriented goal-setting, I’m going to discuss how to make peace with the result-oriented world by applying process-oriented principles where it counts.  Along the way, we’ll clear up some misunderstandings and pitfalls, paving the way for truly best of both worlds: great results produced by enjoyable processes.

In a hurry?  Read the digest version.

In the previous chapter, we discussed how to set process-oriented goals.

But in reality, we can’t live on process-oriented goals alone. We set little and big goals everyday, without even being aware that we do, because we do need to produce results. Money is a result, not a process. Food on the table is a result, not a process. A roll of toilet paper ready to be used in your bathroom is a result, not a process.

So far I’ve discussed process-oriented and result-oriented goals as if they are mutually exclusive entities. They are not. In reality, we set goals that have the mix of the two extremes, the ones that fall in the middle. At least, I hope you do — because many of the goals end up being just result-oriented. Necessarily so. We need to eat to survive — food on table is a result we must produce one way or another.

So, how can we apply the principles of process-oriented goals in the real life? The answer is, whenever you can. The more you apply process-oriented principle in your goal-setting, the more you enjoy life, because most of your life you spend on your way to getting something. Choosing the path that you enjoy means you spend more time enjoying, even before you get the result. Continue reading

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How to Set Process-Oriented Goals and Be a Success Now (Digest)

Note: This is a digest version of a longer essay on goal-setting, the 3rd installment in a 4-part series.  And here’s the previous installment in this series.

To set process-oriented goals, you have to ask different set of questions than those you run through to set up result-oriented goals. With result-oriented, you consider the effectiveness, impact, and relevance of the goals you set.  With process-oriented goals, you consider the path, the state you’ll be in while you’re pursuing your goals, and you make up your goals based on it.

Ask yourself these 5 questions as you ponder your goals:

  1. 1. How can you do what you love, starting now?
  2. Is it a finish line or a light house? A finish line is a goal you must reach, or face a failure.  A light house, you walk/sail toward, but the point is not reaching it.
  3. Can you fail on your mission? If you answered yes to the question, then you’re putting too much emphasis on the goal.
  4. When will you reap the benefit? Result-oriented goals have the majority of the benefits waiting for you at the destination. Process-oriented goals let you reap most of those rewards the moment you start pursuing it.
  5. Does it excite you or overwhelm you?

I used to pursue my dream of becoming a famous rock guitarist by subjecting myself to play the game established in the industry.  Like playing crappy gigs, going to parties I didn’t enjoy, trying to befriend people I didn’t like.

Nowadays, I just do what I enjoy — blog, write songs, make music mainly for my own pleasure (though it has value to other listeners, too).

By knowing and applying process-oriented paradigm to your big goals, you unlock the potential for joy and happiness immediately, instead of putting it somewhere in the future and having to walk a painful path.

All that said, in reality, the best approach combines or balances the two extreme.  In the final installment, we’ll examine how to apply the concepts into real-world situations.

Posted in Best Practices, Career and Your Calling, Decision Making, Mission/Goal-Setting | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

5 Roles of Process-Oriented Goals: Setting up Infallible Success (Digest)

Note: This is a digest version of a longer essay on goal-setting.  If you agree with the points made here, read the original to understand all the whys and hows.  Also, read the previous installment.

Instead of the common yet ultimately unreliable grounds on which to base our goals, we need to explore a different set of reasons why we need to set goals in life.  There is a different paradigm, an approach that can secure and enhance our sense of well-being, instead of tying it down to a do-or-fail paradigm.

5 Roles of Process-Oriented Goals

  1. Direction.  Unlike result-oriented goals, a process-oriented goal is simply a direction to walk toward, not a finish line.  You enjoy every step of getting there.
  2. Effectiveness. Process-oriented goals are simply a way to measure effectiveness, to gauge the impact of your actions.  Not a proof, though.  Just measuring sticks.
  3. Progress. Similarly, process-oriented goals provide milestones, so you know you’re moving somewhere.  It’s not a finish line, it’s just a passing point.
  4. Articulation.  Process-oriented goals give you focus. Without being a burden.
  5. Motivation. Because it’s not a burden, but a marker that gets you going on a path that is fun for you to be on, process-oriented goals create much greater motivation for action.

The main distinction between result-oriented and process-oriented goals come down to this:  Result-oriented goals are mandates.  Process-oriented goals are symbols. With result-oriented goals, you either succeed or fail. With process-oriented goals, you succeed simply by getting on the path, and it continues all the way to the moment you reach your goal.

Sounds enticing?  Let’s look at how to set process-oriented goals.

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How to Set Process-Oriented Goals and Be a Success Now

This is the part 3 of a series on how to set process-oriented goals.  In the last chapter, we learned what it means to be process-oriented and what the benefits are.  Here, we’re going to look at how to set goals based on new paradigm, and start living the benefits of your goals right away.

In a hurry?  Read the digest version.

In the previous installment, we examined the difference between result-oriented and process-oriented goals, and defined that process-oriented goals are the desirable kind. They set you up on a path, where every moment is joyful and celebrated. Instead of sacrificing today’s joy and happiness for a benefit of tomorrow, you start experiencing the joy and happiness at the present without sacrificing the future.

To set process-oriented goals, you have to ask different set of questions than those you run through to set up result-oriented goals. With result-oriented, you consider the effectiveness, impact, and relevance of the goals you set. You primarily consider the benefits that come out of reaching your goals.

With process-oriented goals, you consider the path, the state you’ll be in while you’re pursuing your goals, and you make up your goals based on it. Continue reading

Posted in Best Practices, Career and Your Calling, Decision Making, Mission/Goal-Setting | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

5 Roles of Process-Oriented Goals: Setting up Infallible Success

This is the 2nd chapter on a series on goal-setting. Here, we examine the 5 roles process-oriented goals play, and how much more reliable and empowering they are compared to result-oriented goals. Read the previous chapter

In a hurry?  Read the digest version.

In the 1st installment of this series, we identified 7 unhealthy motivations for goal-setting. Those result-oriented goals reveal your benefit-centered nature, one ultimately rooted in the belief that you have to produce and accomplish something in order to prove that you are a good person, justified to exist.

Instead of those common yet ultimately unreliable grounds, we need to explore a different set of reasons why we need to set goals in life. As I said before, I am not making an argument saying that one should not set goals, or that goal-setting is completely ineffective and counter to your desire to have a satisfying life. There is a different paradigm, an approach that can secure and enhance our sense of well-being, instead of tying it down to a do-or-fail paradigm.

Let’s explore the better terrain of process-oriented goals. Continue reading

Posted in Career and Your Calling, Mission/Goal-Setting | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments