Using Our Intuition


In life, we continually face challenges with little to no information. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. So there are no hard-and-fast answers to help us apply decisions to the myriad of unknowns we encounter each day.

One Step at a Time

Agile software development is founded on a principle of iteratively progressing; taking small steps of action toward a high level goal without all of the information. This is ideal with complex projects or life events when it’s impossible to obtain all of the information upfront. In fact, Scrum, an agile practice, is an empirical process that is *ideal* for complex projects with several unknowns. In future posts, I’ll outline key factors in successfully adopting a Scrum process with your family at home.

A complicated piece of software, like the Facebook application, was not created at once. There was no way to know what all of the requirements were when they began developing it. Furthermore, until it was released, they had no idea how it would be used. Facebook has been developed in increments, growing from the information available at the time; with the intent of gaining more information with each iteration of released features.

Since it’s impossible to obtain all of the information for complex life situations, Agile practices are ideal to be used in our everyday lives. It can be quite invigorating to move forward in increments, without stressing about having a drawn-out plan. Just as Facebook evolves based on it’s customers, we evolve based on our customers; our relationships with others.

Agility is an ideal mindset for many life events as it empowers us to make decisions and move forward, step by step; taking in more information along the way so that we can continually improve what we are creating.

You Do Have the Answer

Life requires us to move forward with limited information. When we are unable to obtain answers from outside sources we must rely on something less tangible; our intuition.

Let’s face it, sometimes Google doesn’t have the answer.

Google can’t tell me if I should cancel my doctor’s appointment for that meeting that may or may not be critical to my career. My friend can’t always provide the critical direction I am seeking when making a decision about what nail color I should have applied to my toenails during our pedicure.

As much as I’d love someone/something to make decisions for me at times; sometimes, I just have to go with my gut. As much as we like to overcomplicate our lives, many decisions can be changed just as easily as the color of my toenails. If orange doesn’t look right, try pink. Oftentimes we operate as if decisions can’t be changed. This is a costly fallacy that can leave us guarded about moving forward before having all of the answers.

Trusting Your Intuition

Going with your intuition requires a certain trust in your ability to make a good decision. If you tend to waver on decisions and have a hard time coming to a conclusion, it may be time to practice using your intuition. The only way to build trust with that indescribable gut feeling is to begin using it.

When people hear “intuition” they can assume many different things. One may think of the “Sixth Sense,” usually involving a creepy child or woman who can predict evil right before the scary music kicks in. Others may see it as something that can only be tapped into while sitting in a dark room over burning incense, listening to a lady who wears far too many scarves and has far too many cats.

Intuition is actually something far less mystical, dark and voodoo magical.

Intuition is merely “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.”

When we only have access to limited information, we are forced to make hypotheses on little to no information. This is when it’s key to tap into our own unique intuition; sans incense, candles and cats.

Practice Makes Perfect

Know Your Intuition

Brene Brown, American scholar, researcher and public speaker, has spent years studying the effects of fear and shame on our personal and professional lives. Through her work, she has learned that our desires to attain perfection lead to fear and shame, as we are always chasing ideals rather than appreciating the fact that we are enough, just as we are.

In her book, “Gifts of Imperfection,” Brown shares a unique perspective about Intuition. She suggests that intuition is not independent of any reasoning process. She states that scientists believe intuition is actually a quick rapid-fire, unconscious association process — like a mental puzzle.

Intuition is like a data-set from our own personal database of experiences, knowledge and beliefs. Our Intiution Database is key to agile success, as we must be able to tap into this and move forward using the information available to us, rather than standing idle … waiting for information that may never reveal itself.

Using “My Database”

Over the course of our lives, we’ve built up a collection of information that is like no other. Even if we shared the same educational background with someone else, our past experiences, interpretations and conclusions will affect how we process the information we learn. Therefore, our databases of information and conclusions would not look the same. For the sake of clarity, we’ll call this “My Database;” your unique set of experiences. This assimilation of information sets you apart from everyone else, providing you with unique perspectives, and quite often; different answers.

Self-doubt, insecurity and unsafe vulnerability inherently take all of the fun out of making a choice. Whether you are a seasoned software engineer or an aspiring little-league baseball player, you will only welcome *choice* if you feel safe to make one. As Americans, we love having “freedom of choice,” or the ability to choose freely without reprimand. However, our “Free” culture is often riddled with conditional acceptance and a seemingly endless cacophony of hoops in which to jump through. What we often see in our professional and work relationships is a culture of “do what I say … because I told you to,” rather than a culture founded on collectively working together to deliver value. Let’s face it, many relationships Grandfather in old-school command-and-control influences that are hard to shake.

Using your Intuition: Sending a Request to our My Database
When tapping into our Intuition Database, it’s important to note the following tips to make this process easier.

    1. There is no right answer.
      We do not live in a linear world. Most decisions can be changed once you find a better option.
    2. Be Safe to Fail
      The Agile transformation can be extremely challenging for teams who have worked in a command-and-control environment where they have been told exactly what and how to do their jobs. After all, people do not want to take ownership and make decisions if they fear they may be reprimanded later.
    3. Let go of perfection.
      Seek to make progress and continually improve. Toss out unattainable goals of perfection that are impossible to attain and lead us to fearfully holding off on taking action until we are certain we are doing the “right” thing.When we focus on perfection, we lose site of the great potential in many things we are too afraid to speak out about and too afraid to even try.

In Kate Toholka’s blog,, she writes about intuition and states that in order to best utilize our intuition we must do the following:

We need to unlearn our reliance on our intellectual thinking.

We need to unlearn our devotion to our thoughts.

We need to unlearn our mind’s power over our truth.

Kick the Google Habit

The more we develop this habit of perpetually looking up the answers, the less we build trust with our own selves, our intuition. Information is necessary, but over-reliance on information outside of ourselves erodes our own sense of confidence and awareness in our unique set of information in My Database. We each have our own database of information that has been built from our unique life experiences. So why don’t we use it more often? Once again, I suggest that we are not using our intuition enough because we have not established trust in ourselves.

By ignoring My Database of relevant experiences, knowledge and hypotheses applicable only to ourselves, we are missing out on epiphanies and innovative solutions that come only from the results of our unique experiences. These potential revelations are left undiscovered because we’re not rethinking the situation at hand. Instead, we’re seeking answers from others’ databases of knowledge and experiences, or repeating what has occurred enough to be returned in a Google search algorithm. Let’s face it, innovation is unlikely to surface from gaining direction from the top three results in a Google search.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Our time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Innovation comes from relying on our own ideas, or a culmination of ideas from our teammates. Our greatest creative work comes from within us, and is exponentially greater when that work is a result of collaboration with others in our lives. That said, if you aren’t regularly leaning into that uncomfortable unknown space called “intuition,” you are missing out on your life.

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