Trusting Intuition

Our car died about a week ago. Without a hint or warning that it was soon to complete its service to us – kaput.

Lessons of note from this experience:

1) Set aside money for the unexpected.
I know – duh – but it’s so easy to be seduced by the illusion that life is predictable. Thank goodness we have sufficient savings to replace the car.

2) Answer your phone.
You never know what opportunity awaits on the other end of the line.  We decided to donate the car to a non-profit. Our first choice has yet to return my call. My second call reached Abby at Dove Lewis who was a shining example of customer service: kind, enthusiastic and extremely adept at coordinating our donation in a speedy fashion. What a pleasure.  My interaction with her made it impossible not to feel great about our contribution.

3) Trust your intuition.
So now, of course, we are car shopping – specifically, used car shopping. Which means calling people who have posted cars for sale on craigslist. Which means believing that most people are good, while remaining skeptical and alert to potential fraud. Which means when your gut tells you to walk away, you trust your intuition and leave.

I don’t know how it is that we can accurately know something without knowing why, without having “facts” to point to – but clearly we can. My husband and I came away from viewing a car yesterday knowing that we were being misled somehow – and when we got home and ran the CarFax report, just how far we were being misled was revealed. Thank goodness we listened to our instincts to leave.

Maybe it’s our culture’s reverence for science and law, for evidence and reason – even a politeness that discourages making snap judgments – that makes us reticent to trust our intuition, to act on what we know even when we can’t point to why we know it. But our reticence seems misplaced to me considering how frequently our initial conclusions turn out to be accurate. We so often test those first impressions by ignoring them, only to come to learn they were correct.

A friend recently told me of working with a professional she and a business partner had retained to assist with a project they had undertaken. Her first impression was that this was absolutely not the right person for the task, but she could not point to anything factual in making that argument to her partner (who did not share her doubts), so went along with the hire. Long story short, it ended badly. She ignored her instincts and the subsequent red flags. She waited until there was proof. But by then the damage was done – fortunately, not irreparable damage, but what a waste of time and money (not to mention the needless stress).

The lesson is not to become cynical and trust other people less, but to trust oneself more. Somewhere underneath the surface of our intellects, we have an extraordinarily accurate awareness of what is and is not good for us. Learn to trust it.

[I suddenly find myself wishing I’ve read Malcom Gladwell‘s book Blink – I’m guessing he says all this better than I can.]

* * * * * * * * * *

Do you listen to your intuition? What have been your experiences when you acted on such impressions? What have been your experiences when you ignored them?

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