What has your intuition asked of you lately? Intuition is a delicate and wonderfully mysterious thing. Often misunderstood and discounted in the best of times, and yet longed for and leaned on in the worst of times. We’ve all felt it before, that gut feeling or inner voice telling us to go this way instead of that. It’s that internal sense of pause that demands you think through the action you’re about to take, as if you already know how it’s is going to play out in the long-term. There are no external facts, data, or analytics you’ve referenced to ensure you’re making the right decision, but yet you just know. I wonder how often our learners today get that same feeling? And if they do, will they trust it?
As explained by Simone Wright in her book First Intelligence, intuition doesn’t rely on previous knowledge of others, but develops with imagination, innovation, inspiration, and intent. It’s specific to each individual and guides us to seek our highest potential. It leads us to see a different perspective in all the things we experience, but it takes time, patience, and dedication. It’s like learning a language, you have to be comfortable developing it and you’ll get it wrong sometimes, and the only way to get comfortable developing this skill is by experiencing it. The more immersed you are in it, the easier it becomes to build awareness of the nuances and make connections to build deeper understanding. But developing intuition takes patience and dedication, and develops with inspiration and intent. As learners progress from the primary to the secondary levels of education, it seems there is less time available for taking inspired action and exploring creative possibility. Why is this so?
Maybe because with all of the information we have available at our fingertips today our intuition is seen instead as primal instinct knocking on the door of a new world where it isn’t relevant anymore. But instinct is for survival, and intuition is for growth. If learners are to grow internally and seek their highest potential as an individual, then dismissing intuition in favor of collecting external information is a mistake. As explained in the documentary film InnSæi, developing intuition is more important now than ever because there is so much information available at our fingertips, and it’s too easy to find confirmation of any decision we believe we are supposed to make. This data comes in fragments and is so specific it misses the broader connections that not only provide direction, but provide clarity and confidence in long-term outcomes. The logical focus is so narrow and framed in short-term thinking that it misses the big picture, it fails to answer the question of “what are we doing this for in the first place.” Our relational brains are pretty good at stepping back and seeing the forest for the trees, but we must do it with trust and clear intention. Learners need to develop their relational skills by using their collective experiences as a foundation on which external data will reside, and then use their intuition to connect the dots that will help them make informed decisions they can truly believe in and take them on a guided discovery of doing work that matters to them. Of course, this is impossible to teach—or is it?
How do people learn to ride a horse, or fly an airplane? They learn through experience. They learn by doing. If you’ve ever ridden on the back of a grumpy or tired horse, you’ve quickly found out what it’s like to adjust your knowledge of horses in real-time by sensing how the animal is feeling at that moment. When you learn how to fly an airplane, there’s an expression called “flying by the seat of your pants.” This often refers to using your senses to understand how the aircraft is performing, and this feeling is what initiates a decision to take action. Like the crooked feeling of slipping in a turn, and the sinking feeling of losing airspeed on landing, or the weary feeling of sticking to the flight plan when navigating thunderstorms at night. Pilots don’t learn how to feel these feelings by collecting information from a book or a video, they learn by first-hand experience and reflecting on them later. Pilots are tasked with operating a complex machine in a complex weather system in a complex body, any of which can ruin a pilot’s day—and these variables can change every flight. Pilots operate in a world where they know they’ll run into a set of variables they’ve never encountered before, but they’ve also learned how to quickly scour their entire database of experiences and connect those that relate to this new experience. Pilots learn to trust their ability to pull on their prior experiences and take action even—and especially—when it isn’t clear what action they’re supposed to take. These types of actions are driven by their intuition because pilots know when something doesn’t feel right, and they have the audacity and confidence to trust it.
To develop intuition within our learners we need to give them permission to immerse themselves in experiences they care about, and do work for someone they care for. They need to lend credence to their intuition and follow their inner compass rather than giving way to the fickle hand of fate. We need to empower learners to discover a problem that means something to them, and then give them the time and space to search for extraordinary solutions, alternate ways of doing things, or groundbreaking new ideas that aren’t outlined in the expected outcomes or an answer key. If learners can engage in real-world projects that go beyond simply presenting their idea, they’ll find themselves fully immersed in the experience and gain invaluable insights first-hand. Over time, learners will find joy in letting their intuition evolve into a resource they can utilize with greater precision and focused ease—and employ it with pure intentions. And one day, just like you, they’ll feel that strong internal sense of pause that demands them to think through the action they’re about to take as if they already know how it’s is going to play out in the long-term—and they’ll trust it.