Tips for Work-Life Integration: Bring your intuition along

Include your inner knowing on your journey.
Include your inner knowing on your journey.

The word “intuition” means something different to each of us, but if I had to try and define it, it would be that inner, body-based knowing that cuts through our rational minds. It’s that feeling in your gut or chest that says “Yes!” or “No.” to people, opportunities, or spaces. It’s walking into a house and knowing it’s your home, hearing about a country and knowing you have to travel there, or meeting someone you know you want to be around. We all have intuition, and we all relate to it differently; some of us rarely tap into it, and some of us use it as a guide in every decision we make. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, I hope you’ll consider exercising your intuitive muscles just a little bit more.

Integrating the major areas of your life: work, community, family, and self, can feel like you’re trying to convince four adversaries to agree on a new way of relating to one another. Luckily for you, your true guidance system – your intuition – crosses the boundaries between each of these domains. Your intuition can be the foundation upon which you create a life that you love.

I neglected my intuition for about 7 years, and in that time, I couldn’t figure out why I felt so lost, unsettled, and groundless. I didn’t know who I was, what I liked, or what I cared about. I flitted from cause to cause, and entertained a whole swath of career options, none of which felt right. It wasn’t until I partnered with an amazing therapist that I realized that I’d lost touch with the part of me that knows what I need: my intuition. Once I reconnected with my inner knowing, it was like an entire set of dominoes started cascading into place.

In order to really feel integrated and enriched, we have to exercise our intuitive muscles and invite our intuition into all areas of our life, including our work. Here are five ideas for how to do that:

1. Create space. Most of our brains are overflowing with thoughts: things we want to learn about, things we need to do, analyses of awkward social interactions, etc. We can’t hear our intuition – that wise, inner knowing – unless we create space for it. Creating space means having quiet solitude in which you can rest your thinking mind and hear what your intuition might have to say. To create space, you could go for a walk (without headphones in), sit in your favorite natural setting, or simply stare at the wall from time to time – it’s just about getting still and quiet.

2. Get creative. One way that we can reconnect with our inner knowing is through creative exercise. Creativity is wonderful because it helps us remember what we like and what we’re drawn to. Even though I paid a lot of money to become a florist and never did, the month-long floral design class I took helped me reconnect with my creative side, which was definitely worth the money I spent. Whether it’s adult coloring books, woodworking, or setting a beautiful dinner table, try to add a little creativity into your life.

3. Pay attention. Our thinking brains are so powerful and so overused that it’s often hard to hear what our intuition is telling us. One thing that can help you cut through all the noise is to start paying attention to how you feel in every situation. For example, let’s say you’re meeting Jane for happy hour. Do you feel light in your body or heavy? Do you feel energized or tired? Do you lean in as you talk with her, or are you leaning back? Another powerful tool for connecting with your intuition is paying attention to your dreams. I used to think that dreams were nothing – just how your brain processed useless information from the day – but I’ve changed my tune. Jot down what you dreamt about in the morning or pay attention to what you’re thinking about as soon as you wake up. I bet you’ll start noticing some important themes! This article has some other similar and helpful tips.

4. Reflect through writing. I know, I know, keeping a journal is so hard sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to keep a regular journal if it’s just not your thing, but writing uses a different part of our brain and can reveal intuitive insights that we didn’t know we had. So whether it’s a paper journal that you write in daily or a Note you keep on your phone, just start reflecting on things that catch your attention or puzzle you.

5. Don’t be afraid to bring your intuition into work. Like I said above, our workplaces place a premium on hard data and often neglect what we “just know” to be true. Hard data is important, but it’s not the whole truth, and it can be manipulated to tell any story we wish it to. If you have to make a decision at work and feel like your intuition is pushing you in a certain direction, go with it and don’t be afraid to tell people that’s what you based your decision on. I used to work with a VP who would always use “I feel” instead of “I think,” and it really made a difference in the way that he worked. Of course he considered data, but if anyone on his team just felt unsure about something, he took the time to explore that and listen to it, which was pretty powerful and made his work more insightful.

To start reconnecting with your intuition, give your thinking brain a little rest at some point today and ask yourself how you feel instead. Even if it’s as simple as asking yourself “What do I want to eat for lunch today?” and pausing for the answer, do it! Start exercising your inner knowing muscle with some of these tips or ones you come up with on your own; I have no doubt that it will enrich your work and the rest of your life.

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