Soul Searching #4: intuition

Hi there, and welcome to the fourth part of my story, where I share the steps I took on my journey of introspection and personal development. The other parts are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Values
  3. Energy

Let’s start by describing what I mean by ‘intuition’. For me, ‘intuition’ is doing something because it seems to be the right thing, without completely going into the logic of it. Early in my career, I often relied on intuition when debugging programming errors, and when solving mathematical problems.

I started looking into intuition somewhere in the summer of 2020. Basically, I felt like the energy drain that I was experiencing, was partly caused by me relying on my logical reasoning too much. To be a bit more forceful: I demanded a logical reason for whatever I was doing. I think this behavior grew on me over time, because so much of my education, work, and interests were analytical in nature.

A small intermezzo occurs to me: this is one of those situations where I realize that there is something that I’m doing wrong, and I don’t know (yet) how to fix it. Here, usually my curiosity and my ability to learn kick in, and I just know (‘have an intuition’? ;-)) that I will figure it out eventually. That always makes me smile. Irony hits particularly hard in this case, since the ‘analytical me’ is trying to understand something that can’t be understood (I think) analytically. Ah well, this is the topic of another post.

Hand holding a card with the text 'Let your intuition guide you. You are what you are looking for'
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Let’s continue the story. I started simple with one of my guilty pleasures: I like going out, getting takeaway coffee, and drinking it somewhere in a park. Usually, I created a time-slotted overview of my day (in my head of course), and drinking coffee was a scheduled activity. Now I allowed myself to get coffee whenever I felt like it. Let me tell you, productivity dropped after that decision. But my personal well-being improved. In fact, I noticed that being outside had a positive effect on resetting my energy levels. So now I go outside more often, even without getting coffee 😉

Even while writing this, the anecdote seems a bit silly and elementary. But the fundamental shift is that I started allowing myself to do things without rational explanation. Furthermore, I became more attentive towards intuition, and I realized that I was actually using my intuition more often than I thought. Also, I keep referring to ‘intuition’ as a tool that I can rationally choose to employ, and sometimes that is indeed the case. I think intuition is always active, and it needs attention and nurturing to facilitate its growth. It’s like a partner to the ‘analytical me’.

There is a nice article here, that reads: “Psychologists believe that intuition relies on powers of pattern-matching, as the mind combs experience stored in long-term memory for similar situations and presents in-the-moment judgments based on them.”. I’m going to write a bit more about that in another post, but I find pattern matching super-interesting. By training, I’m a mathematician, and I’ve been active in the world of Data Science and algorithms for the past few years. The techniques used there also rely on finding patterns in data, and exploiting them towards some predefined goal. The funny thing is: I am completely comfortable working with these analytical pattern matching techniques, but apparently dealing with ‘intuition’ (human pattern matching) requires time to get comfortable with it.

You can see by my writing that past and present are interweaving. That’s because several months ago, I realized that I couldn’t really ‘understand more about’ or ‘get more use out of’ intuition by force of will. Since then, I’m letting it simmer, observing myself, trusting it sometimes, and generally just trying to patiently get acquainted with that part of me.

It’s time for coffee now. See you next time!