When looking at the stories of some of the most successful entrepreneurs in modern history, you’ll often find a quote about the part that intuition played in their success.  For example, in a NY Times article, Steve Jobs is quoted saying, “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect in my opinion”.

With all the incredible success and innovation Steve Jobs was able to have and create during his lifetime, you would think that intuition might be one of the important keys to success.  However, it’s much more nuanced than that.

As you’ve probably heard many times, to “go with your gut”, the idea of developing the ability to just know things, or to know the right direction to go, you would assume would save you a lot of time and effort.  If you were able to somehow improve your instincts or develop your intuition, you’d be protected from making mistakes.

That sounds nice, but the truth is that for every successful outcome, where an uber success, like Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, or Warren Buffett, had a groundbreaking idea that turned into a fortune-building win, there were 100 or more failures that they also thought were great ideas.  The interesting thing is that what we tend to focus on, for example with Steve Jobs, is things like the success of the Iphone or the Ipad, forgetting about the Apple Lisa or the Powermac g4.

it’s important to see that, as much as we want to know the secrets of successful people so that we can emulate their success formula in some way, we also need to peek behind the curtain and understand that the Wizard wasn’t as powerful and mighty as he wanted Dorothy to believe as she was trying to get home from the land of Oz.  That special intuition that we believe makes successful people successful, isn’t as mysterious or elusive as we may believe it to be, nor is it as powerful and random as we may assume it to be.

When it comes to accountants and intuition, it can be incredibly beneficial to use intuition in business, however, while many accountants and business owners may have attributed at least some of their success to intuition, this cannot exist in isolation.  In order for accountants to use our gut properly, we also need to have the knowledge, the data, and the experience to back up that intuition.

The questions we really have to ask ourselves when it comes to accountants and intuition is what is intuition really, how do we not confuse it with anxiety, and when should we act on our intuition?  When making decisions, whether it’s professionally or personally, how much should intuition play a role in that decision making process?

Some people will say that they make most, if not all, of their decisions based on their intuition, and others will say that they can’t trust their intuition or don’t even know if they have it.  Some will call themselves “highly intuitive”, while others have no idea what you’re talking about when you ask them if they’re intuitive.

Think about it – is the concept of intuition a little too “woo woo” for you, or have you had intuitive moments where you just knew something without really understanding why?  Either way, keep listening to this episode no matter where you are on the intuition spectrum because I’m hopefully going to be able to clarify a few things for you.                  

This week I’m going to discuss what intuition really is and how to know when to act on your intuition.   


What intuition really is


Have you ever done something or not done something based on a hunch or on a gut instinct?  For example, have you ever unconsciously paused a second or two when a light turned green, only to be shocked when you narrowly missed being hit by a car that went through their red light?  Or maybe you had an uncanny feeling that someone you just met wasn’t a good person and later found out you were right?

There are thousands of stories about people who did or didn’t do something, giving credit to their intuition or their gut instinct.  There are many stories of amazing success or survival in which the person explains that they followed their intuition, and there are also many stories of failure or tragedy in which someone went against their gut or their intuition, and regretted it.

Personally, I’ve had many times in my life where I had a gut feeling about something, acted on it, and it wound up being a saving grace.  The most striking scenario was when I was dating someone for almost a year after my divorce – we had some of the typical ups and downs as most relationships do, but on this one particular night I had the strongest sense of something pulling me to drive 45 minutes to his apartment for some reason, even though I was ready to go to bed.

To this day I cannot explain why, but I followed this gut feeling, only to be standing outside the entryway to the door to his apartment at the exact moment I overheard him telling an ex-girlfriend that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  Think about it – 5 minutes earlier or later, and I most likely wouldn’t have heard their interaction and wouldn’t have been saved from this man’s manipulation.

So what was it that night that led me to do something so strange?  Why did I feel drawn to leave my home at night, drive 45 minutes to his apartment, and stand outside his door and listen at the exact moment I was able to hear what I needed to hear?  Was it intuition or was it anxiety about our relationship?  And what is intuition really?

The definition most people use when it comes to intuition is that it’s a way of knowing, that is outside of logic and arrives suddenly; or they’ll say it’s a sense that you can’t really articulate or explain.  But here’s the problem with these definitions – you know what else shows up in your brain without you thinking rationally?  Every anxious, paranoid, or subconscious thought pattern you’ve ever had in your life!

The interesting thing about intuition is that a lot of what we would define as intuition is actually our own anxious thoughts.  These thoughts are caused by unconscious patterning and thought habits that show up in our mind without us being rational or reasoning.

That’s why it’s understandable to be confused about what intuition really is.  The truth is that it’s very easy to confuse our unconscious thoughts that pop up suddenly, as being intuition, or some “special” knowing. 

If I’m completely honest about the situation with the man I was dating, there were different things that I was getting suspicious about and little clues that something might not be right, that I noticed but didn’t consciously fixate on.  The fact that I had the urge to drive to his apartment was really based on all the evidence my brain was unconsciously, unknowingly gathering and paying attention to, because deep down, I probably didn’t trust him, for good reason it turns out.

The truth is that intuition is often just an observation that your brain has created unconsciously from information you don’t even recognize – it comes from the unconscious to the conscious part of your brain.  It has also been referred to as a sixth sense, just like the sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell or touch, which means it’s like another avenue for taking in information about the world and then using that information to experience the world.

But here’s the key – no matter how you get information, whether it’s from one of your typical 5 senses or from a sixth sense, you still have to decide what to think and feel about it.  Just because you might call it “intuition”, doesn’t mean it should automatically get a pass when it comes to thinking about the information you now have.

For example, just because your sense of smell gave you information that something might be a sugary treat, doesn’t mean you don’t take that information and decide on purpose whether it makes sense to eat that treat.  And just because your sixth sense gave you information to accept that new client, doesn’t mean you don’t take that information and use it to decide on purpose whether it’s possible to take on that client.

Just because you believe something came from your intuition doesn’t make it “right” or “wrong”, which is why it’s important to understand that Intuition doesn’t tell you what to do, it just gives you information that helps you perceive what is – you still have to coach yourself based on that information.  Do you stay or do you leave?  Do you walk down that street or go the other way?  Do you say yes or do you say no?  Do you buy it or do you pass on it?

Intuition is information, but it’s up to you to use the higher, executive functioning part of your brain to decide what to do with that information.  No matter where or how a thought or an idea came to you, you have to then decide what you want to think, feel, and do based on the information. 

So now that you know that intuition is information that you get to decide to use or not, let’s talk about how to know when to act on your intuition or not.


How to know when to act on your intuition


One of the reasons I think the topic of intuition comes up a lot for women is because we tend to doubt ourselves.  We lack self-confidence, so we look for other avenues for making decisions, hoping that there’s some surefire way of knowing what we should or shouldn’t do – as if our intuition knows better than we do.

Should we go on that date?  Should we go after that goal of being an entrepreneur and finally leave our job?  Should we say yes to that offer?  We have so many questions we deal with day in and day out, that it’s no wonder we’d like a little assistance in how to answer all those questions.

The funny thing is that our brains have this thing called cognitive bias, which is defined as our brain’s tendency to listen more often to information that confirms our already existing beliefs.  So when it comes to intuition, we’re typically only remembering the times we were right in our predictions about our “intuitions”, and we ignore all the times we were wrong.

For example, think about all the times you were so sure that you were going to get sick, or that your boss hates you, or that your friend was mad at you, only to find out that everything was fine.  You’d be shocked at how often it’s happened, where your brain ignores the millions of times you were wrong, but instead focuses and only remembers the few times you were right.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t trust your gut instincts or follow your intuition if you want to, but I am suggesting that you decide on purpose whether you want to act on the information you have, and not just give it “a pass” because you believe the source of the information is unquestionable.  I suggest that you make a decision based on the information you have, but also make sure you like your reason for making the decision.

The reason this is important to understand is because, whether you believe you have great intuition or not, you still need to utilize the best tool you have for making decisions.  The best tool is the higher, executive functioning part of your brain – the part that doesn’t just react, but instead chooses whether to act. 

Again, your intuition is typically information, or what you might consider a “knowing”, but like with any information, you still have to decide what you want to think about it, feel about it, and do about it.  It doesn’t matter how or where the information came from, it’s just information that you then have control over deciding what to do, or not do, with it.

For example, if your gut is telling you to leave your marriage, you get to take that information as one source of information that needs to be decided upon, not that it’s some “special” kind of knowing or information because you believe that it came from somewhere other than your own unconscious thoughts.  You’ll know when to act on your intuition when you’ve decided that you like your reason for acting on it.

Obviously, especially for our safety, we may need to act on our intuition or gut feeling right away in order to keep us from being harmed.  But more often than not, we actually do have time to consider what our intuition is telling us and take a minute to consider it.    

Just because you’re pausing and deciding whether to go with your intuition or not doesn’t mean you aren’t intuitive.  It just means that no matter where the information came from, you need to take responsibility for what you choose to think and feel about it, ultimately leading to whether you act on it.

So if there’s an immediate sense of danger or concern, then by all means opt for safety above all else.  But if it doesn’t have to do with your, or someone else’s, safety, then consider the information as you would any other information – it’s neutral until you decide what you want to make it mean.

Think about it this way – here’s the information I have from my intuition – now what?  Do I need more information?  Do I need to look at other factors?  Do I need to discuss this with someone else?  What do I want to think about this?  How do I feel about this information?  What do I want to do about it?

Just know that intuition can be a great source of information – if you use it wisely.  So be open to it, but choose on purpose how to use it, rather than just allowing it to dictate what actions you do or don’t take – decide to follow it or not, but like your reasons.




  • When it comes to accountants and intuition, it can be incredibly beneficial to use intuition in business, however, while many accountants and business owners may have attributed at least some of their success to intuition, this cannot exist in isolation.
  • The questions we really have to ask ourselves when it comes to accountants and intuition is what is intuition really, how do we not confuse it with anxiety, and when should we act on our intuition?
  • Intuition is information, but it’s up to you to use the higher, executive functioning part of your brain to decide what to do with that information. 


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