When you want something, your imagination will show you five dozen ways you can get it. The next thing your fertile creativity does is open up a clear, wide channel to your intuitive gut feelings—your built-in guide to choosing the best option.

Here’s where things get tricky. You may have two different internal conversations going on. You have strong feelings about both the need to play it safe and the need to take on a fresh challenge.

One of the most common questions I get is, “How do I tell the difference between what my mind is thinking and what my intuition is saying?

Learning how your intuition communicates is the first step toward learning to hear, trust and follow it.

Intuitive thoughts are very different from mental thoughts, which spin in a cyclone of fear, cynical doubts and jaded opinions. When your gut tells you to give it a shot, your head will retort with reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t.

Here are some examples of reasons you can’t act on your hunch:

• You’re too scared (of failure, of actual or perceived threats; of losing something)
• You don’t have the necessary resources (e.g., I can’t start my own business because I don’t have time to do the research and I don’t have the money).

Reasons you shouldn’t act on your hunch include:
• Memories of similar experiences that bombed
• Present circumstances that stop you (e.g., In this economy, I shouldn’t quit my job).

Conversely, intuitive thoughts are much shorter, more telegraphic. Instead of a whole conversation, a gut response to the question of what to do next is one of only two words: yes (also, go) or no (a.k.a., stop).

The emotions that accompany these responses fall into the range of an open, excited feeling that follows yes, to a shrinking, slightly repelled feeling that goes along with no.

It’s this thumbs up, thumbs down nature of intuition that causes doubt. You can get totally bogged down by the nagging need to know exactly how you’re going to get what you want.

It’s human nature to want to see every step along the way at the outset. That’s why you find it hard to trust that everything’s going to work out fine when it means stepping out of your comfort zone and into the unknown.

Since you can’t trust what you can’t hear, let’s begin with enhancing your ability to hear your hunches.

Step 1: Create a conducive environment for physical and mental relaxation and openness—the ideal state to receive and integrate new information.

• Listening to your intuition is easier when you’re not distracted by your environment. So minimize the noise—your computer, TV, stereo and phone.

• If you feel a strong connection to nature, then being outdoors is ideal.

• If you find the outdoors distracting, a restful space where you can be alone with your thoughts is just the ticket. From churches to warm bubble baths, any place you feel comfortable and contemplative is the perfect place for you.

Step 2: When you are in your ideal environment, prepare yourself physically and mentally.

• Take a few deep breaths. Relax.

• Synchronize the physical, mental and intuitive activity. While some people are able to sit still, clear their mind and listen, the rest of us (me included) benefit from some kind of slow movement.

When I concentrate on the slow, gentle, controlled movement of part of my body, I feel my thoughts hunches getting into sync with the flow of moving. Here are some examples:

walking very slowly
• swaying back and forth (standing or sitting)
• blowing bubbles (relaxed breathing)
• rubbing a smooth stone (a variation on rosary beads)

• with clasped hands resting in your lap, gently tapping your thumbs together

• in a bubble bath, gently squeezing a handful of bubbles or slowly tapping your toes against the tile.

Now that you’re listening, let’s run down a few tips on building trust in your intuition so you can move into action. As human beings, we trust what we can see. So it’s hard to trust intuition because it isn’t visible.

This exercise will help you make your intuition more concrete, thereby enhancing your ability to trust it.

Step 1: Assess your current level of trust. It’s critical to be honest with yourself about the level of trust you have right now. Although you might wish you trusted your vibes completely, you can’t act confidently on ideas you can’t trust.

• Rank your current level of trust on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 being highest). Just pick a number; don’t overthink it. This will be the baseline you’ll compare future ratings to. Come back and rank it again in a few months. This exercise is a quick way to take the temperature of your trust.

Step 2: Give credit where credit is due. It’s common to pay little attention to the role our intuition plays in making decisions. You’ve had dozens—if not hundreds—of hunches during your lifetime.

• Think back on the times you trusted your gut and things worked out well. And conversely, recall the times you ignored your hunch and things didn’t go well. Write them all down.

• Make another list of the decisions you’ve made by combining your intellectual, logical mind AND your intuition. This written evidence is a fabulous visual reminder of your intuition’s track record.

• From today forward, write down every new desire that pops into your head. Then write down every gut feeling you get about it. Track those feelings over time.

Taking the time to listen to your gut feelings will help you feel more confident in the big decisions and small choices you make every day.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Widener is a Certified Life Coach and author of Power For A Lifetime: Tools You Customize to Build Your Personal Power Every Day Of Your Life. Her passion is assisting her clients to discover what is most important to them, then to create more balance and satisfaction in their lives. Empowerment Life Coaching is a comprehensive program that teaches clients simple ways to build their personal power and overcome obstacles to achieving their dreams. Judy has coached more than 600 people over the past 12 years. Her website is www.myinnerfrontiers.com.