As the title should tell you, this post is about intuition in terms of learning styles, as distinct from other types of intuition.
If you have already identified yourself as an intuitive learner, then perfect. If you have the other learning style (‘sensing’) and you are choosing to read this, then excellent: I like your style.
If you currently do not know your learning preference, I’d highly recommend doing a Myers Briggs test before we continue (here is the best one I know of), which’ll help you to determine whether it’s sensing or intuitive.
Okay, let’s get stuck in.
Intuition, ‘the psychic function that perceives possibilities inherent in the present’, is the preferred learning style of one in four of us. The other three in four prefer using sensory information to form their perceptions.
Although the two styles were first distinguished by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, they were made accessible to many by the personality assessment system, Myers Briggs. (Read a guide to getting the most from Myers Briggs here).
Intuitive learners face specific challenges in integrating their learning style into their lives and lifestyles. Doing so however is usually instrumental to their overall health and happiness.There are predictable challenges associated with an intuitive learning style Click To Tweet
This post explains what an intuitive learning style is, who has it and how to nurture it. It discusses why intuition tends to be a marginalized faculty, and includes actions you can take to help to evolve your intuitive capacities.
This is quite a long ride, so you may want to grab a crunchy snack.
The two learning styles
First some exciting background information about the learning styles.
Although around 25 percent of us have a primarily intuitive learning style, we all have some intuitive ability (duh). Second, if you do have a predominantly intuitive style, you’re probably equally familiar with a sensing style. Your current lifestyle – for example your job – may even draw predominantly on that mode of operating. That’s because 75 percent of those you encounter use that style of learning and you may have blended to fit in.If you're an intuitive learner, you have certain needs, and ideally those should be informing your lifestyle Click To Tweet
If you have a predominantly sensing style of learning, then you may have reasonably evolved intuitive abilities from associating with intuitives. (We’ll call you an intuitive sympathizer).
Intuitive learning styles can be frustrating for sensors, and vice versa. As with any area of life, we grow when we respect those differences and draw upon the strengths of each to meet the challenges of life as appropriate. We’ll revisit the subject of tolerance in a bit.
How to know if you’re an intuitive learner
If you didn’t bother with a test earlier, you can probably use this section to identify your learning style.
The intuitive learner is comfortable acting without verifiable data, and generally happier to make ‘leaps in logic’. This is especially the case for one of the two intuition styles, which we will get to in a second. By contrast, those with a sensing style prefer certainty, structure and concrete data.
You can see already how those two different approaches might play out in a person’s life, affecting everything from how they invest their resources, to what they choose to do with their time.
Characteristics of the two learning styles
- Easily appreciates nuance.
- Tends to see bigger picture and want to help others do so.
- Looks for what’s possible.
- Peers behind the curtain.
- Easily connects the dots between things.
- More likely to say ‘I don’t know how I know that’.
- Usually wants to make their mark on the world.
- Place high value on possibilities, memes, paradigms, perspectives and concepts.
- Preference for simplicity in interpretations.
- Act in immediate context.
- More concerned with what actually is.
- Deals with whatever is in front of the curtain.
- Spots connections less easily.
- More likely to say ‘I think this because of x/y/z.’
- Tends to uphold what’s already there.
- Places exclusive value on things like family, tradition, i.e. things rooted in the known and knowable.
Have you identified whether you are an intuitive learner yet? Cool, let’s now figure out which type of intuitive learner you are (as I mentioned, there are two). Your flavour of intuition impacts the actions you’ll need to take to stay healthy.
The two flavours of intuitive learner – ‘perspectives’ and ‘exploration’
The two intuition styles are called introverted and extraverted, or to take Personality Hacker’s nicknames, ‘perspectives’ and ‘exploration’.
Those with a perspectives style make up around 10% of the population. In Myers Briggs terms, it is used by INFJs and INTJs and for them, it’s their driving cognitive process (just means its a priority).
ENFJs and ENTJs also use it, however it is secondary to a more dominant cognitive function. You could say that they ‘co-pilot’ with it.
Here is Personality Hacker’s quick guide (link) so you can see all of the Myers Briggs types’ cognitive processes.
Perspectives people are naturally a little divorced from their own viewpoints. In theory, this allows them to more easily empathize, although that capacity is influenced by the other cognitive processes used by a person (see above).
Perspectives people can watch minds form patterns and when they hear people talk, they can literally see things as that person sees them. They can forecast into the future and predict events, and can develop skills in conflict resolution.Perspectives is a delicate process that thrives by minimizing distractions Click To Tweet
Perspectives is known to be a fragile intuitive process which takes time to bear fruit. People with this style can become easily distracted with too much sensory input. When they are problem solving – which they do well – they benefit from reducing sensory input and letting their minds lead them to the solution.
The other intuition style, ‘exploration’, is used by ENFPs and ENTPs for whom it is in the driving seat, and INFPs and INTPs who co-pilot with it. It is a lot more focused on the outside world. The pattern recognizing happens through engagement and interaction.
This intuitive process is a lot less sensitive to distraction. Exploration people have a gift for seeing how things are interrelated in the outside world. They love (need) novelty, and have a compulsion to chart new territory.
Exploration people are the most prone to reach specious conclusions, as they are less about researching their intuitive hunches than perspectives people.
It is commonly said that in either a business or personal context, pairing these two intuitive processes together produces formidable results.
The two intuitive processes – distinguishing features
- Thinks about the box as opposed to what’s outside of it.
- Retrospective, introspective and reflective.
- Ultimately asking ‘why?’
- Used by ENTJ, ENFJ, INTJ, INFJ.
- Thinks outside the box.
- Real-time pattern recognition through interactions with world.
- Ultimately asking ‘what if?’
- ENFP, ENTP, INFP, INTP.
Have you figured out your style of intuition? Awesome. Let’s take a look at a few of the challenges that those with this learning style face in bringing it out to the world.
Challenges for the intuitive learner
The challenge for all intuitives is the same challenge for anyone in a minority: being marginalized, or marginalizing themselves in order to fit in.
A person’s susceptibility to ‘fitting in syndrome’ depends on their other traits, including their so-called judging preference. (If you did the personality test, you’d have identified that as either ‘thinking’, or ‘feeling’).
My preferred learning style, perspectives, has been sidelined by my more dominant process, which is extroverted feeling – a process that basically causes me to prioritise creating harmony and a good mood around me.
Even if you aren’t a people pleaser like me, you may still be ignoring your intuitive abilities. For most of us, the voices of authority growing up are sensing ones, who emphasize adhering to rules and following the existing structures. This feedback from the world can cause those with an intuitive learning style to become paranoid, self-doubting and even rebellious.If you're an intuitive, you probably need to finally give yourself permission to learn this way Click To Tweet
Therefore good health starts with owning your style of learning.
4 ways to stay healthy as an intuitive learner
Intuitives need different things to their sensing counterparts in order to stay psychologically healthy. I imagine that this is especially the case if intuition is your driving cognitive act (ENFP, ENTP, INFP, INTP).
Because of a relative lack of models and guidance, intuitive people have a harder time figuring out how to get their needs satisfied. This can cause them to slip into unhealthy self-sabotaging behaviors.
If you have managed to get to a stage of health with your intuitive abilities, then you’ll have become less self-focused. Intuitive learners with their psychological tanks full start to make a larger contribution to those around them.
Unless you grew up in a highly intuitive-supportive environment, you have probably needed to grope around in the dark whilst figuring out how to put the way you think to use.
The following suggestions are things that can help with the groping.
1. Have mentors
Having intuitive learning mentors is a key way that someone with this style of learning can give direction to their learning style. Many intuitive learners end up using books as mentorship. I know I did, and continue to do.
A few well known intuitive learners: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Tim Ferriss, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Brand, Richard Branson, Richard Feyman. These guys help to illuminate the way forward for us, showing us what a honed intuitive ability can produce.
2. Have intuitive friends
If you are an intuitive learner, my guess is you probably already have mostly intuitive friends. Our fellow intuitors provide us with much needed support and outlets. I find I easily ‘click’ with other perspectives people, and find exploration people to have intriguing differences.Having a support network as well as mentors is key to development Click To Tweet
A key thing to do for building greater intuitive health – and especially if you know you are shy in building relationships – is to prioritise building your confidence socially, so that you can expand your group of like-minded.
3. Manage your energy
It’s important to know which activities deplete you and those that sustain you. If as an intuitive learner, all of your daily activities draw on a sensing mode of operating, that might feel like moving through mud – heavy and cumbersome.
Think, for example, about what you tend to do socially. Some people with an intuitive style find small talk to be incredibly draining. I know that I tend to steer conversation away from small talk, and ask people questions that are interesting to me if I think I’ll get away with it. This has improved my experience in social situations.
Awareness-raising exercise for intuitive learners:
- Mentally record or write down five things that give you energy as intuitive. It could be inspiring quotes, podcasts, conversation, reading, yoga, meditating, walking in nature. Whatever floats your boat.
- Record things that sap your energy. Could be small talk, your entire job, elements of your job, your relationship, or an overcrowded schedule when you’re producing all day, no sovereignty in your day.
If the thing that saps your energy is something pivotal in your life (such as your job or your relationship), I have found this to be an unsustainable situation over time. Know that it is likely you will have to redefine the job or relationship at some stage.
Find small ways to nurture your intuitive learning style, until you develop the courage and direction to make things better.
4. Develop appreciation for sensors
This final tip seems like it wouldn’t benefit you, but it does really.
Having an intuitive learning style doesn’t equate to not working a regular job, or being above having to do basic things in life. It also means not criticizing/alienating sensors in the way you may have been.
Just as the foundation of your intuitive health is being willing to embrace your learning style, the same can be said of your relationships with others. So I’d encourage you to have sensors in your life too, and value their approach and perspectives.
How I stay healthy as an intuitive learner
I’m an intuitive learner that uses perspectives, who has mostly worked in an environment with a high value on a sensing style.
I always nurtured this side of me through reading, but not until I started to write this blog a few years ago did I really start to party with my intuitive learning style. Prior to that, I was really pretty fed up and unhappy about that part of my life.When I didn't draw on my intuition in my everyday life, I wasn't as happy Click To Tweet
To start small, I recommend making room for simple intuitive rituals such as reading, journalling and chatting with intuitive learner buddies.
As a perspectives person, I find it hugely helpful to be in the habit of capturing thoughts and ideas (on my phone, notepad – whatever). Especially when I’m out walking, my pattern recognition can go insane. I’m the woman you see on the pavement stopping suddenly to type furiously on my phone like a nutty professor.
Hopefully you are beginning to get a clue on how essential this is for self-care. I know that for me, my intuitive rituals tend to be bottom of the list of things I’ll compromise on.
4 ways to vet and improve intuitive ability
Learning to trust your intuitive process can be a struggle initially. Perspectives people are particularly shy of trusting their intuitive leaps. Also and as with everything, intuition is falible, especially when underused.
We have to be willing to fail. That means testing our ideas and pattern recognition however that looks, as often as possible. As you begin to build the skill, the more you can delegate decisions to this side of you.
Here are four ways to sharpen the knife:
1. Seek to trigger your intuition
This point is essentially an extensive of the previous section on saying healthy as an intuitive.
If you want to hone your intuitive skills, you need to create opportunities for this mental process to kick into gear.
Account for your flavour of intuition when doing this. Perspectives people need to allow their ideas the time to germinate away from sensory input, whereas exploration people are more likely to generate ideas in conversations.
This translates as the following: perspectives people, take time for yourself. Explorers, shoot for variety and external stimulus, especially conversations with other intuitives.
2. Have a lot of information about status quo
Understanding the unknowns in any subject area gets a whole lot easier when you are extremely familiar with what is already known.
So research your subject area if you want to improve your ability to pattern recognise. Especially do this if you use exploration, as that comes less naturally to you.
In his book Mastery, Robert Greene said:
“All of us have access to a higher form of intelligence, one that can allow us to see more of the world, to anticipate trends, to respond with speed and accuracy to any circumstance. This intelligence is cultivated by deeply immersing ourselves in a field of study and staying true to our inclinations, no matter how unconventional our approach might seem to others.
Through such intense immersion over many years we come to internalize and gain an intuitive feel with the rational processes, we expand our minds to the outer limits of our potential and are able to see into the secret core of life itself.”
3. Be aware of cognitive biases getting in the way of your process
A major obstacle to an intuitive style are our subconscious judgments about people and things. Such judgments naturally creep in over time and can create a whole limiting worldview. When they do, they can hijack the pure process of intuition and pattern recognition.
Therefore, try to call out biases from your thinking and conclusions. We all use cognitive biases. Check out this list to figure out which are your regular crutches.
4. Keep a diary
As testing out ideas and intuitive leaps of logic, it is a great idea to record when you get it right or wrong. For me, this happens through writing. I can read back old writing and see where it reflects unrefined intuitive ideas.
Try keeping an intuition diary recording your take on business or financial trends, your thinking on personal issues, or whatever. You’ll begin to see what things are hampering your ability to pattern recognise – even if that’s good old fashioned fear and hesitation.
Know that if you have an intuitive learning style, then a part of your heart’s happiness is tied with giving that expression. So give yourself permission! Don’t just have great ideas, and then go smoke a cigarette because they are stressing you out.
Align your actions and behaviors to accommodate your learning style, and you should reap the rewards psychologically.
Finally, here’s a quote I think you’ll like. It’s from Rob Siltanen.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”