What do you see as the greatest source of uncertainty in today’s world?
Certainly, driving forces such as digitization, globalization and individuation top most thought leaders’ lists as contributing to the planet’s increased volatility and complexity. However, at the root of human uncertainty is a recognition that our timeworn formula of reflecting on past experience in order to predict future performance no longer works in today’s world. How we learn about and adapt to the future has dramatically shifted.
In the tradition of reflecting on past experiences in order to best guess the future, we relied heavily on analysis and critical thinking. Most people would agree that today’s unique challenges are not solvable with strictly rational thought models. Hence necessity requires us to shift from a predominantly rational model of understanding the world to one where intuition and imagination are key initiators.
Currently, I am in deliberation with colleagues around this very topic. As action researchers, we understand the need for both intuitive awareness and reflective rationalization to enhance our adaptability to disruptive revolutionary change. Nonetheless, trying to catch a glimpse of the future so we can begin to respond differently in the present first demands intimate awareness of emerging opportunities. These ‘early warning signs’ often come in the form of intuitions, which are not provable by standard measures, that is, past experience or rationalized data. Rather than the traditional rational change cycle (observe, reflect on the past, plan and act), Scharmer proposes an intuitive cycle for learning from the future and creating revolutionary transformation — observe, create space for inner knowing (intuition), act and integrate these new experiences into new routines. And by the way, do all of this from the loving intent of helping others to fulfill their potential.
For those of us who spent the first half of our careers exercising our rational mind, we have since had to develop a practice of accessing and trusting our intuitive mind. How does one go about doing that? Below are the stepping stones.
1. Quiet your mind.
If you cannot create the mental space for silence, you will not be able to hear your ‘whispers of inspiration’ among all the internal noise and chatter of what I fondly refer to as my monkey mind. I meditate daily for 30 to 60 minutes, which calms both my mind and body allowing me to listen to my inner knowing. If meditation does not suit you, then go for a walk in nature, garden, paint, do yoga or find an activity that provides inner peace and contentment. Whatever the activity, make it part of your daily routine. The more you practice, the better you hear.
2. Pay attention.
In the early days of my own practice, I doubted what felt unfamiliar. At first, I did not recognize the difference between intuition (my inner truth) and monkey chatter (my brain’s processing of information) so I made a deal with the universe — if you knock twice on my door with the same message, I will act on it. Sure enough, this intuitive formula worked brilliantly. I still use it today
3. Act on your inner truth.
Fundamentally, taking action based on our inner knowing is being true to our authentic self. If you have repressed your authenticity, responding to it now will feel as though you are losing your identity. Instead, what you are losing is a patterned way of behaving that no longer serves you well. You may also encounter the resistance of your ego, which is not who you are so let it go, too. Just so you know, the more I acted on my inner truth, the kinder and more loving I behaved. Here is where our loving intentions for others and ourselves flourish.
4. Accept the results.
No matter what emerges from the actions based on your intuition, accept the outcomes. In our shortsightedness as humans, we do not have nor can we see the whole picture. Consequently, I have been led not always where I might have otherwise chosen. However, as the circumstances unfolded, I discovered (much to my relief and joy) it was exactly where I needed to be to receive and achieve what I desired. Remember, there are many routes to a chosen destination. Why not take the route where the universe’s support is sure to be provided.
Or, you can choose to continue to push a boulder up a hill. Myself, I prefer less effort and more joy including a feeling of comfortable knowing about the future.
What one intuition can you act on today to bring greater authenticity and certainty about the future?
Scharmer, Claus Otto. 2000. Presencing: Learning From the Future As It Emerges, Presentation at MIT Sloan School of Management, OSC, October.