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We are told women have a sixth sense. I can vouch for that. What about you? How often do you follow your gut feeling? That knot or funny feeling in the stomach that tells you all will be well, or will not be well, if you follow that direction? I cannot even begin to narrate how many times I have followed my intuition and things turned out perfectly fine, and when I didn’t and things went horribly wrong.

Like the time my neighbour came to tell me he was selling his piece of land and from the urgency in his voice my gut feeling told me he needed money quickly and we should pursue the offer. We didn’t, or rather we delayed, and the next we heard was the property had gone for a song! Or the time my instinct told me the man I had just met was ‘the one’ and quickly dropped the relationship I was in at the time to pursue this new one – that man is my husband today.

But there is this classic recruitment everyone in our office still talks about. The short-listed candidates were three (one man and two women) and as the CEO was required to sit in the panel that was to make the final decision. Sure, the guy was the best candidate in terms of qualifications, experience, skills and presentation. But my gut feeling was telling me this guy was not right. I smelled trouble but couldn’t pinpoint where this was coming from. After hours of negotiating with the interviewing panel and even delaying the decision for more than one month I gave in. The gentlemen in the panel thought I was favouring the second placed candidate because she was a woman, but that wasn’t the reason – the man just gave me quivers.

Eventually we employed the guy – BIG mistake. Not only was he dishonest and lacking in many of the qualities we were looking for, especially teamwork, but he was also a drunkard who openly questioned our Christian values. When we didn’t confirm him, he swiftly moved to social media hiding under ‘anonymous’ with all kinds of allegations and abuses, perhaps hoping to destroy us. I still believe this man was on a mission, which failed miserably. If only I had trusted my instincts and overruled the interviewing panel! But it was a great lesson.

It is always a challenge to cultivate a strong sense of intuition and figure out when to listen to your instincts. Intuition clears your vision and steers you to the right target. It tells you the truth about how you can help yourself in physical, emotional and even sexual ways that your conscious mind could never tell you.

The solution to cultivating a strong sense of intuition lies in listening to your body’s signals. Sometimes your body senses threat or danger before your mind does. Your breathing or pulse rate may change, or you might feel a sudden chill on your skin when around certain people. Pay attention to whether you feel peaceful or prickly around others, and you will be able to make better decisions about whom you want to work with, befriend or trust.

Also learn to tune into subtle cues from your environment. When you are in the moment and focusing fully on the here and now, you can begin to pick up important cues – such as edginess in a guy you’re dating, or hidden tension between friends. Any environment will carry the energy of the people who are in it. If you pay attention to the quality of that energy, you will begin to sense what’s really going on there.

You should also learn how to challenge your hunches. Don’t trust your sixth sense blindly – question it and test its accuracy by running your gut instincts past trusted friends and family members. With intuition sometimes you are right and sometimes you are wrong. With practice, though, you will naturally gain a better sense of when to listen to your inner voice.

Honing your intuition can help you make better decisions, come up with more creative ideas and figure out whom or what to trust. It’s like having your own personal coach, bodyguard, think-tank and board of advisors, all rolled into one. Intuition helps you do things that are right for you rather than what someone else tells you to do. And that can help you live your life to the fullest.

So next time a creepy guy corners you in a conversation at a cocktail party or at a bus stop or in a matatu, and out of politeness you let yourself become a captive audience, you need to heed the prickly feelings you get talking to this guy and permanently excuse yourself, saying you need to use the restroom or get out of that matatu and wait for another one.

You may also be one of those people bored to tears with their job but stay on because it is a secure company with a good salary package and the name looks good on your resume. But the day you wake up and follow your hunches and accept an offer with a dynamic start-up because you sense this is going to be an exciting challenge may be the day your life will change for the better.

Or after weeks of searching for an apartment, you rent one that meets your budget, even though the place gives you a bad vibe. As much as you don’t want to, you keep looking because you feel vaguely uneasy walking around the neighbourhood by yourself. And you follow your gut feeling and move out, then the next week you read in the media about your former next-door neighbour having been robbed and raped.

Following your instincts could save your life or open doors you didn’t think existed, so learn when to trust your sixth sense.

Published in September 2014