It all just seemed too good to be true. As Naomi promised me everything her small company could do to help me launch my new online TV channel, I was over the moon that I’d finally found a small customer-focused business with such a breadth and depth of resources to support my project. And at such an affordable cost!

As I discovered later, it felt too good to be true because it was too good to be true. And that little inkling I had at the outset (and which grew louder with each missed deadline and unmet expectation) was my intuition trying to tell me something. This woman was not to be trusted. But what she lacked in expertise she made up for with sales skills and I simply failed to trust my gut. Doing so not only cost me financially, but wasted a lot of time and created even more stress I could have otherwise avoided.

The lesson: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. And there’s a reason for that – our intuition rarely lies.

An odd feeling in your gut. A subtle sense of foreboding. A funny inkling. A knowing whisper: “steer well away.”

I’m sure you’ve felt those intuitive murmurs yourself. The question is, how often have you trusted them? And those times you didn’t, how did it cost you—professionally, personally, financially or physically?

Beyond our conscious awareness, our “sixth sense” reads minuscule signals   that point us to pay attention to something…or someone. Wired only to perception, our intuition can guide us to making snap decisions we later marvel at. “Somehow I just knew,” people will later say about a hidden danger they just knew to veer away from or an opportunity they spontaneously seized despite knowing little about it.

In my 20s I spent a lot of time backpacking around the globe, venturing to some pretty off the beaten path places in Algeria, Cambodia, Jordan, Nepal, Niger, Bolivia, plus three years working in Papua New Guinea. Along the way I developed a keen sixth sense as I met a diverse array of people. Most of them were both generous and genuine, but I relied on my gut to steer clear of those who weren’t. Not once did my intuition let me down during those intrepid years not once has it given me a bum steer since.

Your intuition can help discern who to trust (and who to avoid!).

The only times I’ve ever found myself in a situation I wasn’t happy to be in—like the one I shared above—was when I was either too busy to listen to my intuition or I simply ignored it because I didn’t like what it was telling me! Instead I dismissed that “funny feeling” in my gut in my eagerness to believe false promises and later to extend the benefit of the doubt well past its use-by date.

Your intuition can help you discern real threats from imaginary ones.

As I wrote in Brave, it takes courage to rise above our fears and tune into our intuition. Sadly, millions of people go about their lives in a constant state of low-grade fear and anxiety, forever on high alert for danger—terrorism, killer viruses or predatory people—that they have little capacity left to pick up the subtle signals their intuition may be feeding them about their environment. I regularly meet people who have been so thoroughly conditioned by their environment to fear every unfamiliar person or situation that they can no longer discern between genuine threats to their safety and those merely in their imagination.

Of course, the sad irony is that their constant fear doesn’t make them safer; it makes them less so. But while it takes courage to both tune into your intuition and then to trust what it’s telling you, the good news is that more often you do so, the better it can guide you.

You were born with an inbuilt radar whose purpose is to alert you to people and places that could put you in harm’s way, derail you from the success you want. It also helps draw your attention to things that require your attention.

Your intuition can ward off illness and save your life.

Most gut instincts are accompanied by some kind of physical sensation  , from goose bumps to a tightening in your chest. Sometimes they give you early warning signs that something is amiss in your body that you need to attend to. Never ignore it. Ever. I have heard far too many tragic tales of people who kept ignoring some nagging feeling that all was not well, dismissing it as “just a bump” or “just a niggle” until it was too late. I’m sure you have also. Your body is a powerful intuitive communicator that deserves your attention.

Your intuition can help you make better decisions.

Studies have found that the longer people mull over big decisions, the less satisfied they are afterwards than they would have been had they spent less time deciding and simply “gone with their gut.” So while it’s counter-intuitive, when it comes to those big decisions—who to marry, which house to buy, whether to take the job or change career—the less you analyse the pros and cons and sweat over the spread-sheets the more likely you’ll make a decision you’re happy with in the long term.

Your intuition can help you take smarter risks.

Your risk-averse, rational mind can lead you to overthink, over-analyse and make poorer decisions than if you just follow your intuition and do what feels right – despite the uncertainty and risk of making a wrong decision. As most successful people will tell you, having the guts to go with your gut is a critical skill you build each time you tune into it.

Your intuition can help you to help others.

While gut instincts have evolved to help us avoid danger, we human beings have an equally powerful capacity to sense when others need our help. Compassion, like fear, is one of our most primal emotions , giving us the ability to read faces and pick up unspoken emotional cues. So if you sense someone needs your help in some way, don’t hold back for fear of looking foolish. Too often people do.

Take a moment to ask yourself, “What does my intuition want me to know right now?”  Perhaps it’s a decision you’ve been struggling with. Perhaps it’s how best to approach a situation you’ve been unsure about. Perhaps it’s a prod to do or say something you’ve been wavering about. Just stop with all your busyness, and get quiet enough that you can hear it.  But, as Gary Klein—a psychologist who has devoted years to studying our intuition—wrote, ‘The longer we wait to defend our intuitions, the less we will have to defend’.

Oh, and in case you’re interested, I finally did get that online TV channel off the ground…with another company to help me! You can check it out at www.RawCourage.TV