It’s a disarming experience—a tingly sensation or little whisper telling you “This feels right, follow through,” or “Stop—bad decision ahead.” The ability to use intuition as a guide to decision making has been deemed flighty and unscientific, but embracing gut instinct may be a key factor in success.

Whether striking when being required to make a major life decision or when least expected like meeting someone new, intuition can be a useful first step in making choices. Think of intuition as more than just a quirky feeling, but a guide to accessing past experiences and knowledge. As we gain experience in life and work, we improve with time thanks to our ability to forsee issues and notice patterns. While we may be completely clueless in certain areas of life, those we practice may also be where we can tap into intuitive knowledge. A hunch is like a mental smoke detector, recognizing a pattern and hinting at a response which led to a positive outcome in the past.

Intuition and a smoke detector may be equally loud, however while a fire alarm may have an obvious cause, the reason for a subconscious warning or gut feeling can be mysterious. A hunch is often based on information you don’t remember on a conscious level—basically, that feeling is caused by valid information that can’t be articulated in the moment.

Don’t be confused by intuition, take advantage of it to tap into what you know on a subconscious level. When should you listen to your intuition?

Taking a job

With today’s economy, many of us have experienced a stressful job search. Whether red flags are waving or a job seems too good to be true, your intuition is incredibly valuable here.  Career intuition may position you to leap into a new endeavor with perfect timing or avoid a possible catastrophe.

Pursuing a second opinion

While it can be easy to take an expert at face value, if your intuition is blaring it may be time to get another perspective.  Often we defer to an expert’s opinion in incredibly high stakes situations, the same situations in which we have the most to lose. If you find yourself feeling there might be value in following up with another professional, make the call and set up an appointment.

Making first impressions

When my grandmother met my grandfather, she said “I’m going to marry that man someday.” Whether that was intuition or perseverance, first impressions matter. If you feel someone will be important in your life or that a new acquaintance isn’t trust worthy; take note. Intuition can lead to incredibly accurate reading of body language and personality, and may be an accurate factor in whether you should say yes to that coffee date.

Following a whim

This is an ideal example to follow up on a hunch. Whether making a big decision like starting your own business or a small choice like whether to take a day off to recharge, instinct can help you determine where your true interests lie. Feel free to start small on big choices, and allow yourself to gain more faith in intuition over time.

Have you ever followed your intuition? Were you happy with the end results?

Ask Dustee Tucker Jenkins when was the last time that she followed her intuition!