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Instinct vs. Intuition: What’s the Difference and How to Use Both

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Summary: What’s the difference between instinct vs. intuition? Learn how to use both compasses to make the best decisions in your daily life.

Understanding the debate between instinct vs. intuition is a must if you aspire to live your life authentically and to the fullest. More so, it’s crucial to see it as a dance of two distinct modes of inner guidance rather than an opposition of forces. 

Both intuition and instinct are your intrinsic ways of knowing and acting that connect you to something beyond your experience and beliefs. They just work differently and serve different purposes. 

When you integrate these two internal compasses, you can make the most authentic and well-grounded decisions in the moment and create the future you really want. 

What Is Instinct?

Instinct is a survival mechanism that is hard-wired into the nervous system and genetic code of every living organism. They are automatic and involuntary, meaning that they operate without your conscious control or choice, ensuring your survival and adaptation to the environment.

For example, breathing, shivering, blinking, fleeing, fighting, and freezing are instinctive behaviors that happen naturally and automatically.

Learn more: The Instinct Definition: What It Is & the Science Behind It

What Is Intuition?

Intuition is your natural ability to sense or know something beyond rational reasoning or analysis. It’s often called the sixth sense because it’s a form of perception that is beyond your five senses and operates at a deeper level of awareness. 

In fact, according to Sonia Choquette, an intuition expert and the trainer of Mindvalley’s The Sixth Sense Superpower Quest, when your five senses fail you, your intuition is there to help you out.

Call it a gut feeling, hunch, or inner knowing, it’s always guiding you, whether you are aware of it or not. And if you aren’t, you can tap into this superpower to make better decisions, find creative solutions to problems, and navigate complex life situations.

Learn more: Intuition—What It Means & How to Tap Into It Like a Pro

Key Differences Between Instinct and Intuition

Intuition and instinct are two fundamental aspects of human nature that play a critical role in our decision-making, behavior, and survival. Here is a comparison chart of intuition vs. instinct:

AspectIntuitionInstinct
Automatic/voluntaryVoluntaryAutomatic
BasisSubtle perception/knowingSurvival/adaptation
SourceSubconscious mind, spiritual guidance, collective consciousnessNervous system, genetic code
FlexibilityFlexible and adaptablePredictable and fixed
Influenced byEmotions, beliefs, and spiritual guidanceNot influenced by emotions or beliefs
ControlOperates with conscious awareness and choiceOperates without conscious control or choice
Part of the brainRight hemisphere, amygdala, and gut brainBrainstem, hypothalamus, and limbic system
Evolutionary aspectEvolved as spiritual intelligence to understand ultimate reality and navigate complex environmentsEvolved to ensure survival and reproduction
Spiritual aspectConnected to higher consciousness, divine guidance, or cosmic energyReflects the physical foundation of human nature
Life applicationUseful for decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, and spiritual growthUseful for automatic behaviors, reflexes, and survival situations

Understanding the major distinctions between instinct and intuition will help you appreciate your inner guidance and learn how to use it to evolve on multiple levels.

Common Sense vs. Intuition vs. Instinct

Common sense, intuition, and instinct are three different aspects of your behavior that play important roles in your growth and development. Think of them as three brains: the head brain, the heart brain, and the gut brain. 

While most people use only the first, using all three of them will help you live your life from a very well-informed place.

Let’s look at the main differences: 

  • Common sense is your overall ability to make rational and practical judgments based on your experience and knowledge. This ability is often influenced by your cultural upbringing and social norms. To develop common sense, it’s crucial to have critical thinking and be willing to learn from your mistakes. 
  • Intuition is your ability to sense or comprehend something without rational understanding or evidence, and this sense of knowing comes from within. It isn’t influenced by your past experiences, beliefs, and values. Developing it requires practicing mindfulness and cultivating self-awareness, listening to your inner voice, and trusting your gut feelings.
  • Instincts are your innate, automatic, and fixed behaviors associated with survival and reproduction. It’s essential to understand thems and learn how to regulate your automatic responses and reactions to transcend this survival mechanism and see when it’s not serving your growth.

The bottom line is that, unlike common sense, instincts and intuition aren’t influenced by your past patterns, beliefs, and social norms. And while common sense is absolutely invaluable for you to thrive in the world, the other two can offer you perspectives and solutions beyond your experience, knowledge, and logic.

AI-generated image of a woman outdoors with the wind in her hair

How to Use Your Instinct and Intuition to Achieve Your Goals

According to Sonia, instincts are closely tied to your intuitive abilities. By learning to listen to your instincts, you can tap into a deeper level of spiritual wisdom and inner guidance.

She describes this inner guidance as a combination of instinct, intuition, and spiritual awareness. When you tune into it, you can make more informed decisions and achieve your goals.

So your inner guidance isn’t about the debate between gut instinct vs. intuition but rather learning how to bring the two together.

Here are ways you can use your instinct and intuition to live a fulfilling life:

1. Be open to doing things differently

Your intuition is your ultimate access to higher levels of spiritual guidance and inner wisdom. To awaken it, it’s important to be open to it and expect it to work. Sonia explains that intuition is a great disruptor.

The point of intuition is to help you make the best decisions, so it often suggests doing something different,” she explains. This is why people dismiss their inner voice.”

Although intuition often nudges you to make irrational decisions that don’t make sense to you in the moment, they will have a beneficial outcome in the long run. For example, it may nudge you to change your career or move to another city with no apparent reason, 

So, instead of seeing it as a disruptor, it’s crucial to see it as your helper and protector, assisting you in achieving your goals beyond your rational understanding.

2. Wonder

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci had his students wonder about a hundred things a day? This is how he trained them to be open to learning something new.

Sonia explains that by wondering, you can re-activate the creative part of the brain. Just saying, “I wonder…” puts you in a state of creativity.

She calls it the “I wonder” game, and here’s how to play it:

Wonder about anything, from what you’re to have for lunch to what next step you need to take to achieve your goal.

There are three rules for playing “I wonder”:

  1. Play the game without the need to be right,
  2. Be willing to be wrong, and
  3. Don’t ask anybody else if you’re right or wrong.

3. Don’t ask people’s opinions

When you make a decision to follow your instinct and intuition, it’s crucial that you remain in your intuitive flow. And what it entails is that you stop asking somebody else’s opinion and seek their permission.

This is what it takes to pursue living a life full of wonder and achieving your goals.

4. Be honest with yourself

Sonia explains that intuition isn’t about right or wrong; it’s about the truth. So following your intuition implies being open to finding out what feels true in the moment and acting upon it. 

We hear intuition all the time; we just don’t want to act on what it’s saying.

— Sonia Choquette, trainer of Mindvalley’s The Sixth Sense Superpower Quest

In other words, it’s essential to be honest with yourself and deal with what’s real rather than what’s comfortable. And if you don’t want to hear the truth from your intuition, you shouldn’t ask it to guide you.

Journeying to Your Most Authentic Self

From the highest perspective, intuition is a gateway to your most authentic self and fullest potential. It’s your innate superpower that enables you to create the best you can and contribute in the best way possible. 

The good news is that you have access to it 24/7, and unlocking it is easier than you think. 

You can try it for yourself by joining Sonia Choquette in Mindvalley’s Sixth Sense Superpower Quest. And the even better news is that you can sample a class of this Quest by unlocking your free access.

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Written by

Irina Yugay

As a former self-development and self-transcendence writer at Mindvalley, Irina uses words to transpire empowering ideas, transcendental feelings, and omniversal values. She's also an ascension coach who helps her clients grow their spiritual awareness and actualize their true nature. With a deep empirical understanding of the spiritual journey, Irina shares her insights and experiences with the readers to inspire them to transcend their limiting beliefs and achieve higher states of consciousness.
Picture of Irina Yugay

Irina Yugay

As a former self-development and self-transcendence writer at Mindvalley, Irina uses words to transpire empowering ideas, transcendental feelings, and omniversal values. She's also an ascension coach who helps her clients grow their spiritual awareness and actualize their true nature. With a deep empirical understanding of the spiritual journey, Irina shares her insights and experiences with the readers to inspire them to transcend their limiting beliefs and achieve higher states of consciousness.
Sonia Choquette, best-selling author and international speaker recognized as the foremost leader in intuition
Expertise by

Sonia Choquette is a best-selling author and international speaker recognized as the foremost leader in intuition.

From offering intuitive readings at age 12, Sonia has spent over four decades teaching and empowering others to reconnect with their innate intuitive intelligence across the globe. Her unique teaching approach encourages students to rely on their inner voices rather than conforming to strict scientific or spiritual doctrines, facilitating self-driven transformation through trust in the higher self.

Sonia’s mission and passion are to awaken humanity’s sixth sense, guiding millions through her collaborations with spiritual leaders and media platforms.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.