Working for ourselves – whether as a solopreneur or employing others – massively accelerates our self-development. Representing yourself, without a company to hide behind, is both scary and exhilarating, sometimes in equal measures. Clients push our buttons, fear and insecurities rear their ugly heads, and any emotional baggage we have around money quickly makes itself known.

As business is very much interpersonal, intuition is a key skill. Problem is, intuition is often mixed up with fear and ego. So how do we recognise between our intuition, our ego and fear, so we can make smart decisions in business?

Question one: am I neck-deep in elaborate stories?

Our intuition doesn’t craft stories. It deals with emotion.

Our ego and fear are articulate little buggers, adept at weaving stories of great complexity. When you find yourself thinking like an international spy or a political press secretary, it’s likely fear or ego in the driver’s seat.

Question two: what’s my bigger aim?

Summarise your ‘big picture dream’ for your business and display this prominently at your workspace. This is your starting place for all business decisions.

When you find yourself tangled up in elaborate and complex reasonings for or against something, refer to your bigger, broader aim. This keeps you focused when fear or ego attempt to sidetrack you.

Question three: am I making assumptions on behalf of my clients?

Many business owners tell me what their clients do or don’t want. I’m told that clients don’t want to be bothered by too frequent emails, social media updates or blog posts.

When I question how they know this, very few clients have a straight answer.

Most of us make assumptions on behalf of our clients and, more often than not, those assumptions are what our ego wants to hear.

Next time you are talking yourself out of things with statements such as “people don’t want to be sold to”, “there are too many blogs already, I’m just indulging myself blogging”, or “if people wanted to come, they would have booked already”, ask yourself if you know this to be fact. Have you widely surveyed your clients? Are you using one past bad experience to colour future plans? Does your ideal client want this? Or is it a convenient conclusion to avoid making yourself uncomfortable?

Question four: am I in pain or discomfort?

We know that putting ourselves outside our comfort zone is when real growth occurs. This is doubly true for business.

When you’re launching something new, introducing yourself to a stranger at a networking event, pitching yourself to a magazine or blog, or asking for a bank loan, you should feel a little discomfort. You’re challenging yourself – and discomfort comes with the territory.

I’m not talking about pain here. We know the difference between discomfort and pain. And remember that pain doesn’t have to be acute, it can be chronic – like the pain of another year of not fulfilling your big dream or being ground down as you try to please clients who aren’t a great fit for your business (and should be referred on).

Revisit your bigger dream and ask yourself whether you’re uncomfortable because you’re challenging yourself as you move towards it? Or are you instead feeling an instant, radical rejection of something? Is it because your bigger dream needs a little editing? Or is this ‘something’ taking you off in the wrong direction?

Question five: are people too agreeable?

While we give and receive different things from different relationships, I believe relationships at work should be challenging, as well as supportive. The quickest way to know whether you’re working from fear or ego with your business coach, colleagues or staff, is to notice whether they are a mirror image of you. While they need to buy in with your business vision if you are to work effectively, their job is not to alleviate each and every discomfort. They shouldn’t agree with you on everything all the time.

To craft our ideal business (however that looks), we need people who think differently, who have complementary skills to us, and who will lovingly pull us up when we’re letting fear and ego drive our business.

Developing intuition in your business means returning to the question “does this serve my big picture dream?” when our mind goes runs away, complicating matters and painting monsters in our minds. It’s about truthfully extricating fact from assumptions about clients, getting used to feeling uncomfortable (and knowing how to effectively switch off, too!) and reading pain as a signal to stop and recalibrate which direction you’re headed.