Part 1Expanding Your Powers of Observation
1Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of being present in the moment. To be mindful, you will need to focus on what’s happening around you, without giving into the temptation to distract yourself or multitask. If you want to have intuition like Sherlock Holmes, you need to optimize your thinking by practicing mindfulness.
- Focus on your breathing. Start by noticing when you breathe in and when you breathe out. You can even try using an app to help you with your breathing, such as Breathe or Pacifica.
- Pay attention to what you’re doing, even in your daily routine. Notice the “crack” of the eggshell breaking, taste the mint of your toothpaste, smell the rain as you walk to your car, feel the smoothness of your steering wheel, and see the leaves swirling across the parking lot. Immerse yourself in the moment. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present.
2Sharpen your senses. Your five senses help you process the world around you, so you want them to be working at their best. Like any other skill, practice using your senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell so that you can use them to process the world around you. Using your senses, you can pick up clues to enhance your intuition just like Sherlock Holmes.
- Sharpen your hearing by listening to instrumental music on a low volume. Try to pick out the different sounds and pinpoint the different instruments.
- Improve your sense of smell by closing your eyes and focusing on a smell. Add to your practice by choosing smells to focus on, such as coffee or essential oils.
- Work on your sense of taste by eating pure, whole foods, concentrating on the flavor of the food.
- Enhance your sense of sight by adding vitamins to your diet, taking screen breaks, and getting natural light. You can also try eye exercises, such as rolling your eyes around and focusing on an object.
- Work on your sense of touch by making a point to describe the texture of objects you come into contact with. Compare and contrast different textures.
3Examine the world around you. Pick up your metaphorical magnifying glass and take a scientific stance toward your everyday life. Take in the sights, smells, sounds, and textures of your workplace or school. Keep track of who you see gathering around the water fountain, and try to predict who will take the last donut. By examining your world, you develop your skills of observation.
- Start by gathering information about the environment and people you encounter every day. Be a passive observer. Try to make small predictions about what will happen, such as who will volunteer to speak when the group is asked a question. Confirm your predictions with evidence.
4Watch people. Spend time watching people so that you can become practiced in noticing someone’s mannerisms, habits, and tics. Choose a location like a park bench or a table in a coffee shop. Observe the people around you, cataloguing what you notice about each person.
- Ask yourself questions such as, “What coffee will this person order?” or “Will this person act the same way with his friends as he was before they got here?”
- Practice picking up on a person’s personality or mood.
5Do puzzles. Expand your powers of observation by using puzzles that ask you to spot differences between photos, find a hidden word, or solve a maze. You need a flexible mind to solve mysteries like Sherlock Holmes, and puzzles will get you one step closer to that goal.
- Pick up a Sudoku book, or print out free crossword puzzles from the internet.
- Challenge yourself to complete a human maze. Go alone so that your friends won’t help you solve the puzzle.
6Notice details. If you want to have good intuition, you need to train yourself to notice details. When Sherlock goes to a crime scene, he notices the minute details that no one else did. That’s because he’s practiced that skill. You can be just like Sherlock if you train yourself to notice details.
- Test your powers of observation by listing what you can remember about the places you’ve been. For example, after you go to lunch at a local restaurant, list what you can remember about the place. What does the decor look like? What are the uniforms like? What dishes are on the menu? Next time you go to that restaurant, compare your list to see what you remembered correctly. Continue to test yourself to see how well you are noticing details.
7Write it down. Keep a record of your observations and add to it daily. Don’t feel discouraged if you spend a lot of time in the same places because you can still challenge yourself to make new observations.
- Push yourself to focus on particular details. For example, you could decide to look for people who are wearing a red shirt or people carrying an umbrella.
- On your commute, try counting people who fit into a similar category. For example, if you ride the train you could count the number of people playing on their cell phones.
- At the doctor’s office, you could track how many people read the magazines the office provides versus how many people bring items with them.
Part 2Reading People
Read body language. You can tell a lot about a person from their body language, which will help you figure out who has good intentions and who doesn’t. You can tell what someone is feeling and predict how people will behave. Once you’ve trained yourself in the art, people will think you’re a super-sleuth just like Sherlock Holmes.
2Practice active listening. Many times when people talk, you casually listen, nodding along to let them know you’re following the conversation. Active listening requires greater focus on what the other person is saying, as well as how they are saying it and the tone they are using.
- Cut out distractions so that you can really pay attention when people speak to you. For example, put away your phone and take a break from any tasks you were doing.
- Maintain eye contact with the person speaking to you.
- Focus on what the other person is saying, not on what you’re going to say in response.
- Paraphrase what the other person said before adding your own thoughts.
3Know if someone is lying. Part of having good intuition is being able to spot a liar, so learning how to detect when someone is lying to you is essential if you want to develop your intuition. You must be able to spot the truths and the lies.
- People who are lying often cover their nose and mouth. They may also twirl their hair or tug on their clothes.
- While it may take time, learning to spot micro-expressions in a person’s face can also help you figure out if a person is lying.
- Watch for inexplicable sweating. For example, if the person starts sweating in an air-conditioned room, then they may be lying.
- Listen to the speed at which a person speaks. Slow or fast speech can indicate lying.
Predict what others will do. Use your skills to predict how others will behave. For example, you could predict who will forget to bring their Secret Santa gift on the right day, or which of your group mates will volunteer to make the presentation. By reading others, you can make better decisions for yourself by anticipating their behaviors.
Part 3Building Your Intuition
1Embrace your intuition. Before you can use your intuition like Sherlock Holmes, you have to embrace it as a valid source of information. Some people think that intuition is just make-believe and that logic is the only way to go, but you can see through Sherlock’s mysteries that it’s best to use both sides of your minds. Because your intuition relies on training and gathered information, it’s not as fantastical as it sounds; rather, it’s a way of forming hypotheses based on knowledge, experiences, and attention to details.
- Well practiced intuition will enable you to make quicker decisions without thinking through all of the details because your brain builds a network of connections that process the information for you. As a result, you will arrive at the right decision out of habit.
2Stay objective. If you want to rely on your intuition, then you need to avoid making subjective judgments. It’s easy to fall into the trap of subjectivity when you’re following your “gut” reactions, but training yourself to think objectively will have you unraveling secrets like Sherlock.
- Let the facts guide you, not your opinions. For example, if someone stole your lunch, it may be tempting to blame someone with whom you’ve had negative run-ins in the past, but don’t rush to judgement. The facts may point to someone else.
- Keep an open mind. Listen to the opinions and views of others so that you can learn from their perspective. We all see the world differently, and sometimes you need that shift in vision to stay objective.
3Participate. While sometimes you may need to act like a bystander, a strong intuition requires you to have to be engaged with those around you. Just like Sherlock needs to analyze the conditions of the scene of a crime to know what happened, you need to be a part of your world in order to make useful judgements about it.
- Play an active role in your life instead of sitting apart from others so that you can gain experience that will help you flex your intuition.
- Make a point to do an activity everyday, even if it’s something small. For example, you could go on a walk with a friend, play a pickup game of basketball, sketch on a park bench, or practice a new language.
- Minimize the time you spend watching television.
4Take in the environment. Mentally catalogue the sights and sounds around you. Knowing the world around you will help you make better decisions in the moment. How you will react to someone will differ based on the scene.
- For example, if someone is walking toward you in a shopping mall, you may nod at them and keep walking; however, if someone is walking toward you in a dark alleyway, you may tense up and try to keep your distance from them.
- While you don’t want to jump to conclusions, knowing your environment will help you read the situation better because you’ll more easily pick up on cues.
5Minimize distractors. If you want to have a strong intuition like Sherlock, then you need to stay engaged with your world. Distractors, such as playing on your phone, keep you from taking in the information you need to use your intuition.
- Spend two weeks noting the times you found yourself giving in to distraction, such as watching TV while eating dinner, playing on your phone while you’re going to work, or flipping through a magazine while your friend is talking to you.
6Be a skeptic. While it may seem counter-intuitive, healthy skepticism keeps you from jumping to conclusions based on your own prejudices. To be a good skeptic, you need to understand your own beliefs and how they influence your reactions to the world around you so that you avoid misjudgements based on your own biases.
- When you find yourself reacting to something or someone, take a moment to ask yourself why you feel that way. For example, if you feel uncomfortable around your friend’s new boyfriend, ask yourself if it’s because of him or because of outside factors. Does he remind you of your ex? Are you worried that you might lose your friend?
- Don’t immediately believe gossip. Look for the evidence and use it to judge the truthfulness of any rumors that you hear.
7Think outside the box. In order to have intuition like Sherlock Holmes, you need to be a creative and reflexive thinker. If you build habits, resist change, and try to categorize the world, then you won’t be able to train your mind to capture and process the reality of the world around you.
- Try brainstorming activities like making a mind map, doodling, or making a list.
- Go somewhere different. For example, take a notebook to a coffee shop you’ve never tried, or go on a nature walk.
- Collaborate with others to create joint ideas.
- Do something artistic.
- Change your routine to shift your point-of-view.
Learn to do one task at a time. Multi-tasking is the enemy of intuition because it distracts your mind and keeps it from concentrating on the world around you. Your mind needs full and accurate information in order to reach the correct conclusions.
Part 4Using Deduction
1Understand deduction. Sherlock Holmes solves his crimes by following the principles of deduction, which is a method used to reach a conclusion based on a guiding theory. Sherlock creates his theories based on the connections he makes using his observational skills and personal knowledge.
- Deduction relies on the principle that all things in a particular group have the same rules. For example, if everyone in the conference room has won a prize and Tom is in the conference room, then we know that Tom is a prizewinner.
2Build a theory. A master of deduction builds a theory upon evidence, which then allows them to draw solid conclusions based on their theories.
- Look for patterns in your life. Pay attention to the who, what, where, why, when, and how. For example, document who you see making the office coffee. You may discover that the only person who makes coffee before 8 AM is the office accountant, Lily.
- Make generalizations using your evidence. According to this pattern, you can generalize that all coffee made before 8 AM is made by Lily.
- Based on this theory, if there is no coffee after 8 AM, then Lily has not come into work.
Test your theory. Once you’ve built a theory based on generalizations, see if your theory holds true. In the example above, the next time 8 AM passes and there is no coffee, check to see if Lily is out of the office.
4Sharpen your problem solving skills. You need to improve your problem solving abilities so that you can use deduction to make better decisions. To use deduction, you need to be good at working out the solution to a problem.
- Start by defining your problem and understanding the facts. Gather and analyze information. List out possible solutions, and examine the qualities of each one.
5Think logically. You must learn to think logically if you are going to develop your intuition. For your intuition to be accurate, it needs to be trained to react based on logic. Look for relationships between causes and effects.
- For example, if your friend drinks more cups of coffee on Thursdays, then ask yourself what’s different about that day. She may stay up late on Wednesday because she’s taking a night class. Collect more information to determine if it’s cause and effect or a correlation, which means that the two things are related but one is not causing the other. Be careful not to assume that a relationship between two things will be true in reverse. While a late class may cause your friend to drink more coffee the next day, that does not mean that every time your friend drinks a lot of coffee she has been to a night class.
6Expand your knowledge. To have strong intuition like Sherlock, you have to keep learning. Read books, watch documentaries, keep up with the news, and join groups that help you further your knowledge. You don’t have to go to a formal school to learn something new.
- Don’t limit yourself in what you study. For example, knowing pop culture might not seem important, but it can help you understand the people around you, so it will help you better rely on your intuition.
- Try EdX.org, which offers classes from major institutions like Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, MIT, and other prestigious universities. You can take a class for free to learn from the world’s best, or you can pay a small fee to get a certification that you took that course. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to expand your knowledge.
- Check out sites like Meetup.com, which offer community-run groups. Some groups will connect you with people who can teach you new skills. For example, you may be able to learn how to build a website, cook Indian food, or combine essential oils.
Relax. Once you’ve successfully trained your brain, you need to relax and give it time to work out the solution to the questions on your mind. Sherlock might relax by playing music, so take a note from him and turn on a relaxing playlist.
Watch Elementary or Sherlock -- they are both good shows that are good to watch if you want to be like Sherlock.
Quite true, both depictions of Sherlock Holmes are of a very intelligent, albeit somewhat antisocial detective, who deduces in a wonderful manner.
How did Sherlock Holmes develop such a mind?
He had a high IQ, and an interest in logical thinking that he applied to his cases. He was also very observant of society, and applied this knowledge as well.
How can I spot a very good liar?
Try to trip them up -- ask them a series of questions that dance around their lie. Distract them and play around a bit with your questioning.
Is it possible to think like Sherlock Holmes?
Yes. It is absolutely possible, but requires you to work on it. Practice, it will be the key helper to thinking like Sherlock. Practice working on all the factors that help him do what he does and you too could think like him.
Would having a "mind palace" be a good technique to store information?
It depends on the person. If you think a mind palace would be good for you, then try using one.
Would getting good grades and studying help my intuition?
Yes, this will expand your knowledge and should help your intuition.
I'm actually pretty good at observing, but I want to learn more. Do you have any tips and/or ideas?
It's all about practice and it requires a lot of training, but observing someone isn't only about paying attention to their hair or a spot on their clothes. It's really good to understand non-verbal communication. There are a lot of books about this and it is really useful to read some of them, it will help so much in improving observation skills.
Is a partner really necessary when talking through conclusions? Why can't we keep them to ourselves?
You might find that talking things through with someone helps you root out any inconsistency. When explaining things, people have a tendency to justify their conclusions, and it's at that point that you'll suddenly think of something you'd overlooked, or that your explanation doesn't cover a particular piece of evidence.
How do I know if I could be a good detective and what would I need to do it?
Well you've got this list now, so just work hard. If you get bored easily with it, then you should stop as it may not be right for you. Sherlock is driven with his passion for solving crimes, and a detective needs that to be good. You should also be good at basics, like math and science, so your lack of knowledge doesn't hold you back. You shouldn't expect success instantly or social recognition at all, but know that you have done your job.
What can I do with the magnifying glass?
You use the magnifying glass to see a small strand of hair or a grain of sand where it shouldn't be. It helps you see small objects that would otherwise go unseen.
Ask a Question
- Observe everything, even the most smallest detail.
- Consider information from all sources, but use your judgement in deciding what’s most reliable.
- Read some Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Even though Sherlock is an introvert he doesn't avoid people. Stay near the crowd and listen to conversations, you never know when certain info will be useful.
- Sometimes it's the little details that gives things away. Is your teacher more dressed up than usual? She may be going to a date or a meeting. Or is your friend less talkative and avoiding a subject? Maybe something bad happened that may make you disappointed at him/her. Don't overlook things but try to pay attention to everything. That way you can have a good idea of everything in case something may be important.
- Keep your predictions to yourself until you’re sure the facts are on your side.
- Don't make quick decisions without analyzing all the information.
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