Decision Making—Arriving at Harmony between the Mind and Heart
Ever heard of extreme ownership? It’s the notion that a leader is responsible for the success of their team and its failures as it is the leader who gives out direction and establishes high standards to drive the team’s performance. Hence, they should also be the ones to assume ownership of failures rather than try to justify why they failed. This form of ownership allows for progression and focusing on the next steps rather than focusing on who to blame and staying in a negative space.
Trusting your instincts is kinda like extreme ownership in that you alone are responsible for the decisions you take and don’t take. Now, how we take decisions changes over time and varies from person to person. When it comes to difficult decisions, the majority follows their mind, a few listen to their hearts and some have found harmony between both and follow their instincts, that gut feeling.
Emotions and reason impact our decision making but both depend on individual self-control and our ability to choose. So, to that extent, it’s comforting to know we are responsible for our decisions and how we take them.
Let’s dive into the infamous debate of head versus heart and the role these vital organs play when it comes to decision making. Let me start this discussion by asking a simple question, do you trust your instincts?
I used to be someone who was very heart strong, fueled by passion, but getting older I’ve somehow learned that I can’t always easily listen to my heart. Every decision has a price, and that price seems to increase with age. Have you noticed how the weight of your decisions just isn’t the same? My metaphorical life net used to be much wider and flexible; I could take chances and see where my heart would lead me in life’s adventures worry-free, but now not so much, it’s just different. I’m happy with the life I’ve build for myself but it’s one that’s more calculated. I find myself turning much more to my head rather than follow the beat of my heart like I did freely in my twenties.
So, why do we stop listening to our hearts? Is the fear of failing and the pressures to maintain a certain life more worthwhile than being happy, fulfilled, and satisfied? Or can we have it all? Really, it comes down to our comfort level with discomfort or put differently, our ability to learn from the not so great decisions we make. In the sense that people who listen to their heart when taking a decision often experience more satisfaction, but regardless, most people will take important decisions based on logic and perceived analysis (the mind). We are conditioned to think that one is better than the other as one is perceived as being less risky, but really, we need to establish harmony between both.
I’m not arguing that one is better than the other; I really believe it all has to do with our ability to live with discomfort and how we experience it. This discussion is for us all to reflect on the decisions we make, what guides them, and how we want to live life. If you can’t live happily without owning a big home, then you might not mind experiencing a level of dissatisfaction for choosing a high paying job that you might have initially no interest in beyond the salary.
However, I believe there is a way to live where we listen to the reason of our head, feel the direction of our heart, and as a result follow our instinct—that raw unfiltered response that corresponds with who we are as individuals. It’s that response that’s often the most honest and will leave us feeling fulfilled. It doesn’t mean we won’t have moments of doubts or sadness, but overall, it means we are taking decisions that correspond to our soul, to our inner being. Instinct is felt internally and isn’t tinted by the life we think we should be living. However, it’s up to us to be listening and to want to hear what lies at the intersect of the mind and heart. When our gut feeling—head and heart’s harmony—becomes our guide, it’s owing to the fact that we are looking within and have arrived at a state of acceptance. One where we are comfortable being uncomfortable.
Our mind is more a reflection of content or the pieces that make us who we are, while our heart represents our spiritual and emotional wealth. When we arrive at a place of harmony between our mind and heart, we connect with our instinct—the essence of who we are. It’s that initial and honest response to a situation or the people we meet.
So, how can we achieve harmony between the perceived tangible success that arises from following our mind and the increased level of life satisfaction associated with following one’s heart? Can we even benefit from the wisdom of both listening to our heart and mind? I believe we can when we push away doubt; if we have repeatedly followed our heart, head or what we thought was instinct and have been wrong, we can lose trust in our decision-making abilities. So, harmony is achieved by repeatedly being confident and trusting ourselves.
One key challenge to being confident and trusting ourselves emerges from our need as human beings to want to be comfortable and achieve stability—think of the traditional family with 2 kids and the parents making good earnings. Social constructs of what is perceived as desirable (e.g., stable salary job) leads us to take decisions for the perceived tangible gains and comfort without accounting for personal happiness.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my mind checks in way too much. The responsibility is greater after all! Basically, the world is a scary and riskier place to be. Don’t get me wrong there is also a lot of good and joy but as we get older there is a loss of innocence. There isn’t a lot to make you trust and feel safe in the world, so you hide your heart more and go off logic. Self-preservation type of thing. And choosing to follow your heart means moving away from comfort and into the unknown, which is risky and doesn’t seem to be an adult thing to do. Maybe because the responsibility is greater in all aspects. Still, there is a hesitation about whether the risk is worth taking. It brings up the following question: is personal satisfaction/fulfillment worth less than comfort?
Being guided by our instincts doesn’t mean there isn’t any thought to our choices, it just means that these choices will be made with our emotional wellbeing at the forefront. That being said, decision making based on the head or heart is like true love. It can happen throughout our lives and at different stages of life; it also means different things at different stages. We all continue to grow and so does love. As a result, there are moments we might be overtly aware of the cost of following our head over our heart but there are also these times where it’s seamless or decisions become intertwined—that gut feeling. The challenges we face and the decisions we make as a result shape our lives, but regardless of if we follow our heart or head, we have control over how we react. So really, it’s our outlook that gives significance to the impact of instinct-based decisions.
We must allow ourselves to be sensitive, to feel, to wonder, to take the time to process—that’s living with full humanity and that is harmonious decision making. Society as it is now, focused on power, makes it harder for individuals to freely express their humanity but doing so is how we will be able to connect with our instincts.
Take decisions inwardly and then act, forget the self-doubt!