Making decisions

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Making decisions is often difficult, but there are perhaps a few ways to help our minds work for us.  Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

When is the right time to make a change?  It’s a constant dilemma, and there’s no right answer, but I thought I would discuss a few elements of this kind of decision.

THE ROLE OF INTUITION

Firstly, I strongly suggest you don’t rule out the role of intuition in any changes you make.  Intuition could be defined as that part of your decision-making process which is not amenable to conscious explanation, but seems to have a wisdom of its own.  The concept acknowledges that our unconscious minds have a role in guiding us.  It is sometimes enough to say ‘I have a strong feeling this is the right decision,’ and then go with it.

Intuition is particularly useful in making decisions which depend on your inner character, such as choice of vocation, relationships, living environment, personal possessions, clothes, and style.  In all these areas, making a choice on a logical basis, or being too influenced by others, can lead to an inauthentic life.

THE ROLE OF LOGIC

On the other hand, logic has a huge part to play in any decision-making process.  Logic could be defined as that part of your process which is amenable to conscious explanation by way of a reasonable system.  Logic often works on an ‘if…then’ basis, and deals with predictable consequences.  So sometimes we work things out, and say to ourselves: ‘if I do this, then this is likely to result; whereas if I do that, then that is likely to result.’

Logic is particularly useful in making decisions which depend on managing external circumstances, such as job searches, relationship searches, the practical side of home building and renovation, and the ‘final decision’ part of decisions about possessions, clothes and style.

TWIN SKILLS

One way of twinning these skills together, is to use intuition (or subjective judgement) for directional decisions, and then logic (or objective judgement) for process decisions.

Put in simpler English, make your big, overall life choices by gut feel; but then make those big, overall life choices work in practice by using logic.

EXAMPLES

Here are a couple of examples of how this could work for you:

  1. Use your intuition a lot when getting a feel for what overall religious and ethical outlook suits you.  Pay attention to your own character, and be extremely sensitive to your response to various approaches.  But once you have settled on a religious or ethical outlook that suits you, maybe think logically about how you are going to apply it, so that you can successfully match your aspirations to the practical environment.
  2. Use your intuition a lot when getting a feel for a new friend.  Pay attention to how you feel from moment to moment, and take your gut feel seriously.  There is probably a lot going on inside you which you can’t consciously fathom, but which has a wisdom to it.  Our bodies have a lifetime of experience judging whom to trust… so we can perhaps use our bodily responses as assistance.  But once you have settled on a circle of friends, maybe use logic to work our how your schedule can cope with keeping in touch and doing activities.
HOW OUR MINDS WORK

The above suggestions come from some analysis of how our minds work.  Our overall focus of attention has a strong unconscious bias.  But, once we have identified what we are interested in, we bring in a series of conscious and near-conscious tests, to check whether what we are seeing is consistent or contradictory.  So making your big directional decisions using intuition, and then your more local, process decisions using logic, may be more consistent with your natural ways.

BALANCING YOUR APPROACH

However, it is not always wise to do things only one way round.  There are two dangers, in particular, of the above approach:

  1. Intuition is not foolproof.  If you are the type of person who jumps into new relationships on a whim without really thinking, then maybe invent some logical rules to control yourself from being too rash.  For instance, you can give yourself a ‘3-day’ rule: even if you feel very strongly about a directional decision, give yourself three days to test out whether your feeling is momentary, or has some longevity to it.  The bigger the decision, the longer you may like to give yourself as a test.
  2. Logical process can be boring.  If you are the type of person who applies logical unremittingly to all your process, then you may depress yourself by trapping yourself in objective rules.  Your whimsical side will want an outing.  Maybe, in this case, allow your subjective, intuitive side the occasional outing – allocate part of your shopping budget to ‘things I just fancy’; or allocate some of your time to ‘just wandering around as I intuitively want to’.

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SUMMARY

Making decisions is hard.  That’s why there are so many books on how to live your life.  In keeping with how your mind works, perhaps divide your approach into two thinking styles:

  1. Use intuition for big decisions about life direction.
  2. Use logic for process decisions about day-to-day living.
In addition, you can keep your intuition balanced by applying a few logical tests (just to keep it under control); and you can stop your day-to-day process from getting too boring by taking your intuition for a walk sometimes (just to stop life getting too predictable).
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