Heart Over Head – How To Make The Right Decisions In Life
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
A Beautiful Mind
Our mind is the most sophisticated and complex instrument we own. Everything that mankind has ever created in this world originated once from a single idea of a human's mind. Computers, phones, even artificial intelligence…
Imagination, creativity and logical thinking are amazing traits of our minds. However, in today’s society it can sometimes feel like these features are working against us. We don’t control our thoughts anymore, but instead they control us.
While we can use our minds to find creative and/or logical solutions and very much need it for survival, thinking can also turn into a compulsive behavior.
This is especially true when it comes to making decisions...
For any decision in our life, we might rationally weighing the options that are available to us. There is nothing wrong with using our minds to evaluate a situation.
In theory if we consider all the facts available to us in an objective and rational manner, we should come to the best conclusion.
However, in real life this decision making process can turn into a state where we excessively imagine all different kinds of scenarios. We might call this overthinking.
It can even lead to anxiety since we try to predict future outcomes which are simply unknown.
We think about if it’s better to do this or that. We think about all the different outcomes, and usually it just leads nowhere except to sleep-depravation.
There are many tips on how to solve this issue. To think about the worst-case scenario, and accept it. To really think about the reasons why we are worried. To just go with one decision and then stick to it.
While all these tips certainly have some truth, I personally use a different approach where I try to use my rational thinking as little as possible. It is based on the so-called butterfly effect...
The Butterfly Effect
Maybe you’ve heard of it before...
The butterfly effect means that seemingly insignificantly small changes can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variations of the future.
What does that mean? In plain words that means that the flapping of a butterfly in Europe can cause a thunderstorm in Asia. Hence, the name butterfly effect.
And here comes the thing:
We can’t possibly know what events, people and situations a certain decision will bring to us. Never.
Sure, we can make rational considerations. This flight is cheaper, that country is warmer, this job means more money, etc. Based on these rational assumptions we make a decision.
But we simply can't know what this decision will mean further down the road. Like the flap of a butterfly that can cause a thunderstorm somewhere else.
Let me tell you an example of my own life...
When I went to the beautiful island of Siargao in the Philippines, I searched for a hostel to stay the night. There were dozens on Hostelworld and I read some reviews to get a clearer image. In the end I decided to stay at one, because it was 2 € cheaper than most of the others and looked quite comfy.
To put it short: Because I booked this specific hostel, I ended up working there for two months having an incredible time meeting lovely people, including an amazing girl who later became my girlfriend in Germany. We moved to Berlin, we eventually broke up, I decided to take my life in my own hands, I left everything behind and decided to follow my dream to travel in Latin America.
All because I decided to book a hostel that was 2 € cheaper. If I booked a different one, my last two years would have been completely different!
Obviously this story is simplified a lot and very shortened, but in a nutshell that is how one event led to another in the last two years of my life.
By telling this I just want to make a point. How a rather small decision can have huge impacts which we can never anticipate in the first place.
There are a million more of these examples. More precisely there is an infinity of these examples. That’s just what we call life …
A collection of an infinite amount of unpredictable moments...
Trusting Your Gut
Life is unpredictable. That's why I believe that thinking too much about any decision is simply not practical.
I believe that listening to our intuition leads to better decisions - faster, and less anxious. Every human is born with intuition. It's innate to our nature.
For some mysterious reasons we already know the right thing to do. Somehow we were given this ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. We just need to do what feels right.
Paulo Coelho describes intuition in his famous book The Alchemist as "a sudden
immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there."
As hunter gatherers a few thousand years ago our lives relied to a large extent on our intuitive feelings. They told us if it was safe to take this path through the forest or put up our camp in this valley.
Nowadays it often seems that our minds have overtaken our intuition almost completely.
One of my favorite podcasters Aubrey Marcus put it like this: "Intuition speaks to you in a whisper. So you have to quiet your mind to hear it."
So how do we do that?
I believe by being fully present in what we are doing. The more present we go through life, the more we are connected to our intuition.
For example when we eat, we can focus on the smells and tastes of the delicious food. When we go for walk, we can admire every tree, every flower along the way. Basically, everything we do, we can do fully aware.
I think when we follow our intuition we will make the right decision. Maybe at first it might not look like the right one, but sooner or later it will all come together.
You decide to take the bus and have to wait for half an hour, but end up having an inspiring conversation with another person at the bus station.
You decide to book a flight, miss it, but meet the love of your life after getting back to your hotel.
You decide to smile at a stranger, and he will become your best friend.
We don't know what the future brings. We can make decisions with the best of our knowledge and according to our intuition, but in the end life will unfold completely different than we assume.
So, all we can do is trusting the process. Trusting the universe which already laid the foundation for our path. All we need to do is walk it.
As long as our actions feel right in our hearts, we can’t go wrong.
So the next time our minds are about to go into overthinking, let's step back, remember the unpredictability of life and try to listen to that whisper of our intuition.
The famous fable The Alchemist is about a shepherd who leaves everything behind to find a treasure he dreamt about. Paulo Coelho explains in a poetic and beautiful way how one action leads to another. He describes how we can follow our true path and how "all the universe conspires in helping [us] to achieve it"
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