In my professional training, I was taught to judge things based on facts, to apply logic to arguments and to come to conclusions based on evidence. There is nothing wrong with doing any of that except that perhaps, it can result in learning to doubt your instincts, rather than trust them. It has only been much later in life that I have come to realise that I am a strongly intuitive individual and that often, my gut instinct can be spot on.
Learning to trust myself has therefore been a long process, for me, consisting of unlearning some of the things I was taught. That doesn’t mean that I can now ignore evidence; it means that I recognise the validity of my subconscious thinking to which, by definition, I cannot have entirely conscious access.
According to psychologists, the vast majority of our thinking is of the subconscious kind. Sigmund Freud called it the ‘unconscious’ and famously commented that the “most complicated achievements of thought are possible without the assistance of consciousness.” It is a lovely quote and it sums up the essence of what I have come to trust as my own decision-making process – especially for major decisions.
My view is that my mind, both the conscious and subconscious parts, are well able to evaluate any situation I find myself in; they are able to weigh all available data and reach the right decision without any necessity for me to turn things over in my mind consciously. The function of the conscious part, I now see more in terms of input and output. The data needs to be gathered and the problem needs to be set – those are conscious activities.
But for the analysis of the data and the evaluation of the available alternatives ultimately leading to the right conclusion, whilst the process can be clearly accomplished logically and consciously, I now find is best left to the subconscious. Once it has finished its work, all it then needs to do is communicate the correct decision to my conscious mind and I find this is done through gut feeling.
Some people might like to think of this process as making a decision of the heart. It is something I remember Deepak Chopra mentioning in his book The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. Personally, I think that is simply alternative language for the same phenomenon. Heart and gut, to me, are equivalent terms for the kind of intuitive thinking that can access the right decision, sometimes despite being able to recount the logic.
Of course, if you are a strongly analytical thinker, this kind of idea might sound like complete hogwash to you. If so, that’s fine, but I write in the hope that you might open your mind to possibility. The combination of intuition and logic can become a particularly potent force, working for you, when you fully realise that you do have the ability to access this extra dimension of brain power.
When you next need to make an important decision, why not give this a try? Simply take in all the facts and ask yourself the question to which you require an answer; then try to forget about it. What will happen is that your subconscious will go to work. Don’t deliberately think about the question. In fact, you can assist your subconscious by doing something to quieten your conscious mind, so perhaps go for a long walk with the dog.
When the answer comes to you – as it will – your understanding of the ability of your subconscious to problem-solve on your behalf will have been substantially strengthened. What will happen after that is that you will begin to use that ability more and more, you will begin to trust it, you will be less stressed by major decisions and you will begin to make better decisions too.