internal battle: heart, gut, and mind

“Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.” Robert Heller

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Depending on who you talk to, they’ll either tell you to go with your heart, gut, or mind. Sure, the factors all play a role in some of life’s most difficult decisions however, one of the three propels you further to your conclusion(s). The heart says “it was love”, the gut says “it just felt right” and the mind says “I’ve weighed my options and this was the best choice.” As someone with ISTJ personality, I’m practical, logical, analytical and often time too critical to lead with emotions or gut feelings. Not that I don’t have them, I can analyze them in a way that they’re no longer unexplainable ‘feelings’. You’ll never hear me say “it just felt right”, because I’ve already systemized the values of each option to describe my feelings. Simon Sinek, a great British-American author and TedTalk speaker describes that the part of our brain responsible for decision making is unable to process language. Therefore, we often justify as oppose to really understand why we make the choices we do.

Richard Restak, a well-known neuroscientist, talks about this in his book The Naked Brain. When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they almost invariably end up “overthinking.” The thing about being analytical is every option can be justified and weighed for or against. It’s like playing the prosecutor, defendant and judge all at once. In your own head. On the flip side however, I can’t imagine leading my decisions with gut feelings or emotions. Do you get the same feelings everyday? Is your gut telling you the same thing no matter what mood you’re in? When it comes to relationship, how can you trust your instincts? I don’t love any one thing everyday and some days all my gut wants to tell me is “why did you eat so much carbs last night?”

Unlike decisions about what to have for lunch or where your next travel destination will be, decisions about relationships are never easy because they impact others. The choices that you make do have an affect. How do you choose if you can’t weigh your options and how can you trust your feelings enough to come to any conclusion that can’t be explained? We take a leap of faith. Faith means not having all the information you need but trusting that it’s the right decision anyway. There’s never any certainty. But accepting that,   and having the courage to choose is better than not choosing at all. There lies the paradox. Not choosing is still choosing.

In the TedTalk, How to Make Hard Choices, Ruth Chang explains “Choices are difficult because they cannot be easily broken down into numbers. In comparing the weight of 2 suitcases, one could be heavier, lighter or equal in weight. All questions involving numbers can be broken down in this way. It is a mistake to think that these simple numerical comparisons have the same structure as the decisions between your future life. We need to make a 4th alternative – that things can be better, worse, equal, or ‘on a par’. When decisions are on a par, neither is better or worse than the other, and your lifestyle after the decision is not exactly the same, but you see both future lives as having a similar value…  It is the ‘on a par’ decisions where we get to create our own reasons for picking one over the other, and define who we are.”

To begin defining who we are and who we want to be not only comes from a place of self awareness but understanding your individual goals and values in life. Not what do you want? But more accurately, what are you willing to suffer in order to have them? What does your heart, gut, or mind tell you?

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