When it comes to deciding, we have our unique way of approaching the process. From the simple, Tea or coffee? Black or white? Sugar or not? To the bigger stuff, what job to take? If we are changing location, which house do we buy? Or should we rent? Whilst we all approach these decisions with our own way of reasoning, there is, one aspect of the process in which we all are alike.
When did you last cross the road?
Was it at a pedestrian crossing or did you just take your life in your hands and cross wherever? (Jaywalking is a way of life here, in the U.K.) In either case you would have to make the decision to cross. If you chose away from a crossing, you looked at the traffic and saw ‘a gap’ and just went for it. Or was it the little green man at the crossing? Not so much of a decision and more of a prompting.
But if you chose to cross the road away from a crossing?
You would have made your decision based upon your judgement. Coupled with some brief, on the fly, calculations. A judgement on the number of vehicles, their estimated speed, the size of the gap between them. This would need to be combined with your own ability to accelerate from 0-13kph. Then, a calculation of the variables involved, along with the potential outcome, could be made. The outcome, then postulated, revealing either a “Yes, I can make it!” Or “No, roadkill!” And all of this in just a few milliseconds.
We all make decisions ‘on the fly’.
When it comes to ‘thinking on our toes’ or ‘trusting our gut’. How often do we talk about ‘a gut feeling’? Across all walks of our life. About a new friend, a boss, job offers. But what does that mean to you? That gut feeling, that snap decision. Personally, having spent the last thirty years working inside people’s heads, I am beginning to understand that when we make a ‘gut decision’, it is not something of a whimsical, “Oh what the hell, I’ll just go with this”. I am beginning to believe that it is much, much more.
Too much time to think?
When we have a lot of time to think, often, we can ‘over think’ things. How many times have you decided, then thought about it, only to go around in circles, before ending up back where you started? First, that snap decision, I believe, is our brain making an incredibly well-educated guess. Second, I believe, it accesses all the information it has at that time. Our problem is that this is done unconsciously. Which means you may not consciously be fully aware of how you arrived at that decision. It is these moments, when the decision just ‘arrives’ in our heads, that we sometimes feel the need to question it.
Accessing all your memories?
While that sounds a little broad sweeping, please hear me out. There are times when we all need to ‘think on our feet’. Under a little pressure and must decide on something, quickly. It is in those moments, I believe, we (our brain) will take a snapshot. Across all our relevant memories, to purposefully select the choice that offers the best possible outcome.
So, can we really trust our gut?
To conclude, I believe this ‘gut feeling’ is something we achieve on an unconscious level. Our unconscious can access substantially more memories than we realise. It will never make a decision that could intentionally put us in harm’s way. Interestingly, we will sometimes question a gut decision and then try to think it through because we feel unsure about how we got there. This is about learning to trust our experiences and knowledge and understanding that to go with our gut is not a whim. This is not the same as being hasty, careless, or making emotional decisions. It is simply about learning to trust your unconscious mind and the knowledge it has access to.
P.S. I moved to London, to work with music, on a ‘gut feeling’. I had a truly, amazing 25-year career, working all over the world. (At the time, everyone I knew, was telling me to get a ‘proper’ job.)