One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career (and my life, in general) has been my tendency to over-rationalize decisions. Whenever I come to a major juncture, I usually have a strong initial reaction one way or another. However, I often immediately question myself, looking to rationalize the choice. I spend tremendous amounts of time and energy on this, often at the expense of other opportunities.
I’ve always attributed this challenge to a distrust of intuition. But the older I get, the more obvious it’s become to me that intuition is a powerful capability. There need not be anything magical about it: our nervous systems just process information differently than our “rational” minds. (A great book on this subject is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.) My challenge is how to keep my rational mind from walking over my intuitive mind.
I recently heard Tim Ferriss interview Bozoma Saint John (a podcast worth your time), and she articulated this idea succinctly. She framed it using the classic tool for making rational decisions: pro and con lists:
When I make pro and con lists, it’s usually because I want to talk myself out of a good idea or talk myself into a really bad one.
Bingo! She goes on to say,
…my spirit always knew what to do, and more often than not — actually no, ever single time — that I did not listen to what my spirit was telling me, it was wrong — even if I rationalized it to myself…
I can’t say my rational mind has always chosen wrong, but I do know I’ve made some of the most important (and best) decisions in my life on the spot by following my gut. Still, I need to keep reminding myself to trust my intuition. Ironically, it’s not something that comes naturally.