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Use your Head or follow your Heart – The impact of our Minds-Eye on our decision making ability

When making decisions we are predisposed to use both insight and intuition. Insight is the view our minds-eye has of the world around us and is primarily rational in nature whilst intuition, (literally tuition from within), is what we feel about the world right now. They are both by definition, unique to us and can significantly alter the effectiveness of our decision making process.

I came across a fascinating piece of research by Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist who explains in her short TED talk (click here to view), how she has clinically proven that our motivations effect our decision making abilities. In her talk she explains how the strength of our motivations can distort our view of reality, so that what we want will become easier or harder to achieve dependant on how motivated we are to get it.

In my consultancy, coaching and facilitation work I have long understood that there is no use trying to use rational argument to persuade someone of the need to change if they simply do not want to. I know that real commitment to change, be it personal or organisational, comes from the head and the heart being in synch. In other words, you know it is the right thing to do and you want to do it. You have to listen to your heart and use your head to achieve lasting change, and if the two are out of synch then you will need more time to harmonise what you think with what you feel.

In far too many organisations we have created a busy, busy world full of noise and pressure leading some people to believe this luxury of time is simply not available. When I see this pressure I am minded to recall a quote from Winston Churchill who, during the height of the Second World War, famously said that he never took any decision that could not wait 15 minutes. Just consider this, 15 minutes is a very, very long time if all you are doing is thinking and listening to your feelings, try it!

All of us in the UK will get a chance to practice this as we have a decision to make on the 12th June regarding whether we stay or leave the European Union. The so called ‘Brexit’ debate is gathering momentum and is fascinating to observe. In the Westminster ‘bubble’ this is a really big deal. The reputations of some of our most prominent political leaders are at stake and nothing gets the news reporters into a frenzy of excitement more than the thought of a good political fight.

Compare this with the galloping apathy that exists towards this topic in most of us who live in the UK and are going about our day-to-day lives at the moment. We sort of know we should care, it is a really important decision that has the capacity to significantly affect our lives in the future, but if we are being honest, the level of motivation to engage with the decision is pretty low at the moment. I will wager that we are spending far more time thinking about where to go on holiday this year and what to wear to combat the changeable weather we are experiencing just now than we are thinking about the Brexit debate.

The first challenge our political leaders face is to get us motivated enough to care. Only then will we have the motivation required to review our minds-eye and reflect on our long established intuition in this area. When the subject is raised in my circle of friends I hear well embedded views emerge, views that often do not reflect the arguments that are being carefully honed by our political leaders and stuck through our letterboxes at the moment. It is fascinating to observe how ‘facts’ are being assembled to support long held views, it is the power of the minds-eye and human intuition at work. I see the world this way and I will gather ‘facts’ to defend my view of my reality and I will focus on emotive arguments that support my long held intuition. How else will I decide?

Those that are setting out to persuade us to their view will do well to remember this process. We are not going to be persuaded by too much rational argument, or by too much fear and scaremongering. We need a well balanced mix of insight and intuition and those that listen carefully to both I hope will win the day.

Good luck to us all……