Every day, you make about 30’000 decisions, small ones and big ones. Some turn out to be really good while others cause issues or dissatisfaction. If you’re headstrong and tend to make rational decisions, you probably don’t use all the knowledge available to understand which resolutions are likely to make you happy. However, decisions solely based on intuition are also bound to cause dissatisfaction. Here are a couple of helpful insights on how to combine intuition and the rational mind to improve decision making and achieve happiness.
Have you ever found yourself unhappy about a decision you made? Have you bought a car that you didn’t like, moved into an apartment that didn’t feel right, or accepted a job offer that made your heart heavy? You would think making the right decision should be straightforward. But in fact, it’s the opposite, especially if you’re a top-heavy analyst like I used to be.
Why? Because if you make decisions based on your thoughts alone, you miss out on vital information. And don’t get me wrong, the mind is a wonderful thing! It helps us think things through, weigh up pros and cons and see everything from different angles. That can indeed be very helpful. But not in decision making because only a tiny part of our knowledge is accessible through conscious thoughts. The majority of our knowledge is, in fact, stored in our subconscious.
A little worm: the key to efficient decision making?
Your heart, gut feeling, or intuition, whatever you may call it, has a lot more information available than your conscious mind can access to. Swiss author and psychologist Maja Storch calls this knowledge “the little worm”. So, imagine you have a little worm inside you which guides you in your decision-making. It’s a very heartful, powerful, and wise creature. And, the more you understand its language, the happier decisions you make.
But, if you go against your little worm (your gut feeling), you squash the poor thing. And I bet you know exactly how that feels! For instance, if you have accepted a job offer from a company that you didn’t feel comfortable with, you will feel the strangling of the little worm every morning in your stomach.
Where knowledge comes from
So where did this little one get its knowledge from? There are two different sources. One is your instinct. This is the knowledge that has been passed on from generation to generation and it’s the same for every human being across cultures and nations. For example, if you sense something is falling from the ceiling, you will duck down and cover your head. The second source is your individual approved knowledge which you have built from experiences throughout your whole life. Perhaps you learned that you like ice cream very much while going to the dentist isn’t much fun. Those two elements are the source of the worm’s knowledge.
The difference between mind and intuition
How does your worm communicate then? There are three main differences between mind and worm. Firstly, the language. Your worm uses the two categories: “YES I want this” or “NO I don’t want this”, while the mind uses the concept of “true” and “false”. For instance, whether a fancy car is “the right car” for you is the language of your mind. If you feel a “Nope I don’t want this” in your tummy, that’s your worm talking.
Secondly, the worm is incredibly fast while the mind is very slow. By the time you can think a thought (or explain your gut feeling) it’s already the mind talking, no longer the worm. So that very second you have a “YES” in your heart, that’s your worm. And the second you hear yourself say “this looks interesting, I’m sure it would fit perfectly in my wardrobe” it’s already your mind talking again.
And lastly, the mind uses precise language while the worm uses somatic markers (diffuse feelings). It is important to understand that the mind is stronger than your little worm and it has the last say. Therefore, it often overrides intuition.
Let your mind be the servant, not the king
How can you use this knowledge to make decisions that make you happy? Here is the answer: let your mind be the servant, not the king. And start to nurture the connection with your worm so that you can better understand what you truly want.
Let me give you an example. When I passed my driver’s license, I went off to buy my first car. My uncle, a car dealer, showed me a car which he had just bought from an elderly lady. I looked at this old, rust-colored car and my heart sank. But my uncle told me that it was in good shape and of good value. It sounded reasonable. I knew I could trust him, he would offer me a discount and at the end of the day, I just needed to get from A to B. It really didn’t matter. So I bought the car. Needless to say, I never really enjoyed driving it.
Ten years later, I had returned to Switzerland from living in Australia and was again on the hunt for a car. I knew the kind of car I wanted so I did my research and made a spreadsheet with all the cars available on the market. I ended up with a list of five cars and on a Saturday morning I got up to test drive the cars.
So, I started with number four on my list because it was the closest to my apartment. The car was relatively ranked low on my list because it was more expensive than others and it offered many things I didn’t need. But the second I got in the car, I fell in love with it. I ended up buying it and I drove it for many years. I loved every second I drove it!
Do not rely on your little worm alone
In the case of buying something expensive, it’s key to take into consideration whether the costs fit in your budget, and in case you need to abandon something else, whether the bottom line will be a happier you. However, if your worm is feeling unhappy in a job or a relationship and your mind keeps telling you all the reasons to hold on to it, it might be good for you to become aware of the two different types of voices, their language and the fact that the worm knows, while the mind tries to find the easiest way.
But what about the dentist’s visit?
You may be wondering about stuff that the worm doesn’t like but is essential in a human’s life. Things such as filling out tax forms and going to the dentist. In this case, the mind overrides the worm and decides that a dentist visit is a sound thing to do and needs to be done once a year, whether it is fun or not. Also, for things that you like to get better at but your worm doesn’t like, you can send it to worm school! For instance, if you don’t like presenting in front of a group of people (your worm screams “nooo I don’t want to do this!”) you can decide to do it anyway so the worm can make a new (and hopefully positive) experience and the stored knowledge can be updated. This is how you stretch your comfort zone and teach your worm new tricks.
By the way, Maja Storch advises spending about two-thirds of your time doing things your worm likes and only one-third strangling it. So in case you find yourself worm-strangling a lot on an average day, you may want to consider making some changes in your life.
Do you want to continue working on your decision making and learn more powerful tools for a better life? Join my free Facebook group: Find your happy place.