How do you make your decisions? By deferring to others? Consciously listing pros and cons? Doing a cost/benefit analysis?

Deferring to others or conscious deliberation might be fine for a simple decision—which movie to see or where to go for dinner. But research has shown that for more complex decisions, we are actually better off relying on our own gifts of intuition. In mindful research in the Netherlands, it was found that for complex decisions—for example, choosing the right apartment, the right car, or the right job—drawing upon our unconscious thought processes actually produces better results. The researchers called this the “deliberation-without-attention” hypothesis.

But to produce sound decisions, our intuition must be more than simply guessing. The study describes informed intuition, based on past information and experience stored in our long-term memories, information we may not be consciously aware of, but can access unconsciously. Beneath the surface of conscious thought, our brains then piece together related associations, producing intuitive conclusions that emerge in a flash of insight.

Drawing upon our intuitive wisdom requires that we be in the right frame of mind. Recent research in Berlin has shown that when we’re anxious, we make poor decisions. Anxiety impairs our intuitive function, short-circuiting the brain’s complex unconscious associative process.

So the next time you need to make an important decision, take time to review the situation, then take a break, take a walk, relax, do something to occupy your conscious mind and let your brain’s associative powers go to work, producing the intuitive insight you need.

Peace and Love, Jim

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