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Productivity / Decision making

Head or heart: How to make the best business decision

I’ve written before about the importance of listening to your intuition (i.e. using your right brain) and just recently, I really put my money where my mouth is. I made a business decision almost solely based on my heart’s truth

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You know how an extrovert at a party is in their comfort zone and so quick to engage, whereas the introvert thinks up their (most likely better) response when the party’s over? So it is with my approach to decisions. My right brain often has a great solution but because it can take its sweet time to reveal itself, the left barges in front, declaring “I got this!”

And for years I’ve allowed the left brain to ‘get this’ (in spite of championing the importance of intuition). I’ll gather data, analyse, seek opinions, discuss and make a pros and cons list; all actions associated with the logical and rational left brain.

Given ‘going with the left brain’ is our society’s decision-making process of choice, it’s easy to see that as the ‘right’ way to go about things. But I reckon it’s time to subject this accepted piece of wisdom to some serious scrutiny. I’ve found that oversubscribing to the ‘wisdom’ of facts has seen me lay waste to more abstract concepts such as my intuition and how I feel. Both of which are incredibly useful tools in their own right.

Another issue with left brain decision making is it lets you make the same mistakes more than once. This is due to what I call the ‘good on paper’ problem: the evidence stacks up, yet the experience doesn’t bear it out. Anyone who’s granted a second chance against their better judgement can probably blame their left brain for that lousy outcome.

"Anyone who’s granted a second chance against their better judgement can probably blame their left brain for that lousy outcome."

Fortunately the right brain knows the following truth, as expressed by the Buddhist Pema Chodron:

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”

I’ve been increasingly prone to trusting my better judgement, to question evidence and reflect on feelings instead of, and often in addition to, writing lists and so on.

Given the right brain can take its time helping you out, here are some methods I’ve used for coaxing it to help in decision-making.

Sleep on it

How many times have you made a decision at night, then reversed it in the morning? Often a night’s rest can offer fresh insight. I will never go to bed saying ‘I’m 100% certain’ and instead see what’s made itself known by the morning.

Surrender

“Not knowing” can be horribly disempowering, but the reality is, being able to access all the data in the world won’t guarantee a good outcome. Often I’ve found a solution I’m comfortable with presents itself after repeated circling round a problem til I’m so sick of it I’ve stopped giving it conscious energy.

Listen to your body

‘Mens sana in corpore sano’, right? Healthy mind means a healthy body. No-one can make any sort of insightful decision if they’re tired, poorly nourished or too sedentary. Some sleep, good food and exercise is going to get cylinders on both sides of the brain firing.

Only time will tell if my new venture is the ‘right’ thing to do, but I doubt I’m the only soloist to feel miles out of their comfort zone as they say ‘Geronimo!’

Was your business a product of head or heart or both?

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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