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Trust Your Head and Heart to Make Good Decisions

Have you ever thought about how you make decisions? There are 2 basic approaches to making a good decision. Neither is right or wrong but they’re very different. Take the time to consider which approach works best for you.

Here are the 2 different approaches that most people use to make a good decision:

  1. The follow your head method
  2. The follow your heart method

The first method involves reviewing an option and exploring possible outcomes. The second method involves looking inward to discover your true feelings about an option.

While people tend to prefer one way over the other, these processes often link together or borrow from each other. In either case, the methods described here will help you move toward your goal.

Follow your head

This approach means reviewing your values, interests, strengths, assets, and challenges. You’ll also need to look at the possible outcomes of each option. Once you’ve done that, you can compare your options. It often helps to put your thoughts down in the worksheet below so you can see the differences and make comparisons. Let’s look at Cody’s story.

Cody wants to get in better shape. But he’s always so worn out when he gets off work, and he wants to help Akina with the baby. They used to go for bike rides together, but now that’s impossible. Cody looks at the memo about recycling and thinks if the department really cared about the environment, they wouldn’t use paper. He stops. Instead of patrolling the area in police cruisers, could they sometimes do a bicycle patrol? It would mean fewer cars on the road, a lower gas budget, and better relationships with the community. Plus, he could get in better shape!

As you read Cody’s story, you can see that he values both his job and his family. He has a great interest in cycling, but the new baby means he has had less time to exercise. By considering a trend—the growing concern for the environment—Cody comes up with an option that may help him get in shape.

Cody decides to suggest creating a bicycle patrol. But first, he wants to get all his thoughts down in one place.

Cody considers his values, interests, and strengths. He thinks about the assets he can use: his bicycle maintenance know-how and the facts that point to cost savings and relationship building. He also looks at his challenges: the cost of buying the bikes and the resistance other colleagues might have. Using this rational method, Cody decides to propose the bike patrol. He also takes a moment to think about it intuitively, to confirm that his idea feels right for him. 

Now it's your turn. 

Evaluate Option(s) Using the Head Method

Think about how an option you’re considering relates to your values, interests, strengths and assets. Also consider the challenges you might have if you choose this option—that is, what gaps you have in your strengths and assets. Finally, consider what will happen if you choose this option—what will be the results?

Use Cody's example for help. 


To double-check your decision on an option, you may want to borrow from the heart method, which is described below. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you have chosen this option. How does it feel having made this decision? 

Follow your heart

This method of making decisions allows you to hear your inner voice and encourages its wisdom to emerge. Even if you haven’t consciously identified, researched, or analyzed your options, your subconscious is always working. With this intuitive method, you tap into the information your subconscious has gathered.

This method differs from the rational, linear approach because it focuses on what you really feel, instead of what you’re supposed to feel. Here are some ways to get in touch with your true feelings about an option you’re considering:

  • Meditate or sit peacefully
  • Sleep on it and let your subconscious offer you an answer when you wake up
  • Go on a vision quest
  • Go for a quiet, solitary walk
  • Write in a journal
  • Visit an important site, such as the place you grew up or a loved one’s grave

Joanne is torn. Should she take that watercolour class to bring her to the next level of her art, or the occupational therapy course to upgrade her career? They’re both good options in her quest to learn something new. But as she closes her eyes and imagines her autumn evenings, first with her watercolours, and then with her textbooks, she realizes that her heart skips a beat in excitement when she thinks of painting. It does nothing when she imagines writing up papers. Joanne opens her eyes. She has made her decision.

As you read Joanne’s story, you can see that both her art and career are important to her. But she knows that her career is more than just her job – it’s the sum total of her life experiences. By closing her eyes—and listening closely to her inner voice—Joanne gains an understanding of how she wants to spend her time.

Joanne listens to her inner voice, explores her feelings, and peels back what she thinks she wants to discover what she really wants. Using this heart method, Joanne reaches a decision she knows will be right for her.

She also thinks about it rationally, to make sure there isn’t anything she’s overlooked.

Joanne decides to take the watercolour class. Who knows, maybe her intuition will lead her to a career as an art therapist rather than an occupational therapist.

Evaluating option(s) using the heart method

Let’s try this decision-making method. Imagine yourself choosing a particular option and living it, just as Joanne does. Visualize the environment you are in, your activities and the way you feel in those surroundings. Then take some time to let your heart or inner voice speak. Really listen to what it says.
Allow yourself enough time to reflect on how you feel, and answer the questions on this worksheet

And you may want to double-check your decision on an option, by borrowing from the head method above. 

If you can’t come to a decision

Sometimes, for various reasons, you just can’t decide. Before you throw up your hands and walk away, take another look at the work you have done to make this decision. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is your self-assessment up to date?
  2. Are the values you have identified really yours, or someone else’s?
  3. What about the interests, strengths, and assets you have identified? Are they a good reflection of you?
  4. Is the vision you have identified for your future what you really want?

If you answer “yes” to all the questions, then it may not be right time to decide. Give yourself a break (and a deadline) and come back with fresh eyes later.

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