THE BLOG
05/16/2013 06:02 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2013

When Facing a Major Decision, Do You Lead With Your Gut, Brain or Heart?

A recent Psychology Today study proposed that the average adult makes seventy conscious decisions a day. That means that seventy times a day we must exercise our judgment over something or someone that can shift our situation for better or for worse. Even when few of them are as transcendental as a marriage proposal, job offer, political party affiliation or chardonnay over merlot (I will take a nice cold beer please!), their accumulated weight shapes us in ways we don't suspect. I spent over 1,000 hours thinking about the subject while I wrote The Caffeinated Chronicles (humorous fiction, Leatherback Press) to address specifically what kind of "decider" (as George W. Bush used to say) must we be.

Should we use our gut to choose the right mate? Should we stick to our rational brain in deciding a proper college major? Do we allow our sentimental heart to dictate where to live? Most of us don't realize that we lead with one of these three. A decision style may not be as studied as our personality type, our leadership style or even what kind of a lover we make, but its repercussion over those seventy decisions per day does add up.

A brain-lead person will rationalize most decisions and may try to convince rather than lead by example. In most cases it will lead to safe and reasonable choices. Will it lead to happiness? Will it allow someone to reach their potential or to be as successful as they could be? Gut has carried many to success and positions that perhaps they didn't even dream could happen. It has also sent people running at full speed to hit a brick wall (and not just in Jackass movies). Heroes and high achievers are usually associated with gut. But what should we be gutsy about? Heart lead companies typically have a strong company culture. Seeing the world with your heart may allow you to see who is real and who is a fake. Not bad for many of our key decisions in life. But will a compassionate heart fail to yield a hard but needed decision?

In my book I played with characters as they explored their 'organ lead' decision-making. Real life may not bring us to experience the high expectations of a first date with a sexologist, to dance dressed only in body paint as part of a samba show in an international convention or to go on a hunger strike to erase the world love from the dictionary, but the struggles of my characters do provide a reflecting mirror in which to evaluate how we choose what we choose and how it is working for us. If I learned something from the characters is that sometimes we need to travel outside of our comfort zone to pick a decision style for a situation. If nothing else, we will learn something about who we really are. A pronounced heart-lead personality does not mean that we don't have a gut or that our brains are made out frozen marshmallow. Perhaps a balancing act and a forced decision making process that includes our lesser used organs in the task force will go a long way for a more successful personal and professional life. Don't we know that organs that are not used go the way of the appendix!

Funny enough, companies, governments, TV shows, and even NBA teams function at their best when all three forces are in apparent equilibrium. Perhaps Obama was reelected because he had the trifecta of gut (Hillary Clinton), brain (the President), and heart (who other than Joe Biden). Not that Ms. Clinton or Mr. Biden are any less smart than the President, but they signal to us that they lead with another 'organ'. You prefer a Republican example? How about this brain (Cheney), heart (Gen. Powel), gut (President Bush) combo? The same could be said for the chemistry in a TV show. MSNBC's Morning Joe works well when Joe (guts), Myka (brain) and Willie or his alter ego Barnacle (heart) are in the discussion. The same goes for the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA with Duncan (heart), Ginobli (gut) and Parker (brain) in balance. They are almost unstoppable (as long as they are not playing Lebron and the Heat).

Next time you face one of those seventy questions, check what is leading you to a decision. If nothing else, you will corroborate who you really are.

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