THE BLOG

Intuition vs. Impulse

08/15/2014 10:34 am ET | Updated Oct 15, 2014
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Sometimes a breakfast conversation goes deep. One minute you're smiling, enjoying your doughnut, and the next you're trying not to let coffee sputter out of your open mouth because your jaw is on the table. In a surprisingly intense discussion with my friend the other morning, I listened to him struggle with the decision to stay in San Francisco or move back to Chicago. "Should I focus on my secure, well-paying corporate job or should I put my energy into my passion?" he wondered aloud. He voiced his thought process, rationale swinging from thought out and calculated to very impulsive and emotional. Eventually concluding "our generation is terrified of commitment... We've watched our elders get burned and we don't want that. We want to stay transient, flexible, and uncommitted because it feels safe." For examples, he cited the notable cluster-factoids observed by Generation Y, "Marriage ends in separation and home buying ends in crippling family debt."

It dawned on us humans typically make decisions in two ways, logically or emotionally, and on the surface either seems like an appropriate way to make big choices. Both appear to be positive personality traits, and it's easy to respect somebody for being either logical or emotional. Yet many an argument begins with "Stop being so emotional!" or "You are always so logical!" Is there a time then for emotional decision making and a time for logical decision making? Is it up to us to recognize when to use which method? When we put these choosers into the context of our above examples, fear of divorce and foreclosure, it seemed like people who made logical or emotional decisions were each likely burned.

Emotional folks, looking around and seeing their friends getting married and buying houses impulsively wanted it, too. Grabbing their latest friend with benefits, they settled down and bought the expensive house, enjoying the thrill of a quick big change. When the housing market and marriage took a turn for the worse, we watched our emo predecessors suffer. Logical decision makers were no better off. It's impossible to factor in all the intangibles of a home or love investment. Over thinking big decisions, they take too long to decide on anything. They approach life like an equation, and all the good stuff passes them by while they try and solve it.

But what about the third group of home buyers and lovers? The couple you know who is perfect for each other. The people who didn't lose their home or have to make major changes when the housing bubble burst. How did they make the right choices within the constraints of the emotional or logical decision making paradigm? They didn't. There is a third way to make decisions: Intuitive Decision Making.

It is important not to confuse impulse with intuition. Impulse is an urge. Intuition is an understanding. An urge to act vs. an understanding of whether to act. Intuition incorporates logic, emotion and instinct -- mixing our human components with our animal -- and is our ultimate survival and success tool. Intuitive decisions are made in a timely fashion, feel good, and are always the right decision for the time. Emotional and logical decision makers call these people lucky, but making intuitive decisions is not luck. It is a skill we can cultivate. Intuition will tell you if its time to buy the house or fall in love... We just have to clear out all the fearful logic and screaming emotion so we can listen to the intuitive instruction.

We fall into patterns of decision making. Emotional decisions lead to more emotional decisions and logical decisions lead to more logical decisions... We have to work to make the intuitive decision. That is until intuitive decision making becomes a habit. Then intuitive decisions lead to more intuitive decisions.