How many decisions do you make for yourself?
That’s not a title by the way, it’s a genuine question — I’m interested.
I’ve been writing a one-line diary for a few years, and every now and again I come across an — often tear-stained — entry from a previous year which says something like “I’m not sure if I’m making any decisions for myself” or “I don’t feel like I’m ever doing things because I want to do them”.
It’s always jarring to read those words in my own handwriting. I don’t really want to live a life where I’m not making my own decisions or doing things I want to do. But most of the time I don’t think about things like that, I just get on with it — and I guess that’s the point. Reading those entries can cause me to get lost in a spiral of questions about how many of my decisions are made unconsciously, and realisations of how much of my life is lived on autopilot.
I think that’s the reason there has been an explosion in mindfulness apps and books in the past few years. A lot of people are feeling those things and asking those questions, so taking a few minutes to turn autopilot off and check in with ourselves feels precious and important — and it is. But I think having an autopilot is precious and important, too.
More often than I find diary entries which question if I’m doing things for myself, I find entries that say “I need to trust myself more” or “I need to follow my gut” — and that’s exactly what making decisions on autopilot is. We’ve been crafting and honing our intuition from the moment we were born. Every tiny experience we have is logged, and each time we’re faced with a new choice our brain accesses and processes those previous experiences instinctively, at an imperceptible rate. Our intuition allows us to make decisions without conscious thought.
Every new experience strengthens our intuition, and every time we trust our gut we trust ourselves. I’d like to say I’m going to trust my gut more and question myself less, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to. At the very least though, I’m going to try to feel safe in the knowledge that: “At any moment, you are exactly where you want to be, for better or worse.” — James Altucher