Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Mind's Slow Simmer

I took part in a training session yesterday about communication.  At the beginning of the session each of us was asked whether we make decisions primarily with our minds or with our hearts. 

Most people said that it usually depended on the situation - sometimes mind and sometimes heart.  Fair enough I guess but I don't work that way. 

I learned a long time ago how I make decisions and my little method has served me well.  The process may take seconds (should I buy that new running jacket?) or may take months (should I stay or should I go?) but it's almost always the same. 

My heart (or my gut if you prefer) informs me immediately what my final decision will be and then my mind simmers away working out all the logical reasons why that decision is in fact the best decision. I trust how my mind and heart work together and let them do a lot of the background work on their own. In fact, this system works so well that it often happens without much active work on my part.  Things just simmer away (I supposed I should say subconsciously) until I receive confirmation that the final decision has been made and both heart and mind are in agreement.

I thought a lot about it yesterday and I really couldn't come up with a good example of a time when my gut told me one thing that I talked myself out of it later.  At least not a significant decision - I do change my mind about menu items, whether or not I want tea or if I want red or white wine with my dinner. 

Pretty much all day every day, my mind simmers away in the background even while it is actively working away on something else.  Decision are made, plans are developed and I often don't even realize what's happened until someone asks me what I want to do about something and I start spouting out detailed plans. I can be typing policies for work while it debates with itself whether or not I will run after work, how far and how hard I will run and what I will wear.  At the end of the afternoon, the policy is written and all running decisions were made. 

Was I even there?

Is that normal?

Does everyone's mind work that way?

I doubt it.

My point in all of this is that we get used to how we do things and how we see the world.  My methods work for me and I don't give much thought about what everyone else does until we're asked to share in a group. I listen to everyone else explain how they do something and I nod politely while my mind thinks "really?!? That's odd." 

I learned the hard way that logic for one is not logic for all.  In high school I was asked to tutor someone in math. I liked math and was doing fine so it seemed like a fun, easy thing to do.  Share my wicked knowledge of numbers. 

It was such a bomb that we did not survive two sessions.  I showed the person how I worked through a problem and the look I got in return was priceless.  Not because he could not comprehend the math, just because he really thought I was nuts.  He couldn't solve the problem on his own and I couldn't find another way to explain how to solve it so we were doomed from the start.

Here's a fun activity to try - ask someone to do something (calculate the tip, solve a Sudoku or follow a new recipe) and then ask them the process they took to do it.  It's the process, not the final answer, that I find fascinating.  Because man oh man, there is more than one way to skin a cat.  And learning how other people do it gives great insight into how they think. 

It's not always easy to understand how each person sees the world.  But just keeping in mind that it's probably not how we see it can be helpful - when making decisions together, planning a trip or figuring out a math problem.


Crazy bunch of nutters.

1 comment:

  1. This is something very interesting to think about, but I think it's easy to go about your daily routine and sometimes forget people process things differently and have different ways of viewing or understanding something. This brings me back to grade school when my dad would help me with math homework. I would get frustrated when he showed me other ways to solve problems because it wasn't the way the teacher did it and I was such a goody-goody student that I didn't think about going about things in a different way.