All of us have made choices that were great, and some that were not so great. Right now, nestled in the embodied experiences of your own good and bad choices is the ultimate lesson in decision making: It’s all about the way you feel.
This does not mean that statistics, evidence, big data, algorithms, and experience are not essential in determining which path you will take. Rather, they modify the underlying feeling you have and allow you to update your choices accordingly. The key is to access the unblemished and essential feeling of yourself and the way it changes when your senses signal one direction or another.
Here’s the thing: your great, great, great, great…..great- grandparents, the ones who were still more ape than human, survived because they had instincts that jumped them out of the way of oncoming lions without having to think about it. It was a direct command from the reptilian lump on top of their brain stem, spitting simple signals to fight, or freeze, or flee.
These were pre-cortical instincts.
If that ape ancestor of yours had spent time thinking about whether or not it was a lion approaching, you wouldn’t be reading this right now, because your ancestral line would have been snuffed out. In other words, our deepest instincts and intuitions work. They are among of the most basic and time-tested code of your Human Operating System.
Here’s the problem: Most people, especially in the west, have learned to override their instincts, forcing them into submission and replacing them with newer evolutionary adaptations like emotion, logic, and reason. But that’s a bad way to make good choices. In fact, ignoring your deepest instincts is a fundamentally poor decision, because it corrupts the health, your life, your performance, your ability to learn and the entire foundation of your decision making process.
Understand this: You were born perfect.
You were making choices from the moment you could move. Some of those choices were good and some were bad, but all of them refined your ability to make better choices. When you were just a toddler, a wrong choice could mean a finger in the fire — ouch! Next time you wouldn’t do that. This improved your ability to survive and thrive the next time you saw a flame. It refined and enhanced your instincts.
However, at some point many of us were told to “listen to reason” rather than the feelings that were our deepest guide. And while reason is a powerful tool to refine and enhance our decision making ability, it should never be walled off from our deepest instincts. When you ignore your instincts, your body begins to dampen your sensitivity to them. Soon enough, the lion of life begins devouring important aspects of your awareness. What once was a powerful yes / no signaling system becomes a caged animal. Your instincts remain, but gagged and hobbled. In order to deal with it, your brain begins to forcibly cut you off from awareness of those feelings. And less awareness equals poorer decisions, no matter how much information is available to you.
The solution: Come back to center.
There is a reason that people like famed investor and hedge fund manager Ray Dalio meditate. It helps them calm the noise of stress in their body and come back to center, so they can feel the simple, raw, power of their own instincts, their deepest intelligence. This is what you want — to come back to the place where you a perfect expression of awareness itself. In other words, to remember fully, in your body, what it feels like when you are functioning from the deepest and most essential place, because this is the essential engine of you and it knows what is fit for you and what isn’t.
Best of all, this fundamental awareness is with you right now and there is a neuromuscular structure to this “best version” of you. Deeper than thought and emotion, your body knows what it’s like to be centered, at rest, and ready for anything. Just by thinking of it, you begin tapping into your own essential well-being and the neurosomatic structure of that wellness. Maybe you relax overly tensed back muscles. Maybe you breathe a little deeper. Maybe you stop making pictures in your head or talking to yourself and take in the world around you. As this happens your body is reorganizing itself into a healthier, well-formed, and natural shape. This is how you are meant to Be. And from this place, you know what you want and what you don’t want.
Since this is who you are you simply need to remember this experience and become aware of what it feels like in your body. The more you do, the better you’ll get at Being, without all the tension and stifling of your own awareness. You are modeling the best version of yourself and relearning what it means to be truly, deeply yourself.
Now, commit to this simple-but-profound habit:
Center often and only make important decisions from this deep and centered place.
As time goes on allow yourself to decide and re-decide any and all areas of your life from this place. Soon enough, not only will you be making deeply instinctual choices habitually, your decisions will add up leading to a life expressive of the best version of you.
Originally published at medium.com