When to trust your instinct and when not to
It is hard to discern when to trust your instincts and when not to, but I think I have some helpful things that have helped me.
- Don’t trust your instincts when the evidence of making a decision is 50/50. If something has as many reasons to do it and not do it, then you should do what Ben Franklin did. Write down on a piece of paper advantages on one side and disadvantages on the other side. Then list all of them, and then rank which are the most important. This is what I do when I have tough decisions to make.
- Don’t trust your instincts when it is the easy thing to do. Rarely is the easy thing to do the right thing to do. Often groups say that a solution should be easy because they aren’t the minority affected by the problem. Like putting Japanese people in internment camps in WW2. That was easy, but it certainly wasn’t the right thing to do. Utility is only one part of a decision. It has to be balanced with love and empathy and asking yourself if you would want to be treated like you are proposing others are treated.
- Don’t trust your instincts when you are tired, hungry or confused. You are not going to make a good decision when you are worn out. It is true that hungry people have more empathy but empathy should be all the time not just because you hunger at the moment. What happens when you don’t hunger? Then its ok to be a jerk? We have to be kind all the time, not just when our body is weak.
- Do trust your instincts if you can’t define why you are doing something. If you are doing something and it seems against your interests or not sure why, its probably coming from a good place. As the saying goes “Our heart has reasons the mind is not aware of.” Especially good is if it is against your interests. Most lives are full of selfish action, and when you do something to help another without regard to yourself, it is generally a loving and kind action.
- Do trust your instincts if you have imagined yourself in their position. Like I have often said, just seeing things from others point of view changes your own. We can’t pretend to know everything, but we can listen and imagine. Now of course sometimes you disagree with the other person and that is ok. However it comes now from a place of wisdom not of ignorance.
- Do ask yourself if your help is out of kindness or a emotional need you have to feel good about yourself. If you do something because you want to feel good then it isn’t a kind action. Often you feel good after a kind action, but that is a result, not a plan. Kindness is done because making the world a better place isn’t just for the Musks and other genius. It is for all of us who can help in small ways wherever we are.
These are my guidelines. I hope they help you.
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