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Like a lot of us in western civilization, I was brought up to be a major analyst. I finished studying with a master’s degree in macroeconomics, which included all sorts of econometric modeling and forecasting. Afterwards, I learned to use my analytical skills even more, in my work as a consultant on the development of companies. I learned to make decisions based on a solid analysis of the consequences and alternatives. It didn’t matter what area of my life the choice was about, analytics was the basis of any decision I made. However, as the years passed by, I seemed to struggle more and more with the concept of making decisions. Whether it was about choosing what to eat for dinner, or which car to buy, it was getting harder and harder for me to make up my mind. I wanted to make the right choice so badly, but a solid analysis didn’t give me the sense of clarity and security I was looking for. I sometimes wished there was somebody else who could simply make my decisions for me, so that I wouldn’t have to cope with the doubts and the responsibility of deciding.

A few years ago I felt I wanted to do a coach training. These trainings can be expensive and time consuming and for me it could potentially mean the basis to start doing my dream job, so it felt like a huge decision. I invested time and energy to look at the different alternatives: I spoke to different coaches, to different training centres, made pro and con’s lists based on variables such as costs, length of the program and face-to-face hours. Ultimately I reserved a space for the training that clearly proofed to be the best choice. The week after, I took off on holiday with a sense of relief and closure: I made the right choice and I could let go. During my holiday I noticed however, that although I didn’t consciously think about the training, I was just drawn into a different direction. It didn’t make sense from a rational point of view, and I couldn’t explain it, but it felt like I just had to cancel my reservation and subscribe to a different training. I struggled some weeks with it (this was not me, I already made my decision!), but finally did follow this feeling. For me, this was the discovery of a whole new way of decision-making and dealing with complexity. What I felt is what we often call intuition or ‘our gut’. It is the feeling of just knowing something, although it might not make sense rationally. So where does this knowing come from and how can we use it?

In my coach training, I learned there is a difference between the concept of ‘choice’ and ‘decision-making’. It was explained that decision-making is the process of analysis, of looking at different alternatives and comparing them from an analytical point of view. Choice, however, is something completely different. It is the little voice that knows and that says ‘I want that’. It might not make sense, it might even be very inconvenient, but it just knows. The more you start honouring this little voice that knows, the louder you will hear it and the clearer you will know what to choose in any circumstance.

Eckhart Tolle, one of the world’s leading spiritual teachers of today, describes this clear level of knowing as the following: the gap between two thoughts is what we can call ‘consciousness’. It is what we are when we stop to conceptualize, interpret and label everything we see around us. At this moment we are pure alertness, pure presence. It is in this moment that we connect with our essence, with everything around us and with a deeper level of knowing. The conceptualizing mind (the analysing mind) brings up barriers between the observed and us. We look at the thing as if it is something outside of us, as if we are not connected. However, our consciousness (and hence, our essence) is connected to everything and all wisdom around us.

So should we stop analysing and using our mind? No, it’s about using the best of both worlds. We can use our brain to conceptualize, interpret information and compare alternatives. However, next to using our wonderful brain, it would be wise to stop conceptualizing all the time and create moments in which we connect to our state of alert stillness. When we do so, we connect to the deeper level of knowing in which we may get a very clear sense of what to do. Using these both dimensions in the choices we make, leads to very different results. So was I right to switch to the other training option? Do I know what would have happened if I wouldn’t have switched? This is hard to tell. However, what I do know is that it felt really good to follow my intuition. I never had any doubts I was in the right place and for me that meant the world!

So here is what works for me:

  1. Take time every day to just be – in this state of alert stillness – and to watch what happens. Simply be alert. Can’t imagine what this state of alert stillness looks like? Watch this video of Eckhart Tolle (from minute 17:30 till 28:00).
  2. When you feel or hear a certain ‘knowing’: trust it, and go for it! Even if it’s strange and you cannot wrap your head around it.
  3. Finding it hard to explain your choice to yourself or others? Simply stating: it just feels right, might be enough.

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