Something comes up and you really need an answer. Your mate receives a job offer to work on the other side of the world. Will you go? You have a medical condition that might be treated in any one of three ways. Which treatment will you choose? At such times, do you settle down in the room that is your mind and think? Or, when you go there, do you find that a thought is already waiting for you? “No, I’m not going!” “No, no chemo for me!” And if you find that a thought of that sort is waiting for you, if indeed it pounces on you the moment you enter, how reliable should you consider it? And … where did it even come from?
I once spent a little time studying the reactions of French painters to the commencement of the Franco-Prussian War. The war began. Each painter reacted idiosyncratically. One decided that it might prove valuable artistically to see war and therefore enlisted. A second shook his head at the madness of war and decided to ignore it completely. A third, wondering about his courage, enlisted to test himself. A fourth fled to the countryside so that he could paint in peace and avoid conscription. A fifth protested the war. A sixth decided to stay home and paint “beautiful things” as a kind of antidote or counterpoint to the horribleness of war, using his parents’ connections to avoid conscription. A seventh did nothing, got conscripted, and was killed almost immediately. And so on.
We understand each of these reactions. But more than that, we sense what has gone on in the mind of each of these painters. They heard about the commencement of hostilities—and they reacted. An already-formed thought almost surely greeted them instantly, leaving no room for serious reflection. How many of these painters scoured all the available choices and tried to decide which made the most sense? Don’t you imagine, virtually none? They reacted according to their formed personality, as if they were snapping their fingers. Hence the phrase “snap decision.”
This is very interesting and very important. If the “answer” awaits us as we walk in the door, if some analysis or train of thoughts or spontaneous reaction has already taken place before we even enter the room that is our mind, doesn’t that enslave us to the murky doings of our unconscious and the straightjacket of our formed personality? And mustn’t mastery of ourselves include an awareness that we will meet already-formed answers as soon as we enter and that as powerful and influential as they feel, they must not be considered our final answer? There are at best the starting point of our inquiries; they are absolutely not gospel!
Remember that game show where a contestant would give an answer to a question and then the host would say, “Is that your final answer?” Often the contestant would think again—and almost always repeat his answer, as there was no actual thinking involved, only the accessing of stored information. Either he could remember a name, date or some other fact or he couldn’t. For you, however, the answer that is waiting for you mustn’t be considered your final answer, since you haven’t given the matter any thought yet. When there is an important decision to be made, you want to think and not just react.
Since an automatic answer will be waiting for you and since we are programmed to accept those answers, you will need to have a chat with yourself when you enter that room and find an answer waiting. Your chat might sound like: “I didn’t arrive at this answer. It was just waiting for me. Since it was waiting for me, it no doubt reflects some thoughts and feelings I’m having. But maybe it arose out of anxiety, fear, rage, or who knows what. Since it was waiting for me, that makes it too easy an answer and therefore I reject it. Instead of accepting it, I will think. If, upon reflection, I come to the same answer, then I’ll trust it more. And if I come to a different answer—well, then thank goodness I checked!”
Doesn’t this skepticism about the validity of ideas that are waiting for us throw the whole idea of intuition into question? It does and it should. Intuition, snap judgments, and snap decisions all have their place but they are not to be revered above thinking and they mustn’t replace thinking when thinking is required. In retrospect, our life can look like a series of snap decisions—and how well did that work out for you? You have a brilliant brain that would love to assist you. Don’t accept its first answers; make it do more work than that.
This lesson is part of the Your Best Mind Ever series. In this groundbreaking program Dr. Eric Maisel teaches a brand new way to get a grip on our minds.