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Image by Elena Koycheva


digestible content for dynamic leaders

Activating your 'wise' mind for better decision making

Most of us operate within the two extremes – we’re either very logical or very emotional with our decision making. This can pose as a problem when we’re looking to make career decisions that can set us on a trajectory that we cannot quickly recover from. Finding balance between the two is done through activating the ‘wise mind’ and this is where we should be when charting a path forward.

First, let’s level set on which each of these extremes look like so you can identify where you mostly operate from.

Logical mind

These individuals are very fact based and operate based on reason only. Values, emotions and feelings hold little to no importance when making decisions. They seek out knowledge and data to rationalize their decisions. This is where intellect takes precedence and everything is matter-of-fact. Though this type of decision making can help move things along and can be supported with evidence, it removes the human element from decision making, which means other context that matters, is effectively lost.

Priya is feeling very burnt out at work and thus her decision is to move to a company where she has more time to herself. However, what Priya is disregarding is that she actually loves her work and moving to a company where she has more time but doesn’t love the work will not re-energize her, it may amplify the burnout. Priya has made a very logical decision.

Emotional mind

These individuals operate using their heart or what they may label as their gut instinct. They operate based on what they feel – perhaps in the moment or because of the biases that have been developed over the years. They rule out logic and fact because they may conflict or not support what they’re feeling. The nice thing about operating here is that our gut instinct is our intuition; this is how our brain communicates information we have already processed so it’s not all random. However, the downfall for individuals making decisions from this mindset is that they may not be in tune to why, what, and how they come to feel these emotions, hence they’re making decisions without the full picture.

Jo is looking to get promoted at work but has been told they need more experience in role. Jo feels ready and isn’t open to the feedback and quits because they feel frustrated that their employer isn’t supporting their aspirations. Jo has made a very emotional decision.

Wise mind

So whether you primarily operate in the logical or emotional mind, the good news is you can also operate from the wise mind. First, let’s understand what that looks like. When we’re operating from a space that’s balanced between the logical and emotional minds, this is the wise mind. We all have this capability, it’s tapping into it that may be the difficult part. When we’re operating from the wise mind, we’re fully immersed in the moment and are fully invested in the decision. We can make informed decisions using data and hard evidence, without losing the context of being human as well. We can use our emotions as another data point, a critical input into becoming more informed, so we can get to a place where we’re making a holistic and balanced decision. So, how do we get there? Easy as 1-2-3!

1. Observe: Pay attention to what is happening around you; really tune in to all the feelings, thoughts and events. Try to be objective and remove judgement, biases, and observe from a place of heightened awareness.

2. Describe: List the facts of what is happening, including labeling your feelings. Identify the thoughts you’re having about the scenario at hand and try not to take emotions or thoughts as accurate and exact reflections of the events.

3. Participate: Enter into the scenario at hand. Take all the objective data, take all those labelled feelings, and use that to be present and fully immersed in the decision at hand. Weigh it all out to ensure you’re considering all aspects of what you’re bringing to the moment. Only then are you ready to make a decision that is informed by the data and your heart.

If Priya really considered that she was burnt out because of her workload not the actual work, she may have been able to take that information to her Manager. By balancing her rational decision with the feelings of enjoyment towards her work, she may have been able to find an alternative solution to recover from her burnout.
If Jo took the time to really listen to the feedback and ask for examples on how they can enhance their performance to prepare for the next role, they may have realized that they are missing key skills needed to succeed in the role they're trying to move into, regardless of the employer.


It’s essential to use logic, reason and data to make our decisions, but at the end of the day we are human and the context of how we feel and how those feelings impact our livelihoods cannot be discounted. Try to tap into your wise mind next time you’re making a big decision and take in all the feelings and information together, to make a decision that you can feel even more committed to and confident about.

Post dedication: To my therapist Mel - thank you for always bringing so much perspective to my little world.

Source: DBT Tools


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