This essay is written in response to this article:
Hollywood films often tell you to follow your gut and to reject reason and logic because it sounds very humanistic and Romantic, but it’s actually just stupid. You’d have to be really unwise and not have thought on the matter much to think that.
Making choices is a fundamental part of life and humanity. Based on the assumption that human beings have free will, choices are the vehicle through which free will is exercised. It is surprising then that so many people do not know how to properly make choices. It is very common in western society to defer your decision making to your subconscious mind, or as it is more often called “going with your gut” or “following your instinct”. While instincts are useful and should be used, they are not an equivalent decision making tool as your conscious free will.
Your instincts can be wrong. This happens a lot, but a lot of people don’t stop to think about why what they did went wrong. If you don’t think, you won’t learn, and instead you’re just going to have to trust what your instincts and emotions tell you. This can lead to you blaming someone else because your emotions and instincts find it easier to cope with sadness by shifting the blame. Upon reflection though, you will likely find times when your gut was wrong. Your instincts are not infallible, if they were then no one would make mistakes. Your instincts are simply your brain doing part of the analysis for you, but if you don’t consciously analyse the situation and choose for yourself, then you’re being an extremist and maybe even being lazy for not going through the small amount of work of thinking for yourself.
If you trust your instincts to make all your choices for you, then you’re essentially letting someone else chose for you. While it is your brain that uses your instinct to make these choices, it’s not your conscious self, it’s more like a tool that someone programmed. The tool might give you the result you want, or it might fail.
If you want to control your life and get the results you really, truly want, then you need to use your instincts and your rational analysis to make informed decisions.
Risks and Doubt:
There is another false piece of wisdom that is taught in western society that leads to bad decision making. Hollywood films also show the protagonist taking a leap of faith, and overcoming their doubts to take a risk which almost always pays off.
The risks don’t always pay off, that’s why they’re called risks.
Doubt is not a bad thing. Doubt exists because you know that a risk is by definition uncertain, therefore the result is in doubt whether you believe it or not. Doubt is the question you ask when you are not sure, and it is the first step to finding the answer.
Hollywood also says that doubting yourself is bad, however, this is probably a religious argument, as doubt is the opposite of faith.
The evidence of how essential doubt is is this:
The movie star is told not to doubt himself because doubt only leads to failure, and instead to trust in his gut. He than takes a huge risk and makes the leap of faith, and misses the other side of the canyon by a lot because faith doesn’t give you super jumping abilities.
What he should have done is realised that he was doubting his ability to jump across the Grand Canyon because he is in fact not physically able to jump across the Grand Canyon because it’s several miles wide, and most people are not able to jump several miles. This is why doubt is a good thing.
What Hollywood doesn’t tell you because it’s not as exciting is that you should doubt everything you do. Doubt does not lead to cowardice or indecision. Doubt is the essential tool to finding truth through scientific method, logic, reason, instinct, and emotions. Scientific method is based on doubt. To find out whether or not something is true you come up with reasons to doubt it, and then test those reasons. The reasons are either proved true or false, and then your doubts are gone. When you love someone, doubt it. If it’s true love, it should transcend physical causes, and your doubts will go away when you have truly looked inside and felt that your love is not a false emotion.
Doubt does sometimes make you think you are not able to do things which you in fact are able to do, but, it also makes you doubt things that you’re in fact not able to do. Doubt is simply the confirmation and realization that risks are uncertain. A doubt just means that you haven’t found the truth yet. When you doubt whether or not you can jump a certain distance, it’s because you don’t really know how far you can jump. The thing is there is an objective distance that you’re able to jump, you just don’t know what that distance is yet.
If you have never doubt it, then maybe the distance you think you can jump is less than what you can actually jump. This would lead to you deciding that you shouldn’t jump because you won’t make it, which is false.
Instead you might think you can jump further than the distance you can actually jump. This would lead you to decide that you should jump because you can make it, which would result in you failing.
If you never doubt how far you can jump, there is a chance that the distance you think you can jump is actually correct. In this case you make the jump and you succeed, but this is leaving it to chance.
The lesson of this is that risks are uncertain, and their probability of succeeding is never known for sure unless it’s 0 or 1, in which case it’s not a risk to begin with.
If you take a risk and it fails, you will regret having taken it. If you take a risk and it succeeds, you made the right choice, but that choice might not work in the future. When you take a risk you absolutely must not think that you will succeed because taking risks is a good thing. When you take a risk, you need to understanding that you might lose or you might win, the only way to know which choice is correct is to analyse it to make sure you know it’s right.