When Your Head and Your Heart Don’t Agree, Which One Do You Listen To?

Trust your feelings, Luke.

That was Obi-Wan’s advice, and who am I to question the wisdom of a Jedi Master?

Except that there have been times in my own life when ignoring logic and following my emotions made me even more unhappy. So let’s examine Obi-Wan’s advice a little more closely. How can you tell when your emotions are leading you in the wrong directions?

I think you have to start with an understanding of how logic and emotions work together.

Logic helps you navigate your physical environment. It allows you to think in abstractions and build mental models so that you can predict the behavior of the objects around you. Logic helps you deal with the objective reality we all share.

Emotions help you navigate your social environment. As you interact with other people and seek to understand their behavior, your own emotions make it possible for you to empathize with others and predict their behavior. Emotions also give you clues about the subconscious elements of your own psyche: your deepest desires, dreams, and fears. They help you deal with your subjective reality, the world you live in that no one else experiences.

I believe that logic and emotion are meant to work together as a system of checks and balances. We all have both the ability to reason and the ability to feel. Brain damage which disables either ability leaves an individual woefully unequipped to handle life.

But logic and emotions are often at odds with one another. Your head tells you to keep your crappy job so you can pay your bills and your heart tells you that you’ll never be happy unless you’re free to be a sculptor. So which one is right? Should you do the logical thing or the thing that feels right?

Do you recognizes the logical fallacy in that question?

We talked about it here — it’s called all-or-nothing thinking. It assumes there there are only two choices: your head is right and your heart is wrong, or your head is wrong and your heart is right.

In fact, they are BOTH RIGHT. Logic tells you the truth about your objective reality, and emotion tells you the truth about your subjective reality. You do need a source of income that will allow you to pay your bills and you won’t be happy until you’re pursuing your dream.

Breaking out of this false dichotomy allows you to ask the question: “How can I pursue my dream of sculpting while still making enough money to pay my bills?”

There are a lot of answers to this question:

You could keep your crappy job but go to art school at night. If you’re learning and growing as an artist with the goal of being good enough to support yourself, the knowledge that you’re getting closer to achieving that goal might make the crappy job less stressful.

You could also spruce up your resume and find a job that isn’t crappy, something that doesn’t drive you so crazy that you spend all your free time watching TV and surfing Facebook just to unwind. And then spend that time you used to waste playing with clay in your garage.

You could decide that your path to happiness involves cutting expenses, saving aggressively for a couple of years, and then, when you have enough saved to do it, taking a sabbatical to sculpt or going on an art retreat that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

Or if you’re already sculpting regularly, you could look for opportunities to promote and sell your work, so that your sculpture is generating income–with the goal of being able to quit the crappy job altogether at some point in the future. Internet sites like Etsy give artists a chance to get their work out there as never before, and the ability to network online means you could find opportunities to show your work globally.

You could even decide that your ultimate goal is to retire early, and create a plan for becoming financially independent through saving and investing. (Not sure where to start with that? You could check out Your Money or Your Life by Vickie Robin (ymoyl.wordpress.com), which teaches a system for getting out of debt and getting your finances in good shape, learning to live on a smaller income, and investing in low-risk income-generating bonds until your bond-income is enough to replace your job-income. Or if you’re interested in a more traditional approach to early retirement, there’s a ton of information on retirement planning and wealth-building at David Bach’s website, Finish Rich.)

All of these choices are better than choosing between your head and your heart. If you’d stuck with the false dichotomy, you’d have to either:

A) Stick with your crappy job and give up on pursuing your art — a guaranteed path to a life of misery — or

B) Quit your crappy job and go bankrupt or depend on the support of others in order to pursue your art. Unless you’ve got a willing sugar daddy patron, this isn’t a great choice either; it’s likely that the financial stress you’d experience would overshadow any pleasure you might get from sculpting.

But by accepting that both your head and your heart are showing you part of the whole picture, you’re free to come up with a plan of action that will take you where you want to go.

Is there some situation in your life where your head wants to go one way and your heart wants to go another?

What changes if you assume that both your head and your heart are right?


Is your heart telling you that you want to become a published author? Why not start by getting organized and setting up your environment to support your creative success?

The Kaizen Plan for Organized Authors can help you take care of the left brain stuff so that your right brain has the freedom to get busy!

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