My 3-week speaking tour in South Africa in 1997 began with delivering "Take A Chance" as the opening keynote for the National Executive Secretaries Conference (NESC). Because the speech was so well received by the 300-plus audience and because my trip for the next day to Zimbabwe was cancelled, I was asked to return to NESC to deliver a closing speech.
As I sat and listen to the speaker who presented just before I was to give the closing presentation, my heart and head argued about my topic. Head thought that I should speak on excellence. It was my newest material and would be fitting for secretaries. Heart said I should speak on the importance of making a person feel special. It was the challenge I was going through in my marriage and the audience, which consisted primarily of women, would doubtless relate to it.
In defense of its position, Head warned that if I were to talk about feeling special, I would probably become sentimental and cry, something I should not do in public. Heart countered that I would be a hypocrite if I talk about excellence when my heart was not in it; excellence requires involvement of the head and the heart.
I listened to these voices argue up until five minutes before it was time for me to ascend the platform. Heart won. I cried as I talked about my marital struggles and my failure to communicate to my wife how special she was to me. The audience cried too. The message was effective. One woman told me later that she couldn't wait to get home to tell her husband how special he was to her.
I was reminded of this conflict between two inner voices this weekend after I presented my first public seminar on "Making the Moment Meaningful." From a discussion with one of the participants after the seminar, I realized that the conflict becomes more intense when external voices enter the fray.
What are your inner conflicts?
We think with two minds--the rational and the emotional. When they agree, we have inner peace and feel that life is in balance. When they don't agree, the conflict can push us into indecision and uncertainty. We may be compelled to seek an answer from an external source.
There are plenty external voices ready and willing to offer answers to the questions you may have about what to do with your life. Your religious leader says to do what god wants you to do. Your peers say to do what will make you accepted into the group. The voices of parents carry a variety of messages: "Do what I tell you to do." "Do what I did." "Don't do what I did." "Do better than I did." "Do what I didn't get the opportunity to do." "Do what's going to provide you financial security."
Perhaps the voice that speaks up the loudest is that of social norm. You are likely to listen to this voice because it offers specifics. "Go to school; get good grades; graduate from high school; go to college and get a degree; get a job; get a spouse; have children; get a house; get a bigger house; save for retirement; retire."
When your head and heart are in conflict about what you should do, don't listen to the external voices that offer up an answer. If you do what someone else tells you to do, you relinquish control of your life and allow someone else to make the decision. That won't resolve your inner conflict.
You should listen only to the voices that serve to mediate the conflict and guide you to a resolution. When your head and heart reach agreement, you will make the decision that is right for you. If the conflict between your rational thinking and your emotional thinking is not resolved, you will not have inner peace and feel balance in your life.
To resolve a conflict between your head and your heart, consider these three guidelines:
1. For the rational voice. Review the assumptions on which the rational argument is made. For the conclusion to be sound, the assumptions that serve as the foundation must be sound. What are the assumptions with which you are working?
2. For the emotional voice. Consider the feeling that motivates your thinking. Your best action is that which is made in love. No harm can come from love. Actions taken based on fear or anger often lead to regrets. What are you feeling about the people involved in your decision? What are you feeling about yourself?
3. For the external voice. Be certain that the person advising can balance the rational with the emotional. You should not accept advice that comes solely from rational thinking or solely from emotional thinking. If you ask the question, Why is the person offering advice, you can tell whether he or she is motivated by reason or by feeling or with balance.