This is the first segment in a series on Reason
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Every time you make a choice, you pick one thing and you lose another. What you do with your time, from second to second, defines who you will become and how you will grow. Since life is a sum of finite moments, every decision is important. And well-informed reason makes an excellent decision maker.
Usually, we go through our daily routines on autopilot. The day's schedule often determines our activities: you might go to work, the gym, the grocery store, and then eat dinner. Despite all this structure, you may make millions of micro-decisions every day, mostly without awareness or effort. Even before you open your eyes in the morning, you might be confronted by an assortment of conflicting impulses: “hmmmm… how delicious to just lie here,” “Ugh, I’m tired,” “What was happening in that dream?” “What do I have to do today?” “Don’t be lazy,” and “GET UP!”
While snuggled in your sheets, you might become anxious or start drifting back into a dream image. When faced with contradictory impulses, you must make a decision. Even when it looks and feels like you are just lying there, you are still making a "choice.” You have to facilitate certain impulses (for example, to get up) and inhibit others (for example, to drift off) -- or vice versa. Keeping reason as a bedfellow can help you make a wiser choice.
So, which part of your mind can best help you decide whether to get up? And what determines if your body will listen? There are three general paths you might take:
- Let your primitive aspect decide: drift back into dreams.
- Let your social aspect decide: jump anxiously out of bed.
- Let your reasonable aspect decide: weigh your options and pick what’s best.
There is only one path that allows you to logically consider the other parts of your mind. Great scholars have called this aspect of your psyche the Will, the Self, and the Ego, among other names. I call it “reason.”
So … what exactly is reason?
Reason is the seat of self-control, critical logic, planning, and introspection. This part of your mind can do amazing calculations -- processing a series of facts or options much like a computer -- and then make strategic choices. Your reasonable aspect is fair-minded and far-sighted -- a great arbiter of inner conflict. As you may have gleaned, it is well worth getting to know your reason better. For starters, try assessing your current relationship with reason.
One of the greatest things about reason is that it can study itself. When investigating your use or misuse of reason, keep in mind that you have probably acquired certain habits about when and how you use reason. For example, most of us are more logical about our work than we are about our love life. As you begin your investigation of your reason, here are some guidelines to help you profile this “person of interest:"
- Requires your attention
- Requires your awareness
- Takes effort
- Aware of time, space, limits
- Tied to facts
- Anticipates the future
- Follows rules of logic
- What types of decisions do you
actually make using logic?
- When are you most logical?
- When are you least logical?
- Are you more rational about
yourself or other people?
- Are you more irrational with strangers? (For example, road rage)
- Are you more irrational with people you are close to? (For example, parent, partners or children)
- Are there parts of your life
that are off-limits to reason?
- Do you avoid thinking critically about certain topics, (For example your parents’ limitations or your retirement)
- Do you see other people care for themselves in ways you would never think of?
- Under what circumstances do you
usually respond automatically, without logical reason?
- Are there certain roles (for example spouse or co-worker) that you occupy without giving them any thought?
- Are there certain moods (like anxiety) or emotions (like anger) that make you irrational?
Next time you feel like hitting the snooze button, let reason make the call - which doesn't mean you have to get up. Reason can give you permission to relax … so long as it’s not likely to harm you in the long run.
Once you get to know your reason better, you will probably start to consult it more often. Ultimately, you want Reason to become a good servant to your passions: knowledgeable, disciplined and hard-working. The next few posts will focus on the strengths and weaknesses of reason, so you can make this part of your mind work for you.