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Have you ever asked yourself, “am I actually doing what I want to do?” From birth, we are met with a myriad of advice from religious leaders, advice columnists, parents who know best and teachers with a wealth of knowledge about what’s best for you. While each can provide important values to a successful and meaningful life, why is it that so many of us still feel unfulfilled or stuck in our lives? Could it be that we have listened too much to what others have told us and not enough to what we hold as our deepest values?

When we make decisions for ourselves, they are often heavily influenced by society, our parents, family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers we meet can have a profound influence. The choices we make greatly influence our lives, the people we become, the contributions we make and even our physical, mental and emotional health. To improve our decision-making, so that it becomes more about what we want for ourselves and not heavily influenced by others, we need to turn inwards by listening to our inner mind.

In a recent podcast (1), Shankar Vedantam (host of Hidden Brain) interviewed psychologist, Ken Sheldon (2), to learn more about how our choices can give us what we want. Sheldon proposed that we follow four stages of creativity to tap into our unconscious thoughts and feelings, using them as a rich source of information about our values, and decision-makers and a good place to seek solutions to our problems.

Sheldon offered these four stages of creative thinking: 

  1. Ask yourself: what is the problem?  Allow time to ponder the issues involved.  
  2. Allow the problem or question to incubate or marinate inside, without an immediate answer.
  3. Become aware of the “Aha moment” when you gain deeper insight and inspiration. An idea pops up that could be the solution to the problem.
  4. Verify and test the idea once you become aware of it. 

“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.” -Cal Newport, Author of Deep Work

Listening to Your Intuition

One of the ways we can tap into our unconscious thoughts and feelings is by paying attention to subtle cues. These cues guide us along the way to what we want, which many of us have spent a lifetime suppressing. The better we get at this, the more tuned in we are to what we really want. This is a skill we can build through deliberate practices such as mindfulness meditation. 

Sheldon suggested that taking time to meditate every day is an easy t way to tap into your inner mind. Mindfulness meditation is not only a great way to reduce stress but is a helpful tool for observing thoughts that pop up. There isn’t much required to achieve mindfulness, to settle your mind, slow your breath, and begin to relax. Quietness and the absence of distraction is the key. 

Choose a quiet room or space and sit in silence for a few minutes, long enough to become aware of the thoughts that come up. Learn to notice subtle feelings, signs and cues that lie on the edge of your thinking mind. These are the exact clues that can shed light on your needs and help you discern between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Meditation is also a powerful tool for tapping into your intuition. Your intuition acts as a bridge between your conscious and subconscious mind. That “gut feeling” you have is your subconscious speaking to your conscious mind. Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, you become more aware of your intuition. This allows you to free up your mind, allowing your intuition to speak to you. Listening to your intuition can aid in better problem-solving and decision-making. Your intuition is your guide to making decisions that align with your values and desires.

Learning how to tap into your unconscious as a decision-making tool, can give you clues to living a fulfilled life based on what you really want. You hold the power to allow your brain to work for you. 

“You have power over your mind—not outside events.  Realize this, and you will find strength.”  

-Marcus Aurelius 

Discover how Better Brain Balance can help you find the best decision-making tools for yourself.



  1. Hidden Brain podcast-01/02/2023:  Who Do You Want To Be?
  2. Sheldon, Ken. Freely Determined: What the new psychology of the self teaches us about how to live. Basic Books, 2022
  3. Newport, Cal.  Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Little Brown, 2016.