IIT Delhi: The importance of rationality in decision-making
The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.
Questioner (Q): I would like to ask your advice regarding decision-making. How rational should we be and how to weigh the consequences of our actions when we need to make important decisions in our life, like those related to work-life balance? How much importance should we give to our career or financial stability in comparison to, let’s say, family and relationships? So, could you give some advice on this?
Acharya Prashant (AP): How important is it to be rational while making decisions? There is no other way. I am assuming that when you say that we need to be rational, you are emphasizing the role of discretion over instinct, reason over emotion. Is that what we broadly mean by rationality?
Reason over emotion and discretion over instinct — there is no other way to decide. One has to be not quite rational but completely rational. Let the intellect go all the distance. Let the mind exercise itself to its fullest potential when you are deciding. Let no decision come from the blind wave and the primitive momentum of physical and mental tendencies, intuitions, instincts, etc. It is just that the reasonability has to be honest, and if one is honest, honestly intellectual, then the intellect will come to see its own limits.
Exercise your intellect, your reasoning capability, and your analytical capability fully; and when you apply these fully, then the very application of the mind brings the mind to its own boundary. That is what brings some humility into us, and that is what leaves the space open for a higher kind of decision-making in which the mind has done everything that the mind can, now the mind has nothing more to offer. And after that, if a decision comes from somewhere else, then there is nobody left to contest that decision.
You see, only two possibilities are there: First, one applies the intellect and the decision is to be taken very much within the zone of the intellect. “Is X greater than Y?” You do not need to transcend your intellect to decide on such a thing. You need no mystical powers or spiritual insight to solve an equation in mathematics or a question that involves material factors.