Should you always follow your heart?

“I always follow my heart” said the swimming champion to the reporter.

In the background her coach is standing with a stopwatch in his hand.

As it seems she also makes decisions based on the facts. However she values her feelings higher than her reasoning.

It reflects the spirit of the times. Emotion is hot, ratio is not. Because, as we say, people are irrational beings.

That is a fallacy

It’s not that we have to follow our heart because we are irrational beings, we have to use reasoning because we are irrational beings.

It’s for good reason that we have a left and right part to our brain. This ensures a counterbalance to our emotional impulses. To protect us from decisions we may later come to regret.

But in the word regret people see a reason to follow their instincts. Because, as they say, it is better to regret something than not to have done it at all.

That is a fallacy too!

You wouldn’t mention this statement to someone who was on the point of committing a serious crime. Such a ridiculous one-liner could only have been thought up by someone whose reason had been switched off.

But just wait a minute…

Now it’s me who allows my feelings to take over. I’m upset. It happens as easily as that.

Apparently it’s this emotion-hype which makes me feel misunderstood as a professional thinker. It concerns me that the heart overrules any reasoning, analysis, justification and logic, all of which I hold so dear.

I understand where it is all coming from

It derives from marketing, which aims to sell products and to earn money.

Marketers do not want us to use our heads. They want to tap into our desires and not our sense of reality. And as such they make full use of the fact that people are indeed irrational beings. In that scenario everybody accepts, strangely enough, that the product is better presented than it actually is. After all we have the Consumers Association when we need a reality check.

Since we consider Marketing and Communication as one field of study, allurement techniques have crept in to Change Management. For change agents this results in the pitfall to be being primarily concerned with arousing people’s yearnings. Rationale then becomes the old ball and chain. It is boring and dull. It generates no energy.

However when you tap in to people’s desires without them understanding what they are saying “yes’ to, then the change process will eventually stagnate, namely when reality kicks in. In the field of Marketing this is relatively unimportant as by that moment the money has already been spent. But in change at that moment the most difficult part of the process still has to start.

But I do get that vice versa isn’t necessarily true either

Emotion without reason leads to daft decisions, reason without emotion leads to empty decisions.

Of course it’s necessary to use both emotion and reason when making a decision. Because your emotions tell you if you seriously want to change, your rationale tells you if you are able to change.

The trick is to find the point in every change where the sense of yearning and the sense of reality meet each other.


I’m Annemarie Mars: speaker, author and advisor on change.

It is my job to get people thinking about the way they give room, direction and guidance to organizations in motion. So that they can look for the essential conversation to change together.

Want to know more about my presentations? Click here.

Photo credits: “Canada Geese Landing at Sunset” by Pen Waggener is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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