There are two types of decision-makers:

Those who rigorously examine all angles of an argument before coming to a conclusion, and those

who throw logic to the wind and trust their instincts. Following our hunches can help us make better choices than dutifully weighing up the pros and cons.

We think of intelligence as a deliberate, conscious activity guided by the laws of logic. Yet much of our mental life is unconscious, based on processes alien to logic: gut feelings or intuitions. We have intuitions about sports, friends, which toothpaste to buy and other dangerous things. We fall in

love and sense that the Dow Jones will go up.

Where do these feelings come from?

How do we know ?

Can following your gut feelings lead to some of the best decisions?

It seems naive, even ludicrous, to think so. For decades, books on rational decision-making have preached „look before you leap“ and „analyse before you act.“ Pay attention. Be reflective, deliberate and analytic. Survey all alternatives, list all pros and cons and carefully weigh their utilities by their probabilities, preferably with the aid of a fancy statistical software package. Yet this scheme does not describe how actual people reason.

Deliberate thinking about reasons seems to lead to decisions that make us less happy, just as consciously thinking about how to ride a bike is not always better than its automatic version. The unconscious parts of our mind can decide without us—the conscious self—knowing its reasons, or, as in Harry’s case, without being aware that a decision has been made in the first place.

But doesn’t thinking about thinking define human nature?

Isn’t the capability for self-reflection uniquely human and therefore uniformly beneficial?

Important decisions—whom to marry, which job to accept, what to do with the rest of your life—are not only a matter of our imagined pros and cons. Something else weighs in the decision process, something literally quite heavy: our evolved brain. It supplies us with capacities that have developed over millennia but are still largely ignored by standard texts on decision-making. It also supplies us with human culture, which evolves much faster than genes. These evolved capacities are indispensable for many weighty decisions and can prevent us from making crude errors in important affairs, including the ability to trust, to imitate and to experience emotions such as love.

If we aspire to live life instead of just watching it, our days shouldn’t be safe or stilted: The best stories start with the most unexpected moments, and these experiences normally come from confronting our comfort zones instead of taking the easy, expected or well-lit route. The same pounding heart and mental buzz come from moments of elation as often as they do from a healthy dose of terror.

L’appel du vide

 = The temptation to take one more step past the edge of the known is an inexplicable feeling that gives us exhilaration


PRONUNCIATION: „La-pelle doo veed“

ETYMOLOGY: From l’appel, meaning the appeal, and le vide, meaning the vacuum

MEANING: We don’t want to endanger our own well-being, but we also can’t deny the rush that ripples through our bodies when we find ourselves in precarious situations. Some call it a death wish, but the French have another expression for the brief moment we consider succumbing to the lure of the siren song-lappel du vide, which loosely translates to the call of the void. It references the swelling desire to suddenly swerve onto the wrong side of the road while driving late at night or to poke our toes out over a mountain ledge. Maybe we become seduced by the possibilities that uncertainty holds or crave the freedom to make our own choices. Or maybe it’s because when facing death, we feel the most alive.

Going incognito – We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible. When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible.

There is something provocative about being invisible. Acting unseen can release us from the insecurities and social restraints that encourage us to live life tamely. Whether in role-play, quiet observation or imagining the world through someone else’s lens, the power of disguise can give us a heart-pounding rush

Perhaps we wear bright colors to appear creatively bolder or trade pyjamas for a button-up shirt while working from home to fool ourselves into professional motivation. Masking ourselves is powerful, because in the act of tricking others, we also trick ourselves.

When we hide in plain sight and act as spectators, we actively erase our outer presence in order to see something new around and within us. In this way going incognito can teach us how to expand beyond a potentially limited view of ourselves.

But the best part is when we learn how to take off the mask and slip into the world as our own selves, the thrill still lingering. This can be the ultimate intoxication: holding on to the power of a disguise when the real disguise has been discarded, and to live just as boldly without it.

It’s exciting to be mischievous. Being a little dishonest can sometimes be fun: Whether you’ve called in sick to work and “recuperated” at the beach, swiped a particularly plush tower from the hotel pool or taken credit for something you didn’t do, the tingle of having successfully transgressed the status quo can be rewarding as the reward itself. Even if it’s just the cheap nine-minute satisfaction of hitting the snooze button, there’s something energizing about going against the order of things.

But what about that kick you get from being good and true? From letting the inside out, wearing your heart on your sleeve or flying your so-called freak flag? Through the physical world may stimulate us, agitate us and elevate us, there are few rushes quite like the ones fired and fuelled by our own emotions. We work hard to keep our loose ends wrapped up inside and prefer our true feelings to be neat and tidy, compact and resilient, but human beings aren’t really like that, and releasing the real can be a thrill.

As much as we hate to admit it, the default life setting for many of us is “safe” mode: a gentle modulation of our identity and emotions that makes us feel protected while also making those around us feel comfortable. We’ve all combated this at some point by pushing ourselves out of that sheltered sector into the world of doing – such as running that 10k or volunteering for a humanitarian cause – but it’s the more personal departures from our comfort zones that really set the heart racing. And the heart is the obvious place to start – have you ever said “I love you” before the other person has? Told a friend you felt more than just friendly toward them? Or, perhaps just as difficult, divulged to someone close that you needed some distance? The release of bottled-up emotion sets off fireworks.

The connections forged – with others as well as yourself – through a more honest way of living make the risk of breaking through those barriers more rewarding, but no less thrilling. In the end, it’s just as exciting to be honest as it is to be rebellious. When we focus beyond just being in the moment to living as authentically as we can in all moments, we experience the real meaning behind taking risks. And that’s truly exhilarating.

Most of us thrive when we’re nesting in our physical and mental comfort zone: a state of being where we fell safe and secure and have the general rhythm of our lives figured out. Anything that takes us out of this bubble becomes unsettling and uncomfortable, and we’re generally apprehensive about – or do our best to avoid – situations that force us to face great unknown. But the danger of subscribing to this philosophy of self-preservation is complacency – of becoming content with easy living instead of challenging our limits and tapping our full potential.

Courage can appear to be an aristocrat among the virtues: the preserve of a rare breed of people possessing natural nobility and greatness of soul.

Would it have been better if human beings had lived in an earthly paradise from which all pain, suffering, illness, disappointment, loss ad even death itself were absent? In such an environment, the need for courage would be lacking, since there would never be anything to threaten or frighten us. Yet it is not clear that we would be better off in a world that offered us no opportunities to exercise strength of will and “screw our courage to the sticking place”.  Certainly there would be less for us to admire in people who never had occasion to show courage. If courage is noble, as Aristotle claimed, then we should feel only a muted regret that our world is not a paradise. But this does not mean that we should go out of our way to create opportunities for bravery: that would be flying in the face of that other cardinal virtue of prudence. Most people’s lives provide them with plenty of openings for courage without their having to seek them.

We want some kind of escape from the normally controlled existence that most people live. It’s certainly something worth doing if you’re committed to living life alive instead of dead.

Brave people have something special about them that timid or cowardly people are without. The task is to say what precisely it is that enables someone to do the needful in a perilous situation undeterred by danger that would have daunted many others.

There are three categories of risk-takers: the people who want to take risks, the people who don’t want to take risks, and the people in the middle who want to engage with those burst of adrenaline through simulated experiences but don’t actually want to do any of the risk-taking themselves. It’s a new type of vicarious risk-taker.

One thing that characterizes the world we live in these days is the efforts to commodify risk-taking. There are now industries devoted primarily to creating simulated risk because people want to think they’re doing something dangerous but don’t actually want to risk.

The ore skilled you become, the closer you can get to the edge of what humans are able to do. If risk controls the edge of human experience, then I’m a junkie for risk. Without risk, it’s like Disneyland.

We don’t want to accept the uncertainties around us. We take all kinds of measures to reduce them, but they’re always going to be there and, if anything, it’s the world we live in that’s becoming even more uncertain. I think the real lesson of edgework for a lot of regular folks is the idea of embracing that uncertainty and accepting that it’s always going to be there. It’s not something to escape, but rather something to manage: it can bring something to people’s lives that’s presently missing. You can pretend that uncertainty doesn’t exist and try to escape it in every possible way, but a much richer way of living life is to embrace it. That’s what edgework is all about: Edgeworkers embrace risk rather than escape it.

AARON TILLEY perfect artwork: