Knowing Before Being Aware of Knowing

The Iowa Gambling Task was a psychological experiment in which the participants were presented with four decks of cards that were turned over. Depending on the cards that they chose at the top of the deck, they either gained or lost money. The people who designed the experiment made some decks more rewarding than others, which the participants figured out over time. However, one of the interesting findings from the experiment was that long before they were fully aware of which decks were favorable or not (and quite early into the experiment), their bodies showed signs of stress as they chose the bad decks.

Sometimes it’s hard to reason while making decisions (for a related article, read my previous post, “How to Make a Difficult Decision“) because life is so unpredictable. You create a list of pros and cons, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. But then, sometimes, the answers just seem to magically come to you out of nowhere. I used to think that this was something random, but now I know that this usually happens to me when I’m in a very relaxed state of mind.

Just like the participants of the experiment who physically perceived what was good for them before consciously, I learned that I just need to allow myself time and patience to recognize what my intuition is telling me.

I now realize that this is exactly what happened to me while I was traveling in Portugal a few weeks ago. I didn’t do much sightseeing and never went out partying, but it was such a memorable trip that had a great impact on me in a subtle way. After being in a fast-paced work environment where I check the time at least every ten minutes to make sure I’m on track with all of the projects that I manage, it was so strange to be in a place where drivers would patiently wait for the pedestrians to cross without honking (including Lisbon!) even though it was their green light, and where I would see people sitting at the bar by themselves for an hour, just sipping on their whiskey and people-watching.

Time suddenly became abundant. I felt so free just walking and fully taking in the scenery; I would walk for hours around the streets in Lisbon or the cliffs over the beaches in Lagos with good company, taking a rest whenever I wanted, eating whatever food that smelled good when I passed by the food stands, drinking nice, cool vinho verde or Sagres when I got thirsty, and falling asleep at the beach to the sound of waves.

Not thinking about my problems ironically helped me find the answers. Here are just a few pictures from my trip. For now I’m only posting the ones from Belém. More pictures of beautiful Portugal to come soon!

The Belém Tower, or the Torre de Belém, is a fortress built in the 16th century.
A tiled Starbucks on the main street in Belém.
Pastéis de Belém- Perhaps the biggest reason people visit Belém. haha. This place makes one of the best pastries I’ve had in my life. Very, very addictive.
The beautiful Jerónimos Monastery and garden.
Jerónimos Monastery
Inside the church: everything was so intricately carved, including even the pillars.
The Jerónimos Monastery and the iconic tram at night.
The Lisbon Treaty, which largely shaped the EU and its authority as we see today, was signed at the Jerónimos Monastery.