No matter what era you were born in, someone has likely given you this piece of advice: "Follow your heart."

But following one's heart is about intuition, which sometimes conflicts with the messages we receive about the importance of making rational decisions. When we use our heads, we get the job with a stable salary, retirement benefits, and opportunity for growth, so why follow a fluctuating thing like the heart? 

According to new research from Medical Alert Buyers Guide, people who follow their heart tend to experience higher career and life satisfaction. The medical alert industry experts surveyed 1,011 baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials about their decision-making processes. Do they go with their head or heart when it comes to buying a home? How about choosing a career path, or accepting a new job?

Cognition vs. Emotion

Seventy-nine percent of the people that Medical Alert Buyers Guide polled said they use their head to make decisions, but 21% used their heart. Even more people ditched the heart when it came to work-related decisions:

  • 68% agree that following one's heart when making business decisions clouds judgment.
  • 64% also believe that following one's head over heart when choosing a career is pivotal to success.

The clichéd advice of following your heart isn't embraced by everyone. Depending on one's industry or career field, some employees think more analytically about their choices, while others follow their natural instinct.

The Decisions People Make

Using your heart to decide whether you should have half a tuna sandwich or a bowl of oatmeal for a midday snack isn't necessarily detrimental, but are people leaving major life decisions, like homeownership and a job, to their heart or head? 

  • Those who followed their heads have an average salary that is 13% higher than those who followed their hearts.
  • 16% of people changed careers because they regretted following their heart, while 15% did so because of their head.

Emotional intelligence - the ability to manage our emotions - has become quite popular in conversations about workplace success. But being smart with your feelings is about self-awareness more than it is about not using them, which is likely why people have told you to follow your heart all these years. 

What Happens When you DO Follow Your Heart 

Assuming you are self-aware, deciding to follow your heart will ultimately lead you to desirable places. Of the 1,011 people that Medical Alert Buyers Guide surveyed, 60% of those who followed their heart said they are satisfied with their current job, compared to 50% who went with their head. 

Listening to your head may lead to more tangible success, but not following your heart increases your risk of regret, so if you want to lead a more satisfying life, follow your heart.