How To Make Better Decisions- Part 1- Emotions

eccentric- crazy lady-dreamstime_8831912-smallerThe story is told about a woman who applied for a job at a citrus farm. The boss asked her, “Do you have any experience picking lemons?”

“Yes, I’ve been divorced three times.”

We spend our days making hundreds, and sometimes thousands of decisions. Some are very simple and have little impact on the future, and some are life-changing.

This is the 1st of 3 posts in which we’re going to talk about ways to make better decisions. Today, we’re going to talk about  an important principle in making better decisions and the next two posts will give practical ways to apply the principle.

  • Decisions are mostly emotional

We may not realize it or even want to admit it but scientists tell us that most of our decisions are based on emotions. We don’t like that because we want to think that were very smart and that we use logic to make our decisions, but it just is not true. In fact, researchers tell us that about 80% to 90% of our decision-making process is based on our emotions.

Dr. Antonio Damazio, neuroscientist at USC, has done some fascinating research with people who have lost the ability to feel emotions because of brain disease or brain injury. What has he found? That they are almost completely paralyzed in their decision-making.

One story he tells in his book is about one of his study participants who is asked a simple question: “When do you want to meet next, on Tuesday or on Wednesday?” The patient spent the next 30 minutes thinking through the advantages and disadvantages of meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday and with great difficulty finally made the decision. For most of us, it would be a 1- or 2-second process.

In another study, participants were asked to push a button with their right hand or their left hand while the researchers observed their brain activity with the use of MRI. The scientists were able to tell what the decision was 7 seconds before the participants actually acted. When asked what they were doing during that 7-second lag the participants replied that they were trying to make a decision. What many scientists now believe is that the decision was actually made on an emotional level initially, and the subjects took 7 seconds to develop a rational explanation for that decision.

So, even though we think we are making a decision based on logic, we probably are making a mostly emotional decision.

  • Why is that a problem?

Because, logic is consistent but emotions are not. If indeed we are making decisions based on our emotions then we are open to making bad decisions when we are feeling poor emotionally.

Because of this, one way to make better decisions is to make decisions that are based less on emotions and more on logic and reason.

Can this be done? Yes, and we will talk about how to do that in the next two posts.

After all, picking lemons is really only good if you’re getting ready to make lemonade.

How would you rate your decision-making on a 1-10 scale? Please post and share some thoughts.

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