Make Your Best Decisions - For The Rest Of Your LifeDec 26, 2022
When do you make your best decisions?
When do you make poor decisions?
Is there a way to make better decisions, every time?
These are very important questions to reflect on as we near the end of one year and move into a new year. Every day brings hundreds of decision points. Every one of those has an impact on ourselves and on others.
If you looked at all the decisions you make in 1 year, what percentage of those would you say are quality decisions? Decisions that give you the best path forward. Decisions that give you the best possible outcomes. We do not always think about decisions that way. However, decisions have a cumulative impact. Have you ever been in a situation where you made a series of great decisions? How did that work out? What were you feeling as those decisions bore fruit? Now think of the opposite. A series of decisions that were poor. What happened? How did you feel?
Our Brain at Work
There is a great book by David Rock - "Your Brain at Work." If you want to go deep on understanding how your brain works and how that impacts your life and work, then I highly recommend this book. Let me share something I learned from his book. The part of our brain that makes decisions, solves problems, and thinks critically is like the stage inside a theater. Only so many actors (topics/ideas/thoughts/information) can fit on the stage at the same time. The more actors present, the more our attention and focus are split. To bring clarity and focus to get the best results, we need to clear the stage of all unnecessary actors. Then we need to bring those actors (information) on stage in the most beneficial order to help us effectively think through whatever it is we are considering.
Here is another way to think about our decision making process. When a thought comes into our brain, we immediately attach meaning to that thought. From both of these, emotions are generated that drive our decision making process. Here is where it gets tricky. When we attach meaning to the thought, so many different things can happen:
- Our personal bias can generate emotions that are not helpful to our decision making.
- Our brain may "mis-categorize" the meaning which leads to decisions that are less than our best.
- Our brains like to "fill in the blanks". What does that mean? That our brain tends to make up a story where there is a gap in factual information.
- We may have emotions that are triggered which cause us to make decisions out of reaction mode instead of a more thoughtful mode.
- Our brain has an automatic defense mode which is triggered anytime we feel we are threatened. You may know this as fight, flight, or freeze.
So, you can see that decision making has a lot of moving parts.
Take a minute and work through an exercise with me.
- What is something in your life right now that concerns you?
- What emotions are you having about that situation? Name the emotions specifically (fear, anxiety, frustration, apathy...).
- Now, what is it specifically about that thing that is creating the emotions for you?
- What can you do to resolve this concern?
- Are you willing to invest what is needed to bring that resolution?
Sometimes if we take a step by step approach to navigating our emotions, we can bring resolution that is needed to move forward. The decision making process is based in taking the rational and emotional and bringing those together to make the decision. You can see that if these are out of balance, then your decision making will be negatively impacted. Too much rational with little emotional leaves a part of yourself and others out of the decision making process, specifically how does the decision impact the individual person and how do they feel about the decision - which has a direct impact on engagement and relationships. Too much emotional with little rational leads to decisions that consider people but not necessarily the facts and details that are critical to making the best decisions. Balance. That is the key. Our best decisions come when there is a balance between the rational and emotional in our brains.
The Role of Emotions
Many people I work with struggle with the role of emotions in their life. Our society is all over the place when it comes to the role of emotions...from "hide them" to "express them freely". That is why I like to approach the question of the role of emotions in our life and work from a scientific perspective. Emotions are simply neurotransmitters released in your brain when specific stimuli are present. In plain language, when something happens, our brain takes it in, and generates emotions that send signals to us. Those signals then engage the decision making process which leads to action. This all happens extremely fast.
Think back to a time when you felt a strong emotion about something that happened. What did you decide to do when you had that feeling? What actions did you take? Were those helpful decisions and actions?
This process is going on in our brains hundreds to thousands of times every day. That raises an important question. Is there a way we can ensure that we make our best decisions more often? The answer to that is a resounding YES!
There is a method for making decisions in a timely manner that has worked for many people over the years. It is called the OODA Loop. It was developed by a military pilot (Colonel John Boyd) who knew that making good decisions quickly was critical to survival. Here is a model of what the OODA Loop looks like for making good decisions:
- Observe – what is true?
- Orient – what am I not seeing?
- Decide – what is the best decision to make - action to take?
- Act – Now what do I observe?
This is a great start to creating what I call a "liberating structure" for making decisions. Liberating structures free people up so that more of their time, energy, and focus can go to high value efforts.
From an emotional perspective, there is another graphic that is very helpful. Designed by Six Seconds, the "Change Map" shows how emotions can either limit forward movement or accelerate it.
Why the Change Map? Because most decisions will have an element of change as an outcome. How the decision impacts others, how the decision impacts direction, how the decision impacts results. The goal of decisions is to get the best possible outcomes, so change is an organic part of the decision making process. Notice that the inner circle of emotions that keep people stuck (frustration, fear, judgement) creates a "cycling effect" that hinders decision making. However, if people can move from fear to courage, from judgement to curiosity, from frustrating to excitement, then they can move forward, make the decisions they need to make, and get better outcomes.
Making Your Best Decisions
If you take these two models and use them together, you are actually engaging both the rational side of your brain and the emotional side of your brain. Our brains need both the rational and emotional to function at our highest level. Creating the right balance of the rational and emotional, that is the way you make your best decisions for the rest of your life!
For more, check out our other resources:
Copyright © 2022 EQFIT® - Author: Steven Goodner All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law. For permissions contact: [email protected]
Don't miss a beat!
New tips, motivation, and releases delivered to your inbox.
It's free, and you can unsubscribe at any time!