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What helps us make good decisions?5 min read

The suttle art of making decisions

IMAGINE YOU HAVE to make a decision that could impact your life significantly. Look at this picture, and for a moment think of it as the door to your future. You have several options that look similar, yet each of them has something unique to offer. The question is, which door will you choose?

Every time you make a decision, the other option draws you to its side, restarting the game again. How frustrating is that? Someone must have even suggested, “Follow your heart.” Do you think this is the best way to make a decision? Or maybe you should consult someone experienced or weigh the pros and cons. The advice that your heart would give would be based on your past experience and emotions that could steer it in the wrong direction. It also has much to do with social conditioning, cultural norms, and way of living. Any decision based only on emotions could potentially have a detrimental consequence.

According to a 2014 research by Harvard University on Emotions and Decision-Making concluded that emotions constitute powerful and predictable drivers of decision-making.

The life that you are living today is also due to the emotional decisions you have made in the past. Feeling of anger or happiness is temporary, and any decision made at this time is bound to change your opinion later.

Some of the impulsive decisions that I have made in my life were under the influence of negative experiences triggered by emotions such as anger, frustration, and sadness. Similarly, not all decisions made under the influence of positive emotion were the best decisions of my life. The only difference is that even if the decisions were made under negative emotion, I tried to make it work for me. But such a method is time-consuming and tiring. It may not give you the optimum results that a well-thought decision could possibly give. Therefore, good decisions come with certain conscious actions that we take without the influence of unrelated emotions.

A person makes a good decision not because they are the smartest but because they have allowed themselves to experience all of it. It is only when you experience emotions can you eliminate the ones that have nothing to do with the decision. A conscious decision to identify the emotional triggers and the ability to work on them will only help you make good decisions.

Some people who analyze the situation well try to not let emotions come in the way of their decision-making. But emotions provide us with the required stimulation to make decisions, and there is no denying that emotions build relationships. It is the very reason that this world is what it is today, good or bad. During the stressful period of COVID-19, the best of the best practical thinkers could not stay away from feeling worried, scared, and nervous. The financial market crashed with never ending bad news, making investors nervous and resulting in emotion-based decisions.

So, what is the best advice that can be given to a decision maker? The first step would be to accept that you are going to have emotions, but keep them from influencing your thoughts. While one cannot avoid emotions, we can certainly manage them to make good decisions.

Imagine, you learned from your client that your best friend has approached him with a counter product that your company offers. Having insight into your price list and quality, he has been able to design his proposal with a competitive advantage. This obviously puts you in a difficult situation, and you are ruminating your next course of action.

Keep in mind that you cannot change others behaviours but you can certainly change your plan of action. Therefore, counter reacting or attacking the person won’t do any good.

One way you could calm yourself down is by:

TAKING A NAP. Yes, you heard it right! taking a nap means giving your mind and emotions enough time to relax and create clarity in your thoughts.

THINK IT OVER – is it really worth the emotional aberration as it will only make you more miserable. Big decisions need time to think, evaluate and rethink and it will help you arrive at a logical action

COLLECT FACTS the most important aspect in decision making. This will make the process even more authentic and save you from regret. Facts create clarity to make fair decisions.

BE OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES you may be used to certain way of working or doings things. It may have worked in the past but does not mean it will work in the future. Therefore, having an open mind will help you explore different channels and possibilities.

SET RULES as they will help you avoid emotional decisions. When your decisions are based on facts and values and beliefs that you stand by then you will not be in a conundrum.

I cannot claim that I have been always aware of my emotions. For me, this has been more a work in progress, and each day I am understanding myself better. When I look back, I certainly see that I have covered a long journey which has helped me shape my personality. The impulsive decisions I have made may not be the best of the decisions of my life but have proved to be great learning curves. My learnings have helped me improve my relationships with family and friends and how I communicated and dealt with them. We are all human beings and emotional outbursts are bound to happen, but the frequency and intensity with which an outburst happens is now aligned with my thought and is manageable. My mantra to understanding myself better is experiencing my emotion and growing through the process. If we can understand ourselves better, we can deal with our situations and make better decisions.

People who are emotionally intelligent don’t remove all emotions from their decision-making. They remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decision.Prof. Côté, University of Toronto

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