Decisions: Making Them Better & Making Them Yours
Every day is filled with decisions. From choosing to get out of bed until we return to it, our days are an endless series of decisions. The vast majority are seemingly mundane. Some are life changing. The question is, are we really making them ourselves and if not what’s influencing us?
What Influences Decisions
The surprising answer is – nearly everything. Think about it. You walk into an unfamiliar office for an appointment, and you must decide on where to sit. Quickly and unnoticed, your mind filters the available seats through your likes and dislikes, prejudices, preferences, fears, and desires. And the decision to sit in a certain seat is made.
Interestingly, even that seemingly mundane decision may have actually been life changing. What opportunity did you miss to connect with the person you chose not to sit next to? So who’s in charge directing the show from the shadows? How much direct control can you regain by choosing to be more conscious of the process?
It’s no secret that we’re intentionally influenced to sway our decision making. We accept that subliminal suggestions are just part of our modern environment. But it’s mind-boggling when you realize how extensively, and how easy, it is to be manipulated.
In Dan Ariely’s eye-opening “Predictably Irrational,” a group of people were asked to write down the last two digits of their social security number. He then asked if they’d be willing purchase a bottle of wine with a price equal to those two numbers. Of course anyone with higher numbers said no. But the next task was to actually bid at auction on the same wine. The outcome? The group of people with social security numbers ending in 80 to 99 bid almost three times the amount bid by the people with social security numbers ending in 00 to 19. They had been influenced by merely focusing their attention on a completely unrelated number.
And on a much grander scale, Therese Huston in “How Women Decide” lays out the psychology behind how decisions are made. She cites an example of how a car dealer processes you to spend more of your hard-earned money. I’m sure too many of us have a shared experience of going home with a new car that wasn’t exactly what we’d planned on. Of course, we find ways to rationalize the decision.
If you want to get deep into the ways we are swayed to make decisions that favor what someone else wants, I recommend both of those reads. In particular, it may be surprising that Ms. Huston gives a persuasive argument that intuition isn’t an exclusive tool of women. But other internal and external influences make the process of how women and men make decisions quite different.
Is It Really Intuition?
The definition of intuition is “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” Which doesn’t address what’s happening subconsciously. There’s a lot more going on around us than the tiny part of it that we consciously experience. How much is filtered out? We may never know. Check out these amazing examples to get an idea.
What we do know is that our brain receives a ton more information than we are ever aware of. What is commonly called intuition is simply the mind operating to process all that is going on. When we “intuit” something, we’re hooking into those deep-mind processes. And from top athletes to illusionists to self-proclaimed psychics, some of us learn to tap in more deeply and more often.
Making Better Decisions
So how can you make better decisions? Most importantly, stay alert and as perceptive as possible. Know that there are sources outside us trying to manipulate us. Accept that we are not conscious of much of what is going on around us. And look at choices through the filter of four questions.
- Do I have enough information to make a good decision?
- If I do this, will I like the consequences a month, six months, or a year from now?
- How much am I willing to pay or endure to live with those consequences?
- If the consequences become unbearable, is there an exit or recovery plan that I could live with?
At the other end of the timeline, it’s a lot more fun to look back and say, “Gee, that was a really good decision.”
Decision cubes Vimal Kumar