My last blog was about pivoting. This week’s edition is about how we make decisions, including ones about where and when to pivot. Today, we will take a deeper dive, if you will, into how our brain makes choices and a plan you can use for making all types of decisions more effectively.
Here’s a fact that you may find startling — every single decision you make is determined by emotion! The way your brain actually chooses which one of the choices you have explored you will act on is emotionally based!
Ready for some science? The bottom line is that the part of your brain that flips the switch and makes the choice is located in your prefrontal cortex, the emotional center of your brain.
Sure, you ponder, do research, fret, look things up online, ask friends, find experts, read about and write down your options — and ultimately it’s your emotional center that makes the choice. People who have had brain injuries to their prefrontal cortex can analyze all day long, they just can’t reach a decision, so they spin and spin.
The other piece of science that is crucial here is that humans can only hold about 7 or 8 things ‘front of brain‘ at a time. This limit creates the circling and spinning game we do of looking at the same data over and over. Your brain has stored all the data you put in it, you just can’t pull it all up at once. Trust that your deeper brain has gotten the information and will use it.
The real trick to making effective selections and judgments has a couple of simple steps:
- Gather good ‘neutral’ data without trying to choose as you go. We tend to kick something off our list too soon, just to narrow the possibilities. It’s a problem we have all experienced. Resist the temptation to take options off the table during the gathering process unless, of course, there is a giant deal breaker.
- Narrow to at least three choices. Somehow two choices are just too black/white, on/off to really give you choices. Now is the time to get pickier. The success of this method is based on having gathered accurate information. Remember the adage “garbage in, garbage out”…we don’t want that! Name the alternatives with just a couple of words for each of your choices.
- Grab as many sticky notes as you have choices and write those short names on them. Now place the notes in a row on your desk, night table, wherever. They can be in the same room or not.
- Go to sleep. Try not to think about your choices. Leave the analysis behind. Nod off.
- When you get up stumble groggily to the row of choices. Which one calls you? Just the gut reaction as you scan them will do. That is your true choice!
Your brilliant brain has done all the work for you — you just need to trust it to do what it does best!
If you are noticing that your brain and computers have a bunch in common, you are right. After-all, humans created computers!
I hope this process will help you make choices that really work for you. Recognizing that the choice is based on the data and emotion is the important part – even if you don’t try the sleeping on it thing.
I’m guessing that we all will have some tough decisions to make in the months ahead. I hope this helps make that process easier.
Shell Tain, the Untangler