3 Ways to Stop Making Dumb Decisions

Which of the following quotes did you grow up hearing?

  • It’s better to be safe than sorry
  • Don’t rock the boat
  • Don’t burn any bridges
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

In today’s entrepreneurial landscape these sayings may seem old-fashioned and lame. Today’s quotes are more about being bold and taking risks. And yet, patterned behavior reactions from past generations still have a strong grasp on present decision-making.

To avoid pain and loss it’s important to recognize and then do some real inner work to elevate your emotional intelligence. You must make sure that you are not deciding based on the fears and challenges from your family or your cultural upbringing. While technology and social media have caused the world of business to spin at an even faster pace, the core of who we are as human beings is really not so different from the past. Yet, it is possible to think in new long-term ways, to “clear your past to free your future.”

In every culture we are trained to make decisions and build relationships based on specific requirements to fit in. Today’s challenge is to find the way out of past traditions into what is needed for future growth and development.

Here is the way out so you don’t regret decisions:

  • Observe: Take time to be alone (about half hour is good) and ask yourself the “what if” questions. Take the situation as it is and then go as far down two or three mental roads to play out the various scenes of what will happen in the future. Notice when you get to each fork in the road. Notice “what if” you say “no” to a situation or if you say “yes.” Pay attention to your gut. It will give you clues about what you fear if you do something one way or another. Notice if you are hoping to please yourself or someone else. Play one scene where you speak out or another if you stay silent. Your imagination works at warp speed and will give you amazing clues about how you decide and ultimately what the best decision route will be. Don’t stop yet, there are two more steps involved.
  • Understand: This is the big one to connect what you learned in your original organization, the family and how it applies to where you are in present time. Research shows that our early memories are deeply imbedded and show up, once again, in our present life transactions. Often our present decisions are still being molded from how we responded as kids. Were you rebellious, demanding to be heard and ultimately reacted impulsively? Were you a pleaser who was always going along with the family and never voicing your true thoughts hoping to be appreciated? Take it down a notch and see if you can understand the implications of decisions made by your parents or even grandparents. Was someone brash in decision-making and left the family bankrupt? Or did someone take a strong stand and bring success to the family? Who avoided making decisions and who took the burden of all the tough choices without any help?
  • Transform: Now you are on more solid ground to make your present decisions. At least 90% of all thought is unconscious, driven by certain basic neural circuitry that causes us to make instinctive decisions, often to our own detriment. Once you observe your thinking, then take time to understand some of the key components of how your thinking is, in the words of author Dan Ariely, “predictably irrational” you can stay determined to learn from the past and apply what you have learned now. If you did your homework to observe and understand, the time for transformation can be exhilarating. This is where you decide based on both logic and emotion. The big question here is “which decision makes you feel more alive?” Then go for it and be a decider.

The most common patterns from our personal history that get in the way of great decision-making are being an avoider, pleaser, rebel. Once you tame these out dated behaviors you are on a more surefooted course for making decisions both personally and professionally.


Originally published at Inc