How better decisions are made by doing these three things

When have you made some of the worst decisions in your life? This can be committing to something you shouldn't have, or acting out in ways that isn't like your normal behaviour. 

We all have those moments when we give into a request and say yes, instead of no. Or say or do something that we wish we hadn't. Then have to sort out the mess the next day, or try to figure out how our schedule will handle this new commitment.

Making decisions is one of the most important skills in our life. One we practice over and over again, starting from the time we're born, and we progressively getting better at strengthening this skill as we mature.

But sometimes we have set backs and make bad decisions that aren't good for us. Most of these regrettable decisions can often be linked to our state of being at that time. We're tired, upset, intoxicated, overly optimistic, stressed, lonely, etc.  

When we're in one of these states our awareness is reduced and we're not reflecting on how this will affect us in the future.

"Alcohol stops people from keeping track of their behaviour in relation to their goals and values. That's one reason that (alcohol) produces poor self-control." Professor Roy Baumeister, social and personality psychologist of Queensland University.

Our behaviour becomes more impulsive and we freely act on our emotions when we're not ourselves. We don't have the required discipline to control our behaviour.

We agree to commitments we have no time for if we're feeling overly optimistic. We send a text to our ex when we're feeling lonely. We become more adventurous when we're intoxicated. We punch a hole in the wall when we're angry. We drive our car into another when all we can think about is getting home to sleep. And say mean things to loved ones when we're stressed.

All these things we do because we're not ourselves.

I watched the Ted Talk, My Secret to Staying Focused Under Pressure, from Russell Wilson, quarter back for the Seattle Seahawks, and he made some very important points which can make us better decision makers. 

  • "Stay in neutral." Don't be positive or negative. This keeps your emotions in tact and in a state where you can think clearly and objectively.
  • "You can have emotions, but don't be emotional." Managing how we feel and recognizing what we're feeling at that time, allows for better control of our state of mind when making decisions.
  • "How do I come through this better?" This has us exploring alternatives. When we have choice, we have more control.

If we're to stay in neutral, we need to know what neutral looks like for us. 

I've come to be aware that drinking alcohol makes me more agreeable. And there has been many times that I agreed to helping out someone when I really didn't have the time nor the capacity to do so. Now I know where that threshold is that takes me from sociable and in control, to being overly accommodating and making bad decisions.  

When we're outside our neutral state we tend to be less concerned about how it'll affect our life and how it will affect others. We forget about the consequences in that moment and act more impulsively on our thoughts rather than thinking about our actions rationally. 

To understand what neutral means to each of us, we need to establish a benchmark. 

Think of the last time you made a clear decision that you felt good about. Was there very little emotion involved? Were you not feeling pressured by what others might say about your decision? And was there no sign of regret that followed?

What did you experience in that moment? What does certainty feel like? What does having complete control of your decision look like?

By being more aware of our behaviour we can recognize when we aren't ourselves before it gains momentum, and before someone else tells us so.  And when we practice going back to neutral we get better at controlling our behaviour, and make better decisions more often. 

Thanks for reading my blog! Please leave a comment or share this with others who would find it useful. And by the way, if you haven't already, I'd love to keep in touch! So please subscribe and I'll be sure to send you some more valuable info a couple of times a month. Have a good one!

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Christine Hourd,  Associate Certified Coach and owner of The Success Model, works with clients to help them reach their goals more rapidly. By improving how they communicate with themselves and others they more easily remove the roadblocks that impede success in their personal and professional life. Book an appointment to discuss how success coaching can benefit you. 

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