Decision trees be damned: Part III

By Danette Vernon

In attempting this series on how we make decisions, I skimmed the surface of the most nebulous and slipperiest of examples: romance. The difficulties are the same, however, in all areas of life when it comes to resolving personal dilemmas.

The research presented in Parts I and II demonstrated that hard wiring, that we’re not even aware of is shading our decisions — hard wiring that’s helpful when we need to avoid getting bogged down in a maze of emotionalism, or an excess of options. It’s not so helpful when we want to step outside of ourselves and our own habitual thought patterns.

Fascinating stuff, but when we reach the bottom of the intellectual barrel, it seems that while research can tell us what we ARE doing, it can’t necessarily tell us WHAT to do. That is the land of the mystics, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, those that score high on personality tests for dominance — the decision makers at the upper echelon of the world.

Some people pray when it comes to decisions, depending on God in even the smallest of life’s events, such as the random loss of an item around the house. If you’re a person of little faith, you might want to consider the speakers on the acclaimed video, “What the Bleep do we Know?” who postulate that quantum physics could be the method through which prayers are answered. God and science can hold hands quite nicely in the minds of some.

Others look to a quieting of the mind before even considering a critical decision. I once heard that to meditate is to learn, “to wait on nothing.”

Some look to intuition, or a gut feeling.  “The gut and brain make the same hormones, which are chemical messengers, and they share receptor sites for these chemicals,” according to Larry Dossey, M.D. So why shouldn’t we allow a gut feeling to lead us along?

We have all seen the war of the mind and the gut played out in a movie at one time or another–to a character’s detriment. We watch as someone walks into an isolated area with a killer, despite that person feeling an obvious sense of imminent danger. In the few seconds they have to decide, the mind may be advising against the agitation of the gut. After all, you can’t just be rude and take off running, can you? The scream of the gut, quickly becomes a literal scream.

Other times, our gut is simply churning in response to how the present so reminds us of the past, a time we made a mistake, and as a result we dodge a necessary decision, or fumble it.

Great leaders slide back and forth on the continuum noted at the outset. At one end of the spectrum, wherein the sage on the mountain resides, the mystic, you may be strongly advised to a serenity of the spirit before all else: “The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water,” a Cameroonian saying. Without that quiet heart, writer P.L. Travers tells us the “spark of instructive fire” to be found in a half-heard conversation, a dream, a random phrase from a song you can’t get out of your head, can’t really be heard.

At the other end of the line, facts, deliberation, and experience are more the rule.

No matter which end of the continuum you personally tend to persist in, the trick to making good decisions is being able to distinguish between emotionalism and facts. To use passion, not be used by it.

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