Being able to make decisions matters
Been to that high school reunion and run into the “most-likely-to-succeed” from your class, or happened upon that old college friend who had so much going for them at the time?
As you’re shaking their hand, you’re thinking, “What happened to you? You had so much going for you years ago.” At one time or another in our lives, I think most of us have had this experience with someone from our past. You ask yourself, “How can so much talent, intellect and potential sometimes appear to be wasted?”
That, my friends, illustrates the impact of decision-making on the trajectory of our lives.
Researchers have estimated that, on average, we make 3,000 decisions every day – decisions ranging from when we wake up and choosing what to wear, to how we get to work, where we eat lunch, on and on and on. With 3,000 decisions each day, that’s 21,000 decisions per week and more than 1,000,000 decisions every year. Many of these decisions are made out of habit without a second thought. Some of these decisions, like whether I wear my black shoes or my favorite brown ones, really don’t matter that much. There are, however, decisions that we make every day that can, and do, have a tremendous impact on the direction our lives take.
Many of us pride ourselves on being great decision makers, logical thinkers who use reason and rationale when making choices. Truthfully, there are those of us who are actually better at using logic and reason than most people. We are all, however, susceptible to the same weakness that can sink every well-intended decision — emotion. It’s not that emotions are a bad thing; emotions are powerful motivators for action. In fact, emotions often drive us to act without the benefit of logic. How we feel is real — there are no good or bad emotions. But it is how we respond to an emotion that makes the outcome good or bad.
Know this: We are hardwired to be emotionally reflexive.
When we feel a strong emotion (fear, anger, excitement, euphoria), our brain wants us to respond very quickly. Because our emotional memory is permanent, our emotional responses are patterns that have been with us, in many cases, for years. The things that scared us 20 years ago still scare us today. Our emotional memory explains why that occasional irritating family member can push our buttons so quickly. Our brains are hard-wired to be emotional first, logical second.
Accuracy vs. Speed
Why does that matter?
Know this: Our emotions sacrifice accuracy for speed.
When we’re emotional, our brain wants us to respond very quickly and is often wrong. Both negative and positive emotions alter the chemical balance inside our brain and cut off our ability to think clearly and logically. In some situations, that’s a good thing. When I step off the curb in downtown Manhattan to find a crazy cab driver barreling towards me at 60 mph, I need my brain to respond quickly. In this case, my brain feels fear and doesn’t want me evaluating the options — it wants me to get out of the way of the cab to save my life. However, that same quick reflex response to run and get out of the way may work against me when I feel that same emotion of fear when the market drops and my investments lose some of their value.
At Think2Perform, we work with successful executives from financial services, heath care, technology, banking, real estate, nonprofits and many other business segments to help them maximize the performance of their organizations by improving decision making. Whether it be an individual, team or an organization, performance, or in any area of life, success a function of three thing — talent, skill and decision-making. Of the three, decision-making has twice the impact on performance as talent and skill combined. I’m not saying talent and skill don’t matter — they just don’t matter as much as decision-making. Unlike our IQ (which we can’t improve), we can, with attention, practice and focus, improve our decision-making. Unfortunately, part of the human condition is making mistakes. It’s not about being perfect. It is about focusing on improvement. For those 3,000 decisions we make every day, what if we were able to make 1 percent of them better? That 1 percent would equate to 30 better choices per day, 210 per week and more than 1,000 per year.
Think about the possible impact of that during the course a lifetime.
Chuck Wachendorfer is a partner and the chief operating officer at Think2Perform, a business and sports performance firm that improves bottom-line results for executives, athletes and organizations such as: American Express, Ameriprise Financial, Comerica Bank, Boston Scientific, United Health Group, the FBI, 3M, the Minnesota Twins and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He resides in Edwards with his wife, Lori, and their three children.Think2Perform is a proud partner of the Vail Chamber and Business Association. They offer a series of “Breakthrough for Business” workshops throughout the year, helping local businesses achieve their best practices. To learn more visit http://www.vailchamber.org or http://www.think2perform.com.