A few years ago a friend of mine, also a therapist, said something along the lines of this:
“If you’re making a decision based on emotions, you’re probably making the wrong decision. If you’re making your decision based on logic, then it’s probably the right decision.”
Wait. Had I heard that right? Decisions, in order to the right, should be based on logic?
This worried me. For years. It made me feel inadequate. Maybe even a little desperate.
Because I’m human and humans are emotional beings and we don’t always operate from a logical standpoint. We have feelings and a past plus all the other baggage which makes us what and who we are which, in turn, greatly affects everything we do and say. In short and logically speaking, this means that I –me, myself and moi– am the main impetus in my own decision-making process. If this is true and that is so, it’s very possible that the process could contain various glitches. Actually, I’m certain it does because I cannot for the life of me think of one decision outside of math class (and even math is emotional for me because it’s never been my strong point) I’ve ever made that’s been purely based on logical reasoning.
Emotion + Decision making = Wrong Decision
Logic + Decision making = Right Decision
Is this really true?
Maybe for some. But not for me. Of course, this could mean I’m doomed. But what about intuition? Where do those messy ‘gut feelings’ come into the equation? And what about faith? When you make a big decision, for yayer or nayer, don’t you always get that feeling you’re leaping toward the unknown for inexplicable reasons? Call me loca, but I don’t think that has anything to do with logic. Still, my evidence is purely empirical, limited by my tiny sliver of experiences and observations.
As I’m wondering about all this, pondering whether or not to write about it, or rather, write through it, to better understand it (or my emotions surrounding it) I receive a notification that one of the few people I “follow” on LinkedIn, Deepak Chopra, has posted a new article which happened to be entitled, “The Secret to Making Good Decisions.”
I see this and my first thought is, Why thank you, Deepak. How timely of you. My following thoughts are: Hey, this is poignant. This is important. This is time-sensitive. How come I never knew about this until now? How come they don’t teach this in high school or preschool for that matter? Am I the only one who didn’t get this memo? Oy vey. Dad gum. Oh well. Better late than never.
Chopra breaks it down like this…
The secret to making good decision is broken up into four parts: Emotion, Self, Vision and Surroundings.
“Emotions – Your choice must fit in with your most positive emotions and avoid negative ones.
Good decisions feel optimistic. They aren’t based on fear, rivalry, anger, and greed. They express expanded emotions while bad decisions express contracted emotions.”
What I get from that: Square up to fear. What are you really afraid of? Deep down. Localize that along with the positive. What makes your heart soar with hope and possibility? Take the time to figure out the true positives and negatives and go from there.
“Self – Your decision must match who you are as a person.
Success depends much more on who you are than what you do. If you keep building a self, moving steadily toward maturity, self-confidence, self-reliance, and knowing your own truth, you will make better and better decisions.”
What I get from that: If you’re not an animal lover, don’t commit to adopting a pot-bellied pig. Clearly, that would equate to a bad decision.
“Vision – Your decision must accord with your long-term goals.
Vision turns the jumble into a coherent perspective, turning chaos into order. “I know who I am” goes with “I know where I’m going.” Vision is the captain of the ship of life.”
What I get from that: This is a tough one. Define your long-term goals, or wait until you have fully developed yourself–your Self, that is–and then make those big life decisions. If you don’t know your long-term goals, you’re not ready to make a decision yet. This is why it’s a tough one: sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.
“Surroundings – Your decision must be compatible with the situation you find yourself in.
This is one area where rationality actually gives you an advantage as you gather information, study the variables that must be considered, and perform in-depth analysis.”
What I get from that: If you live in a part of the world where it rains all the time, don’t cut corners and opt for a roofless house. Be realistic. Be smart, logical.
Now that I’ve received all this useful information, I must admit, I’m tempted to put all this into a fool-proof formula. (I loathe math but I love a good, reliable formula.) Yet, that’s exactly what Chopra says we cannot do. “Like the proverbial stopped clock that is right two times a day, if you follow a fixed formula in your decision-making, you won’t meet with failure, but you won’t be flexible, dynamic, and adaptable either.”
So now what? Chopra comes through in the end, answering my concern again: “…if you commit yourself as completely as possible to making your decisions human, in the best sense of the word, you will be using the secret ingredient that too many others have ignored – it’s their loss and your great gain.”
Huh? What? Boring ol’ plain-Jane flawed humanity? Really? That’s the guru’s secret ingredient?
But wait. That does sort of make sense. I suppose this is it. We’re all going to make decisions we wish we hadn’t and we’re all going to not make decisions we wish we had.
Why are we so ashamed of this? We all do it. We all make unwise decisions. We learn from them. We get better. We get wiser and we start to get the hang of this business called life. And even then, we have hiccups and snags. Let’s get real, none of us ever die master decision makers. Have you ever seen THAT written on anyone’s gravestone?
I suppose what Chopra is really saying without really saying it is that sometimes it’s not so much the actual decision you’re making but about HOW you make said decision. Let me say that again: It’s not really about the decision itself but about how you come to make the decision that counts in the long run. In other words, the thoroughness of the decision-making process is what determines the validity of the decision itself.
Ah, Eureka. What a liberating concept.
What it boils down to is that all we can do is weigh our options to the best of our knowledge/ability and be our imperfect, ignorant selves. As far as I know, not a one of us comes equipped with a personal guidebook to the fork’s in life’s road. We have to write our own, making it up as we go along. What we do get is people like our parents and siblings and friends and teachers (like Chopra) who are here to help us along the way. We get mentors, counselors, life coaches and Oprah. We get books, too. Like our choice of sacred texts–the Bible, the Quran, whatever we prefer. We get poetry and nature and dogs and cats. We have resources at our disposal, should we choose to utilize them. Still, no one gets to die with a perfect decision-making track record. If they do, they are probably a robot named Evie from the 80s TV show, “Small Wonder.”
Bottom line, here’s what I get from all of this: Our decisions don’t have to be logic-based or emotionally-based to be right. In fact, our decisions don’t even have to always be right. Along with being very well thought-through, all our decisions only ever have to be is what they already are: human.
How great is that?