We all want to believe we are capable of sound judgment while making our decisions. Some of the decisions we make after a thoughtful analysis, after weighing different options, and after considering their potential consequences. Yet, most of us miss out on wise reasoning. We sometimes make well thought-out decisions by being rational in our approach. And other times, we let emotions guide our decision-making. However, being only rational or only emotional leads to less-than-wise decisions
To be effective and fulfilled is to do the wise thing rather than doing what is most convenient and comfortableTweet
At times, we are faced with certain decisions that require wise reasoning skills. For instance, on the personal front, deciding on what or how to prioritise your day in advancing towards your life goals. Or on a professional front, while narrowing down to some of the best planning or negotiation strategies to scale up your business.
In other words, to be successful in some of the personal or professional endeavours, one should be able to make wise decisions, big or small, and address it in a way that is both appropriate and objective. Wise decisions tend to be,
- They aren’t influenced heavily by emotions
- They are well-informed
- They are in alignment with one’s goals and values.
So, how can you achieve this in your decision-making?
Recognising how you approach your decisions can be the first step in making wise choices. And one way to do so is to understand how our mind functions when it comes to deciding something. Our mind can be rational, emotional and wise. And each of us operate in a specific one most of the time that determines our decision making.
We use the rational part of our mind when approaching a situation intellectually, based on observable facts. It indulges in comparing our current experiences to past experiences while making our decisions, where one thinks in a fairly rational manner, and is based on making intellectual choices. Rational decision making includes thinking logically, and focuses on facts.
ADVANTAGES: We usually think more rationally, when we are deciding on what to work on, or while planning or learning. Since it involves sequential approach, and careful analysis of available data, it results in well-informed decisions. Weighing pros and cons, considering alternatives, and choosing from various courses of action, allows you to carefully calculate the payoff’s of each decision, as well as the potential risks involved.
DISADVANTAGES: The rational mind weighs deeply on information and facts, sometimes to the detriment of our productivity or effectiveness. It also keep us stuck in opinion and endless debates, and is often uncompromising.
Since, rational approach to decision making requires careful consideration of various factors involved, it takes time and is unsuitable for coming up with quick decisions. Thereby, it delays the process and might result in failure to seize an opportunity.
In certain situations, unavailability of past trends, or information can lead to poor decisions. Studies show that people on average are rational, but are mostly irrational in the remaining part of their actions and act according to their preferences. Personal beliefs and value systems, perceptions, attitudes and biases often tend to limit people to their bounded rationality.
Reliance on facts often ignores interpersonal relationships or emotions and involves less regard to values. Also, rational decision making is itself based on many assumptions. Like for instance, an assumption that you have accurate information, and knowledge of the situation might lead to errors in how you evaluate your decision.
The emotional mind is used when feelings control our thoughts and behaviours. It doesn’t necessarily work with facts, but it works on what it believes the truth is, or a perception of truth. You are most likely to use your emotional mind, when there is a high level of uncertainty, or when there are less procedures, or options involved.
People make emotional decisions when available facts are limited or when they don’t clearly point them to a solution. Since, it is not always possible to identify all possible alternatives due to time and cost, it makes them rely on emotions in making decisions.
ADVANTAGES: An emotional decision is fast in comparison to a rational one. They have higher accuracy, as they arise from subconscious and really point you to what you really want. Even decisions that are based with logic may need emotions to enable you to choose between nearly equal options or when you are conflicted with self-interest.
DISADVANTAGES: Though emotions are key for choosing, making quick decisions without knowing ‘why’ leads to making poor decisions, for which you might later come up with rational reasons to justify. If you happen to be emotionally reactive, the intensity of your emotions can override rational reason in situations where it is clearly needed.
Emotions can make it difficult to remain objective, and you may engage in actions that are driven solely by your subjective perceptions and internal emotional state. Emotional reasoning in certain circumstances leads to bias, errors and inaccuracies. Negative emotions for instance, result in Status Quo bias rather than to decide differently. Similarly, fear results in negative judgments of future scenarios. Whereas anger makes you take unnecessary risks.
THE WISE MIND
The wise part of the mind is what makes you approach decisions more effectively incorporating both logic and emotion. With wise mind, we not only recognise and respect our feelings, but we also are able to respond to them rationally and maturely. As a result, we can balance our logical perceptions of a situation. Wise mind is the ideal state where we intuitively know and experience truth. It seeks to bridge the gap and encourages a sense of harmony and acceptance.
Why is it important
When you are only rationally minded, you might critically evaluate a given situation, but you aren’t tapping into emotion or moral value. Also, your rational decisions sometimes can be disguised as logic. Even when you believe you’ve decided more reasonably, the actual choice in reality may be based on a prevailing emotion.
We also use rational mind to justify some of our poor choices. For instance, justifying your not so well thought-out decisions, or doing something you knew was wrong, or going for something you didn’t need. We talk ourselves into believing that there is logic or use rationality as a defence mechanism to preserve positive self-perception.
Similarly, relying only on your emotional mind, leads to impulsive decisions. Emotions tend to skew or sometimes completely determine the way we make decisions on a daily basis. We miss out on having a clear logical basis for choosing which can affect our reasoning ability or critical thinking skills.
Whereas, operating from your wise mind, you are more able to accept your emotions, while taking into consideration the facts, and work towards taking reasonable decisions. When we access wise mind, we are able to,
• Regain calmness when experiencing negative emotions.
• Intuitively sense what will calm emotions in the heat of internal crisis/conflict.
• Find clarity of choice when confused.
• Increased capacity to identify, understand self-sabotaging beliefs, thoughts and feelings.
How to make wise decisions
Wise reasoning helps you realise the inherent truth of a situation where you can better process your emotions, while considering facts rather than act impulsively. Here are some actionable steps you can take to make wise choices in your personal or professional life.
Practice dialectical thinking.
Dialectical thinking allows you to examine a situation from multiple angles in order to make the most wise choice, no matter how messy or complicated the situation may appear. We often feel compelled to label certain things as ‘bad’ and others as ‘good’, or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Dialectical thinking allows you to balance the opposing views. It encourages you to look beyond one-sided perspectives. When your options appear to be far apart, like rational or emotional, you can incorporate both to come up with best solution. It helps you see the big picture, which allows you to make more informed decisions.
Avoid confirmation bias.
Cognitive biases like confirmation bias often lead to poor decisions where you heavily rely on information that confirms your existing beliefs. Biases further make you rely on your emotions. You might look for mental shortcuts to simplify complex decision-making which leads to irrationality and misinterpretation.
Supporting information can make your decision appear correct and rational. But at the same time, It makes you overconfident or ignore that which doesn’t confirm. Instead, accessing your wise mind, by viewing from different perspectives. Allow yourself to look for disconfirming information and evidence. Knowing both the sides can help you evaluate a decision wisely.
Be mindful of your emotional triggers.
When your emotions run high, they cloud your judgment where you resort to a less-than-wise decision. The best way to guard against it is to step away, and give yourself time to allow the emotion to pass. Delaying emotive decisions where possible gives you time to reflect before making your final decision.
Consciously assess your emotional response to a decision. Is it driven by experience and intuition or providing insight into how others might respond? Listen to what your unresolved emotions are making you aware of to reduce the risk of being impulsive. Practising mindful awareness helps you to discern when best to follow your emotions and when to ignore.
Be aware of other perspectives.
When contemplating a choice or providing a solution to a problem, it is helpful to keep yourself open to other perspectives. If you want to arrive at wise decisions, avoid the tendency to steer others toward your own choice at the expense of what others suggest or have to offer. Engaging others and considering alternative view points not only result in making smarter decisions but wiser as well. When considering the consequences, be open to a broad choice of alternatives in order to find the best solution. Make your decisions in a broader context, by considering multiple perspectives.
Look for value conflicts.
When your decisions and beliefs do not support your top values, you are more likely to make less-than – wise decisions. Motivation to pursue your values increases the quality of decisions you make. However, when you have to choose between two or more values, one choice may seem more desirable, yet the other might seem more rational and sensible option.
To overcome this way or that way, understand and acknowledge your priority values. Establishing your value hierarchy helps you to make wise choices. When you become aware of how your values satisfy needs of the highest priority, you will save yourself from potential value conflicts while making important decisions.
Avoid decision fatigue
When decision fatigue sets in, you become inclined to take easier options over wiser choices. Focus on what us important instead of going for something that appears interesting. Decide how important the decision is for you. Is it something that is life changing or is it something that will have minor influence on you or the people around you? Prioritising most important decisions helps you analyse choices you need to consider and then weigh each option based on importance.
Self-reflection questions for developing wise reasoning
Is my decision rational or emotional?
Is there substantial evidence that validates my choice?
What facts or information is available that disconfirms my personal beliefs?
Did I consider and evaluated all the facts that are available?
How can I make good decisions without letting my emotions interfering?
How might my choices look or feel from an alternative perspective?
How will my decision matter in one year from now?
Are my decisions aligned with my values?
In conclusion, the wise mind is what balances out our emotional and logical reasoning skills in decision-making. Wise reasoning also uses intuition to understand the facts and what our emotions are pointing us towards. It can however be hard to make wise decisions without practicing self-awareness.
Acting intuitively from your wise mind requires you to focus on what is in the now, and to allow yourself to be aware of your thoughts and emotions. If you ever feel like your emotions are taking over, or if it feels difficult to process information logically, access your wise mind to make better decisions.
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