I reckon there’s one thing that causes most of the bad decisions you see in life. And it’s not that hard to avoid…
Know the saying, ‘knowledge is power’?
Don’t put too much faith in it. Knowledge, and power, isn’t everything.
I mean, you could strap a booster jet from a military cargo plane to a Datsun 120Y… Sure, it’s now got a lot of power. But what good is all that power?
(ok, maybe it’s fun. But useful?)
Power is only as useful as your ability to harness it to your advantage. If you don’t have that ability, then you may as well not have it.
I think this kinda defines the human situation. We’re these amazing beings of great power and potential, and we devote our lives to kicking arse on Candy Crush Saga.
And the same thing’s true when it comes to decision making.
Knowledge is power, sure. The more you know about a certain topic, the more likely you are to make a good decision. Hey, I spend my days writing educative blogs. But it’s not the be all and end all.
Because we’ve all had those decisions in life that seemed like a good idea at the time, but then we look back on them later and it’s like, “I just don’t know what I was thinking.”
If I can torture that car analogy a little more, let’s say we want to drive to a restaurant across town, but we don’t know where it is. Your friend says, “let’s put some extractors and a super-charger on your Datsun.”
Ok. At some level, this could potentially help you get where you wanted to go more quickly. But right at this moment, it isn’t what you need.
You need to give some attention to your navigation system.
To make a good decision, you need to give some attention to the mental frameworks that your plugging knowledge into.
Because I can think of a lot of times in my life where I had a lot of information to hand, but still made a bad decision.
So what goes wrong? If it’s not faulty information, where do these bad decisions come from? And how do we avoid them?
I reckon, like a lot of things in life, it’s all about your state of mind.
Now this opens up a can of worms, but the one state of mind I want to pick out a drive a pitchfork through is this:
It is very difficult to make a good decision when you’re stressed.
Why is that? Well, I think it’s because your priorities are thrown all out of whack. A bug gets into your navigation system.
The mind is a finely tuned survival tool. And a lot of what we think of as conscious choices are actually made unconsciously, by a mind processing a huge amount of information, behind the scenes.
But think about how your priorities change when you’re really thirsty…
or tired, or hungry…
The mind naturally shifts its focus to respond to your immediate needs.
So think about what happens when your feeling stressed. Something something hormones, something endorphins. I don’t know. But your body goes into that defensive fight or flight mode.
And all your mind knows is that we’re in a situation that’s making us feel bad, and we gotta get out of here.
And this is the directive that takes over your navigation system. It’s not where do I want to be at some point in the future. It’s how do I get away from here.
They’re very different questions, and have very different answers.
And because the bug gets in at an unconscious level, we think we’re making a good decision – making some long term plans for the future. But all we’re really doing is making a rush for the nearest exit.
Which means we’re also much more likely to rush the decision. Not think it through fully, leap to conclusions. Why? Because when you’re in that fear space, the mind has no interest in ‘contemplation’ and thinking things through. It wants action. Now!
And so a fear-soaked mind will rush important decisions. Look for convenience rather than truth, and become reckless with the balance of risks.
And I’ve seen people do it with their finances. People who start with, “how do I avoid a retirement of dog-food and shopper-dockets?” end up in a very different place to those people who start with, “what’s the most fun picture I can paint of us in 20 years?”
It comes back to that abundance mentality. But this isn’t just a new-age vibrational thing. This is just the way the mind works.
And so before I make a big decision, I always take some time to make sure there isn’t an ounce of stress left in me – that I’m feeling relaxed and positive and hopeful.
Then I know I’m making a choice from a position of strength, not a position of fear. And then when I know my navigation system’s set, that my framework’s in place, then I’ll evaluate the information that’s available.
Maybe I’ll need more info. But at least I know that the information I do have is being put to good use – it’s being used to help take me where I want to go.
And how do I get myself into a relaxed state of mind. Well, there’s all sorts of things you can do. Plug ‘relaxation techniques’ into google and you get a gazillion hits. You’ve just got to find what works for you.
But if I could offer one tip, it’s this. Breathe. When your relaxed you breathe deeply, but the beauty of it is it’s a two way street. If you breathe deeply, you relax. Like magic.
And guys, if you’re like me and carry stress in your stomach, really get that breath into you belly and open it up. It’s makes all the difference.
But take the time and do whatever you need to do. Life’s too short to make bad decisions.