“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are faced with a countless number of choices each day. We are often unaware that we are in fact making choices when we get into the habit of going through our regular daily routines. The truth is that each day presents you with a plethora of opportunities to do things in the same way that you’re used to doing them, or to doing things differently. Even inaction is a choice. When you decide not to do something or to avoid something you dislike, this is also a choice. No one is “forcing” you to do any of these things.
Even those things which you feel like you “have to do” are still choices. You choose to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to work because you want the reward of monetary compensation or success. You choose to be kind to your spouse and children because you want a harmonious and healthy relationship and family life. You choose to get your work done in a timely fashion perhaps because you enjoy the work for its own sake or because you are avoiding being reprimanded for not doing it. No matter what the case is, you are the actor making the decisions in the play of life.
We often have to make snap decisions due to time constraints or a sense of urgency. When we find ourselves in the position of needing to make a choice more hurriedly than might be preferred, it is often difficult to use one’s powers of rational thought and reason. It takes time to weigh the pros and cons of a decision, and when time is “of the essence” the choice to use reason to make decisions may be a luxury. At these times, you may be hoping that your gut instinct or deeper intuition will guide you correctly.
A recent study by Mikels and colleagues (2011) supports the ability of gut instincts in making quick decisions. They presented participants with a series of complex decisions that involved choosing between cars, physicians, apartments, treatments, and vacations. They found that compared with trying to work out the details, using emotions led to much better outcomes. In fact, the number of participants getting the correct answer was only 26% in the detail-focused condition versus 68% in the feeling-focused condition.
However, if you do have the luxury of taking some time to involve yourself in the decision-making process (i.e., more time than it takes to simply “understand” the problem), then a detail-oriented problem-solving approach is probably better. In another of Mikels studies, participants were given extra time to think through the decision-making process. In this condition, a focus on feelings was detrimental to the decision quality. If you have the time to work through the decision, thinking trumps feeling.
What is your personal decision-making style? Do you tend to rely on your powers of rational thought or emotional wisdom more readily? There is no “right” way to be. It is important to understand your tendencies and recognize that depending upon the context, it may be in your best interest to use either thinking or feeling to solve the problem at hand.
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Feelings beat thoughts for fast complex decisions [Web log message]. (2011, September 15). Retrieved from http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/09/quick-decisions-go-with-your-gut.php
Featured image: Fun on the Furniture by Emery_Way / CC BY 2.0