How Your Mind Makes Decisions
When it comes right down it, our brain performs two basic cognitive roles. First, it helps us understand. That means observing, processing, matching and miss-matching information. When you say, “Yeah, I get it,” you’re utilizing this function.
Second, it helps us determine the value of that information. “I get it,” doesn’t mean “I agree.” Once you’ve ‘got it’, now your mind asks, “but what I do believe?”
For example, you may eventually come to the conclusion that the puke yellow curtains you’re looking at are actually more puke green. You may also understand how another person could argue for yellow instead. You may even get that the color ties the room together as it perfectly matches the puke yellow/green carpet. This is all accomplished with the part of your mind that learns information. However, it’s the other part of your mind – the part that evaluates information – which has you say, “Um. Yucky.”
Obviously, there are a lot of criteria for determining the value of information, and it almost feels like every decision comes with it its own set. But for all its seeming chaos, the mind likes order and patterns. And it loooooves consistency. Consistency means using well-worn synaptic paths. Just the thought gives the brain a hard-on.
Considering how often decision-making pops up in everyday life, you better believe your brain has a hands-down favorite way to make those decisions. So does mine. So does everyone else’s. And lo and behold… there’s a pattern there, too.
When you distill it down, there are four main criteria every person on the planet uses to make decisions. Obviously, they’re broad-brushes, but they tell us a lot about how we think. They also help us identify our individual, best criteria (cause of those four we’re gonna be awesome at one of them, sucky at one of them, and the other two are a mixed bag).
It’s important to understand this about yourself and other people because: 1) it helps you make better decisions (since you can knowingly focus on your strengths), and 2) it helps us understand why people make the choices they do. Regardless of how arbitrary they may seem to an outsider, those decisions make sense to the person that makes them. If we understand how they’re coming to those conclusions, we can cut them some slack and stop assuming that if they disagree with us, they’re either stupid or being deliberately obnoxious.
There are four questions we all use when making decisions, and each of us has our favorite:
- How will this impact me internally?
- How will it impact other people?
- Does it make logical sense?
- Will it work?
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