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June 2012
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Transformational Talk

Surprising Truth about Decision Making

Do you know where to turn for guidance in decision making? For many, decisions typically involve pro and con spreadsheets as you attempt to find the most rational alternative. While such evaluation lays useful groundwork; for your final analysis, neuroscientists now suggest you need to look in a surprising place—your feelings—for best guidance.

This is because your rational brain can only compare about seven factors at a time, but your emotional brain is like a super computer with instant access to an infinite array of data—everything you’ve ever experienced, seen, read, or heard about what you’re considering. (The only exception is when facing factors never experienced before. Then you need your rational brain to ‘think’ up a novel solution.)

Here’s the tip. Next time you’re deciding something drop awareness down into your body. Imagine each option and notice how your body ‘feels’ as you do this. Check out body sensations—that’s the language your emotional brain uses to communicate. (A caveat: alcohol or drugs interfere with this process.) Look for ease, flow and comfort or a vague and inexplicable sense of unease, constriction, or even jitters. Practice on small decisions for starters.

The hardest part is honoring feelings when you can’t explain them. Tell yourself the best brains in science have spent years rationally figuring this out (and read Jonah Lehrer’s delightful book, How We Decide, for details.) It’s time to restore feelings to their rightful place as trustworthy guides for ourselves and our lives.

Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW Call: 858-481-5752 fax: 858-484-8374 email: