Decision Making

One of the most difficult things we experience in life is to make decisions! This is because when we are growing up, all the decisions are made by our parents. In many cases, parents do not hand over decision making to even grown up adults who may have children of their own! Parents like to have control and authority over their children for as long as they can, making the children dependent on them! This gives the parents a reason for their existence! And in some cases, grown up adults enjoy their dependence on their parents and so willingly do not like to take over decision making from their parents and are happy to leave it to others to make decisions for them!

To begin with, we all have to take over decision making from our parents when we feel we have the confidence to live with our own decisions. The earlier we do this, the better it is for us. This act of independence may make our parents feel lost, sad and discouraged, but in the long run this is beneficial to everyone when each one of us is in the drivers seat of our own life!

How Decisions are made

Decisions are being made in various ways, some of them are stated below:

-Our Ego rapidly, automatically and confidently jumps to conclusions on a coherent story constructed from the little evidence at hand, regardless of the amount or quality of the evedence. Poor evidence actually makes a good story! Further, subjective confidence in a decision is not a reasoned evaluation that the decision is correct! Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information, which might not necessarily be true, and the cognitive ease of processing it!

-Our Ego decides on the basis of emotions! Either greed, fear, love, anger or other emotions lead us to our decisions. There is a feel good factor and when we feel  good about doing something we decide to do it without evaluating the proposal or the situation properly! It many instances, our Ego thinks it has used logic and rationality, but it has come to the decision based only on emotions.

-Our Intellect, in the present moment Awareness, observes the situation objectively, gets a cue to recall relevant information from our memory and decides on a single option, quickly reviewing the decision using logic and rationality and then acting on it!

-Our Intellect, in the present moment, realises the limitation of its knowledge and experience and seeks advice from an expert (it could be a parent too) before arriving at a decision!

-Last but definitely not the least, our Intuition can come up with a decision in a flash! Intuition is when we know but we do not know how we know! Intuition cannot be programmed or planned but it happens by itself when the situation has been fully evaluated by our Intellect very objectively. The decision may be very creative and may defy logic and rational as it is coming from the Universal Intelligence and not the limited Intelligence that we have acquired! But, we cannot depend upon Intuition to show us the direction every time! It happens infrequently!

Unfortunately most of us, including our parents, continue to use our Ego for decision making, which means that with binocular, self centered, subjective vision of the Ego we view the situations and then decide. One must be aware that our Ego has limited knowledge, experience, a set of norms and unrealistic beliefs. It also observes, sees and senses only what it can understand within its limitations.

Be also aware that fear also makes us frequently revisit Ego’s earlier decisions! After making a decision, we are not sure that we have made the correct one! Should we have made another decision which would have been more favorable to us, and so on? Fear and anxiety builds up after we have made a decision, making it even more difficult to correct the decision if it was wrong!

Revisiting and reviewing old decisions while in a state of fear and anxiety are a total waste of time and energy. However, every past impulsive or emotional decision can be revisited in the present moment, when fear and anxiety are absent, taking the inputs from the present moment, reviewing, revising and making a new and more relevant decision. This is an entirely satisfactory, fulfilling and useful activity, which is to update the previous decisions.

Ideally, we have to make decisions Intuitively or with the help of our Intellect which is in the state of Awareness; in the present moment. This can be done when we are in full awareness of our thoughts, emotions, actions and the situation that exists at present which warrants a decision!

Points to Consider while making Decisions

While making decisions we have to be careful:

-that our thoughts and behaviour are influenced, much more than we know or want, by the environment of the moment

-that we do not accept the contents of a report on face value, but question the report and the size of the sample as small samples give both end extreme results. Sample sizes should be large to represent correctly!

– Initial Anchoring giving values have a powerful effect on decisions. Anchors guide and constrain our thinking! There are many people who exploit our gullibility with improbable anchors! Either storm out of the negotiations, or search our memory with our Intellect for arguments against the anchor, think the opposite.

– the world in our heads is not a precise replica of reality; our expectations about the frequency of events are distorted by the prevalence and emotional intensity of the messages to which we are exposed!

– that often we are guided by emotion rather than by reason, easily swayed by trivial details, and inadequately sensitive to differences between low and negligibly low probabilities!

– that the combination of probability neglect with the social mechanisms of availability cascades. irrational fears inevitably leads to gross exaggeration of minor threats, sometimes with important consequences!

– if we ignore base rates and the quality of evidence in probability assessments we will certainly make mistakes. Overruling representativeness and basing decisions on statistics will improve decision making! Be aware that the intuition of representativeness frequently overwhelms the logic of probability!

-we should not believe whatever comes to our Intellect while it is in Ego mode! To be useful, our beliefs should be constrained by our Intellect using the logic of probability! We should anchor our judgement of the probability of an outcome on a plausible base rate. We should also question the diagnosticity of our evidence.

-that the most coherent stories are not necessarily the most probable, but they are plausible!

-that we attach incorrect causal interpretation to changing events when all that is happening is the regression to the mean!

-predictive decisions need to be moderated from our Impulsive predictions, made by our Ego, by regressing to the mean by an estimated correlation factor based on the quality of evidence available and prevalence of other unknown or relevant factors. We will still make errors, but the errors will be smaller and will not favour either high or low outcomes! Impulsive predictions of our Ego tend to be overconfident and overly extreme! Moderation  is a task for our Intellect in the Analysis and Diagnostic state! A characteristic of unbiased or unmoderated is that it permits the prediction of rare or extreme events only when the quality of information is very good! Extreme predictions and a willingness to predict rare events from weak evidence is a manifestation of our Ego state! It is natural for our Ego to generate overconfident judgements, because confidence is determined by the coherence of the best story we can tell from the evidence at hand!

– of narrative fallacy of how flawed stories of our past shape our views of the world and our expectations of the future! Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of this world! The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen. Humans constantly fool ourselves by constructing flimsy accounts of our past and then believing they are true! Understanding and learning from a narrative story of past successes or achievements is largely illusory! The real test of an explanation is whether it would have made the event predictable in advance! The fact that many of the important events that did occur involve choices further tempts us to exaggerate the role of skill and underestimate the part luck played in the outcome! It is easier to construct a coherent story and believe it when we know little, when there are fewer pieces to fit into the puzzle! Humans have unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance! To know is to be able to predict an event and not after the event has occurred!

– the fact that our Ego immediately adjusts to a new view of the world to accommodate the unpredicted event that has occurred! Unfortunately the Ego is imperfect in its ability to reconstruct past states of knowledge, or beliefs that have changed! If asked to reconstruct our former beliefs, we will retrieve our current one instead – an instance of substitution – and we will not believe that we ever felt differently! Our inability to reconstruct past beliefs causes us to underestimate the extent we are surprised by past events! This tendency to revise the history of one’s beliefs in light of what actually happened, produces a robust cognitive illusion of ‘I-knew-it-all-along’! Hindsight bias has pernicious (harmful) effects on the evaluation of decision makers. It leads observers to assess the quality of a decision not by whether the process was sound but by whether its outcome was good or bad! This outcome bias makes it almost impossible to evaluate a decision properly-in terms of beliefs that were reasonable when the decision was made! Actions that seemed prudent in foresight can look irresponsibly negligent in hindsight! Hindsight and the outcome bias foster risk aversion by decision makers! They also bring undeserved rewards to irresponsible risk takers who take a crazy gamble and are lucky to win! A few lucky gambles can crown a reckless leader with a halo of prescience (foreknowledge) and boldness!

– that the long term developments and the future are really unpredictable. The illusion that we understand the past and it makes sense in hindsight fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future! The reality (future) emerges from the interactions of many different agents and forces, including blind luck, often producing large and unpredictable outcomes! Short term trends can be forecast, and behaviour and achievements can be predicted with fair accuracy from previous behaviours and achievements.

– that subjective confidence is a poor index of the accuracy of judgement or decision!

– that we dislike losing twice as much as winning but we become risk seeking when all our options are bad.

-that the disadvantages of change loom larger than its advantages, inducing a bias that favours a status quo or small rather than large changes.

– that decision weights that we assign to outcomes are not identical to the probabilities of the outcomes.Due to the possibility effect, low probability outcomes are over weighted. Due to certainty effect, almost certain outcomes are under weighted compared to the high probability! This is due to the psychology of hope & worry!

– that we are not perfectly rational choosers!

– we attach value to gains and losses rather than wealth!

  1. when we have 95% chance to gain a large amount, we fear disappointment, become risk averse and are willing to accept an unfavourable settlement
  2. when we have a 5% chance to win a large amount, our hope is of large gain, so we become risk seeking and reject favourable settlement
  3. when we have a 95% chance to loose a large amount, we hope to avoid a loss, so we are willing to take a risk and reject a favourable settlement
  4. when we have a 5% chance to loose a large amount, we have fear of a large loss, so we become risk averse and accept an unfavourable settlement

– that highly unlikely events are either ignored or overweighted by our Ego!

– that our Ego has superficial processing characteristics. Vivid imagery leads to denominator neglect! So, low probability events are heavily weighted when described in terms of relative frequencies ( how many ) than when stated in abstract terms of percentage ‘chances’, ‘risk’, or ‘probability ( how likely ). E.g. Tsunamis are are rare, but the image is so vivid that we over estimate the probability!

– that we underweight rare events like earthquakes, fires, devastating financial crisis, long term environmental threats, etc., which we have never experienced.

– when we focus on a single scenario, we will overestimate the probability. We should set up specific alternates and make the probabilities add up to 100%.

– that sunk cost fallacy keeps us for too long in poor jobs, unhappy marriages and unpromising projects and investments.

-that we strongly regret an outcome that is produced by action than when it is produced by inaction! Further, we also generally favour conventional and risk averse choices!

-that single case evaluation will be guided by emotional response of our Ego. Rationality will be served broadly and comprehensively in joint cases evaluation and so this should be preferred!

-that decisions can change on the basis of how the situation or problem is framed!

-that decisions are based on memory rather than the experience of pain or pleasure and that memory retains only the peak and end experience of pain or pleasure ignoring the aggregate pain or pleasure experienced as well as the duration! Confusing experience with the memory of it is a compelling cognitive illusion which brings about discrepancy between decision and experience! So, decisions we make will not produce the best possible experience and erroneous forecasts of future experiences! Tastes and decisions are shaped by memories, and the memories can be wrong so our decisions will not serve our preference for long pleasure and short pains!

Further, Pain out plays Pleasure in decision making! E.g. Moving into a new apartment, the pain of doubling the commuting time for the father far outweighs in his thinking the pleasure to the family of a roomier, brighter, breezier and safer apartment!

-of the focussing illusion which gives too much weight to the aspect we are thinking about, and too little to all other aspects not being thought about!

-of duration neglect as we focus on a few critical moments, especially the beginning, the peak and the end

-of miswanting that results in bad choices that arise from errors of affective (emotional) forecasting

Timing Decisions

Too many times we decide and act too early or too late. Our decisions and actions are rarely well timed! Early and late decisions and actions are due to the fear and anxiety of the future as imagined by our Ego and sometimes due to over confidence of our Ego!

An example of a very early decision is that of the parents pre-planning their children’s area of education & specialisation! Even though, the children may not have even started pre-school, they plan to make one child an Engineer, one child a Doctor, one child a Chartered Accountant. This is in total disregard of the developing interests and capabilities of the child, who may want to be Sports Person, or a Singer or an Artist or a Fashion Designer etc.

Example of delayed decisions can be of relationships growing apart as one of the partners is unable to take a positive decision of making the relationship permanent or long term! Or, it could be of ignoring the symptoms of a very critical disease until it is too late to be cured!

Timing the decisions properly can be done when we are in full awareness, which is being in the present moment, when we are free from disturbances like fear and anxiety of our future, etc. Only when the iron is hot, then we should strike it to make it into a Chisel. Likewise, the situation should be just ripe for decision making and only then a decision need be made!

Positive & Negative Thinking

All motivational and spiritual teachers goad us into thinking positive at all times! This is like looking at one side of the coin! In order to make good decisions, we need to see both sides of the coin, otherwise our decision will be based on only half of the information. We need to look at the positive and negative sides of all situations. This cannot be done by our Ego as our Ego gets seriously disturbed when it sees the negative side. But it can be done rather comfortably by our Intellect which is detached from our Ego, and is in the present moment only! So, consciously come into the undisturbed state of the Intellect, which is being in the present moment when you are making decisions! Good intuitive & Intellectual decisions will emanate from our Intellect helping us, as well as a larger section of our humanity!

I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking-Albert Einstein

Don’t let the voice of other people’s opinion drown your inner voice-Steve Jobs

Failure is inevitable. One of the hardest and most enduring lesson everyone in business learns is that not all great ideas succeed. Plan for failure. Embrace failure. But understand that failure is a comma, not a full stop. You don’t fail in life when one thing goes wrong. Tomorrow will still be there, no matter how dire today feels.

Every Failure, far from being an impediment, can open the door to a treasure trove of learning- Ronnie Screwvala in his book ‘Dream with your eyes open’ *

Each one of us has the capabilities within us to make decisions in three ways; firstly, decision can emanate from our Ego; such a decision is generally self centered for the betterment of our own self. It can incidentally help others too. The second way, is when decision emanates from our Intellect and it is centered for the betterment of a bigger group of people who are around and near us. The last way, is when decision emanates from our Intuition, which is for the good of all and is generally the best decision we can make. Unfortunately, Intuition is not on call and will come to us at it’s own time schedule and when we are not thinking excessively and are in a state of Divine Emptiness.

There is also another way to make decisions, which is external. This is by seeking advice and opinions from our known people, which is good but accepting their decision and imposing it on our self is not; as we can transfer responsibility for bad decisions to others. In such cases we are escaping our responsibility, weakening our internal strength and making it difficult for our own self to live this life properly and fully.

While we make decisions, we have to be also aware that the final outcome is not in our hands but in the hands of the all powerful Totality. – The Totality

It is important to differentiate between the action taken for a specific result and the actual result that happens. The result that happens can be entirely different than the result that was expected while taking the action. This is so, because the action taken is by the human Egos, with their severe limitations, whereas the result that happens is due to the limitless Superconsciousness (Universal Forces or God). – The Totality * 200118

In order to make a decision we can do rational and logical thinking. However if there is an error in our perception or programming then the decision can easily end up being incorrect. Before finally making the decision we have to ask our heart how it feels. It it feels good then go ahead with the decision. Unfortunately we have been programmed not to listen to our feelings and so many of our decisions get us into trouble.- extracted from the YouTube of Dr. Bruce Lipton * 011118

Mistakes are wonderful tools of discovery. Many of the world’s greatest creative works began as a mistake – Mumbai Mirror * 071218

2 thoughts on “Decision Making

  1. I have a slightly different take on the issue of positive thinking.I feel (and it is just that) that we are often told to think positive because the power of the mind can actually influence the outcome of many a situation.Eg:When I sit back and think of the number of times one thinks of a person only to have that person call or think of you at that exact same moment I cannot chalk that up to coincidence. I think (and it is just that) that the mind operates on a multitude of levels and like any thing experience teaches us responses.if we can input these responses into 2 categories positive and negative and then apply that knowledge to guide the thought process we will get a clear signal from the intellect Just like a perfectly tuned radio we will have cut off the background noise to receive a purer signal.
    Why do it ,the reason is rather simple in my opinion (and it is just that).Lets try and visualize for simplicity sake the mind as a diamond and a thought / action as a ray of light that hits it.Lets also imagine the rest of ones universe (family friends acquaintances etc) as mirrors surrounding the diamond that reflect the light reflected of the diamond back onto the diamond.If i have not confused you already lets analyze the outcome of just one ray of light (thought)on the nearest mirror (parent) after hitting the mind it is reflected onto the parent and the parent signal will be in one of the 7 colors depending on the angle at which it was deflected and received and that will be further reflected onto the mind in a different color from one which was reflected as it would hit a different face.Now imagine a thousand rays of light (thoughts) hitting the diamond(mind) from a thousand different directions and remember the older we get the more mirrors in our universe so the outcome a lot of brightness but no light to guide or show you the path resulting in confusion.I forgot now remember this diamond of a mind has a memory that predates a lifetime so in order to give life some semblance of sanity try and block off those signals that are distorting facts (otherwise referred to as negative thoughts) and focus on the pure light that can emanate from the diamond and all we really need to do is keeps its facets polished to reflect the true light not the one tainted by the imperfections of the diamond itself.

    • Yes, positive thoughts keeps our Intellect stable. Although, positive thoughts are only one small factor that affects the outcome of situations which is brought about by zillions of forces and events that take place in the Universe for every situation to occur!I also agree, when we are at peace with our own self and we think of another person, some vibrations do go out to the other person and if he/she is also peaceful at that time he/she will receive and respond to the vibrations received! What really makes the background noise is our own Ego and this affects our Intellect and our good decision making process.

      There is really not much we have to do to live life well. When we are in the present moment we disable our Ego (mind)! Once this is done our pure Intellect allows us to live life fully! The Ego is the fountainhead of most of our positive as well as negative thoughts. These emanate from our Ego based on its observations with limited knowledge and experience it has, belief systems it has built and then the perceptions of everything, everyone and situations it has formed! We see our life, people and situations through the colours of our perceptions, which our Ego has built! These perception are often far from reality and the truth, making life very complicated! So, let us disable our Ego by being in the present moment most of the time and live life fully, easily and comfortably!

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