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Self-Help

Making Better Choices

Need to make a decision?

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Source: Pixabay

Biases can affect feelings and slant your focus to detail vying for your attention. We often tend to quickly dismiss information we see as against our family, organization, group, personal beliefs, and goals. Hence we may reject corporate, departmental, political, cultural, and regional information we feel cuts against theories or ways of thinking we feel are important to us.

Bias can, at times, prevent us from making good choices. What does this mean for you? Whenever you feel yourself "automatically" tempted to dismiss information, an offer, or an individual, say, you should consider the potentially mind-blinding details that could be swaying you. One way you can do this is by asking yourself, "What am I actually dismissing here?" "And why?" This approach can start you back on the right track.

To sharpen this skill, the next time you look at a sales flyer, you can play this little game: Ask yourself why am I attracted to a certain product over another? Or what advertisement words or images are catching my attention? See if you can trace why? What inferences can you make about what might be guiding your focus, e.g., ideas, beliefs, drives, other people's opinions, memories, or perhaps procedures—ways of doing things that have become ingrained. We tend to base our thoughts, opinions, and actions on the way we have done things before, on values that have become ingrained. Often, we just act automatically without challenge. We give these links preference in our considerations of possible responses within an experience. Consequently, the more we go to them, the stronger they become. So in the middle of experiences with all kinds of detail vying for our attention, we focus on detail that supports our personal take on things—for better or worse, the ones that affirm you.

Accordingly, if you don't update your beliefs, memories, and procedures you may find it difficult to regulate an upcoming decision. Relying on old patterns can make you blind to potentially better more effective options and set you up to doing things in the same way, like landing you in the same old quicksand. So giving it some thought makes sense.

To prevent this type of mind-blindness further down the road, try stepping back once in a while to extend your sights. For example, let's say you need to make a decision about which person to use for an upcoming job. Instead of going with your automatic choice, step back and ask yourself: How might that decision affect the bigger picture? What about how it will affect me and my co-workers over time? Try looking back on a decision to learn about your motivations. Are they still the same from that vantage point? Ask: What things that influenced my motives do I want to keep around next time I am in a similar experience. Are there any I want to dismiss?

Use visualization to help you ingrain your updated strategies. Visualize an upcoming situation that may be similar in context. Consider your updated links regarding beliefs, motives, memories, and solutions. Play the expected scenario in your mind. Widen your lens and consider the detail you are attracted to. Which makes you vulnerable? Which gives advantage? Ask why? Based on what? Which details should you pay attention to? Consider your choices and decide which is best for the situation, your goals? Dismiss those that are not appropriate.

I highly recommend fighting off the urge to quickly dot the proverbial "I's" and cross the "T's." As a check, ask yourself: "What may I be losing out on by taking the fast track?" Someone I know recently gave himself the extra time needed on a contract decision and wound up with a much more attractive package in the end.

Practice your visualization randomly in days coming up to the event; edit and update it when necessary. Adding the questions above to your processing approach will leave you less vulnerable to errors. Practice will help generate the pause you need to give you a broader range of options in real-time decision making. Allowing yourself other options, at times even opposite ones, can free you from the tight leash of bias—that often may not even be your own.

This will help you update new patterns for change that you can implement in the future.

After making decisions, use reflection. Think through your "real-time" decisions. Tracing through what occurred in your head will help you better understand what took place. Spot the weaknesses and strengths in your approach; this will suggest what can be edited or eliminated, allowing you to update your memory for next time.

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