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How to Make a Logical Decision

by Marcia Reynolds

Decisions are 90% emotional no matter how logical we think we are. Everything we perceive is processed through the emotional center of our brains first, affecting our judgments and reasoning before we ever have a chance of being logical.

Therefore, it is important to have tools and processes to help us make choices. We can't count on our brains alone. Humans are too good at rationalizing, justifying, defending intellectualizing, and denying, which is what we spend much of our brain work doing.

According to Elliot Aronson, author of The Social Animal, "Unless we recognize our cognitive limitations, we will be enslaved by them."

BRAIN TIP #1. Time to Think.

It is important to set quiet, dedicated time aside for making a decision, and then remind our brains of this schedule every time the situation pops into our consciousness. If we don't dedicate the time, we spend too much time letting the arguments run wild in our heads. Then, once the decision is made, we need to stand by the decision without fretting or mulling over it. If you truly can't accept the decision, then reverse it. Otherwise, move on.

BRAIN TIP #2. Consider the Angles.

Be prepared to answer these questions.

1. What do I need to know (information about the past, present, and future) before I can make a wise decision?

2. Who do I know has made this type of decision in the past? What questions should I ask them that could give the insight I need?

3. Why is it so hard for me to decide? What do I feel is at stake, really? Is it something intangible, such as a loss of control or how people will judge me if I fail? Am I afraid of hurting someone's feelings? Am I holding out for something better around the corner? Am I afraid of calling myself an idiot later? Get the truth out on the table so you can factor this into your decision-making.

4. If there were no consequences for my decision, what would I choose? Know that your heart's desire will haunt you no matter what you decide.

BRAIN TIP #3. Work it out on paper.

Make a Pro/Con list for each option. Consider how each option will positively and negatively affect your 1) Health, 2) Wealth/Career, 3) Relationships, and 4) Happiness.

Make a Why/Why Not list to help you develop additional criteria to weigh your options against. Start with the option you are most leaning toward and list out all the reasons why you like this option, including what seems trivial and silly (we often justify reasons that would seem silly to other people, so why not just tell the truth up front?). Include emotional perks such as safety, status, love, recognition, fame (again, let's be honest. You can decide later if these perks are really worth your time and money). Then list why you don't like this option. Repeat the exercise for all possible options you might consider.

BRAIN TIP #4. Face your procrastination head on.

It is important to determine if your reluctance to choose is because you don't care enough or you care too much about the outcome. If you don't care enough, consider that the decision might be the result of a compromise where you are not getting what you want at all. If this is the case, no choice will make you happy. Are you giving up your power? Are there other options that haven't been explored?

If you care too much, you might be avoiding the decision because doing anything else might be easier than facing this complex and difficult decision. Be careful how long you put off the decision. Situations can get worse (and usually do), opportunities are missed, and even worse decisions are made trying to avoid the inevitable. Then all you have are regrets. I wish for you a head clear of problems so you can fully feel your love, fun, and gratitude for life


Marcia Reynolds, executive coach and leadership consultant, helps people to understand the power of emotional intelligence in the workplace. She offers coaching, retreats and seminars, and speaking for meetings and conferences. You can find more articles and exercises on her website, or call 602-954-9030.

You may contact Marcia Reynolds about speaking, consulting, other publications and many other things by using the form at the end of this link. You must request permission from Marcia Reynolds to re-print or repost this article.


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