Why do you make the choices you do? What caused you to choose the breakfast you ate, the clothes you picked out for the day, or the movie you wanted to watch last night? We make decisions and choices all day long – from the procedural to how we choose to react to others. According to researchers at Cornell University, it’s estimated that we make approximately 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day.
When you think about the myriad decisions we’re faced with, we might ask ourselves, “what is it that plays into our decision-making process?” Is it our mind? Our heart? Maybe our “gut”? Many might say it’s purely up to the mind – it is the central processor of all our information, right? French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist Rene Descartes dubbed the father of modern Western philosophy once said, “decisions are a matter of the mind.”
As an introduction to one of my classes at Columbia University, I presented this quote from Descartes and asked how many in the room agreed with him. Many raised their hands – they were a class full of engineers after all!
Was Descartes Right?
In response to my class’ approval of Descartes’ thoughts, I then presented another profound voice – that of Albert Einstein who said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant…we’ve created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” It was in that moment I began to change how these students viewed their thinking and decision-making processes.
Yes, we have miraculous minds, but we have something else – intuition and emotion – that contributes to each of the complex decisions we’re faced with each day. Modern-day professor and philosopher, Antonio Damasio wrote an entire book to discredit Descartes’ assertion that decisions are simply a matter of the mind. In his book, “Descartes’ Error,” he writes, “we are not thinking machines that feel…we are feeling machines that think.”
We Feel First and Think Second
When you stop to think about it, it’s true. People, both in their personal and professional lives make decisions that they feel are the right things to do rather than simply the logical things to do.
Take, for example, Eric Bernstein, the chief operating officer at eFront, a leading provider of software solutions to the financial industry. I once saw Eric give a speech in 2008, right as the financial crisis was gaining traction, during an industry event where a dozen speakers were on the agenda. He did what everyone else didn’t – he spoke to the audience’s aspirations. He passionately discussed their concerns and helped them to understand how the appropriate risk-management software was not only a defensive tool for recovery but also an offensive weapon for profitability. It was a perfect blend of “I feel your pain” and “we’ll get through this together.” It was an emotional call to action, delivered at a time when people seemed to need it the most.
Bernstein’s secret? “It’s shocking to me how important emotion is in our business,” he later told me. “I want the client to feel that I am not just a software vendor; I’m their partner. The majority of my job is to transform something from whatever it is to what I want it to be. Ninety percent of that is the human element.” It’s Bernstein’s ability to communicate emotion that has allowed him to successfully convert countless prospects into clients at eFront.
Emotion plays a large part in how we make decisions – and it certainly plays a part in how we respond to the people around us, and how they respond to us. Pay attention to your heard, mind, and gut when you’re making choices, especially those that concern the people around you. When you’re more aware of how and why you are doing what you’re doing, it’ll make it that much easier to understand and relate to others no matter the circumstance.
Make every situation, decision, and outcome an opportunity for future success – doing so will help you achieve greater success. Visit, www.chuckgarcia.com to learn more.