Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beautiful Mind 09: Informed Decisions

Our decision making abilities begin to take shape first when we are infants, where we decide what we want and don't want. The first thing we do is say no to something we don't like - to see / hear / eat / drink. Slowly but steadily, we build our decision making rules and continuously update these rules as we grow up. Makes me wonder even more about how beautiful the mind is.

In most of the notes I write on this blog, I keep referring to the aspect of being influenced by people we frequently interact with. It surprises me about how much of an influence it has on our decision making. I have also seen (and experienced) situations when taking an independent decision was questioned, doubted and discouraged by the same people who encourage and laud the ability to make independent decisions.

I referred to influence in this note because making decisions comes to us naturally, based on our instincts and on the aspects we learn. Our data processing engine, a.k.a. the brain, has the capacity to use fantastic rules to evaluate each possible state that can result due to a decision, and then prefer that decision, which would provide a favorable end state to us.

These rules are built and calibrated with each day of our life, perhaps with everything we do - no matter how silly it may seem at the time. That's how we grow, and growing brings with it updates to the rules that govern our data processing engine (the brain).

When we are constantly influenced for our decisions, one of two things can happen - we either start to think and evaluate conditions in a manner similar to the influential person, or, worst case, we lose faith in our decision making abilities.

In either of these scenarios, it is my belief that we do not understand our own abilities to make informed decisions. Why did I bring in the word "informed" in here? The reason is this - to make an informed decision, we need to be objective enough to collect data that is necessary to understand the situation we're currently in, and process that data in a way that can lead us to prefer an end state that is preferable to us, which will finally end up resulting in the decision we make. Hence, making an informed decision.

With a lot of influence, we could lose our ability to make such informed decisions at critical times in our life. This is when we begin to lose confidence and start approaching others to make the decisions for us. Just know this - by approaching others to make decisions for you, all you're doing is escaping from the current situation and telling your brain (hence, creating a rule) that there will always be someone to make the decision for you. This will make matters worse - if not right now, sometime in the future.

It is sad that we end up looking outside for anything - support, confidence, decision support, and what not. In reality, if we only look within, we will find answers, support, confidence and decision processing logic that is not available in the most sophisticated of computers. We have within us the capability to process information at an incredible rate, play out all possible scenarios and then make the decision, yet we leave it to others to make decisions for us. Perhaps we do that so we have someone to blame if things don't work out the way we plan. Perhaps not. We cannot be certain about that.

The one thing we can be certain about is to mentally play out the scenarios that result from decisions, and choose the appropriate one. You have the ability. Not just the person who has the most influence on you - you do too. We all do. It is our inherent ability. You need to build the confidence and motivation for yourself, just as you may motivate someone else - and this is what will unleash the power of one of the most fantastic creations in nature - our brain.

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