The notion that a large part of our identity and our performance (decision-making) is dependent on the prevailing thoughts in our minds, specifically our monologues, is not new. “We are what we thinketh” the adage goes. What IS new is the neuroscience that now supports this age-old belief. Neuropathway-mapping now shows that our response to experiences is far less objective that we think. In fact, our response to just about everything is not based on a rational and critical-thinking set of neuropathways. They are significantly subjective and based on the thoughts that have inhabited the context of that experience.
Let’s process two examples. A business leader is confronted with information that requires a difficult decision to be made. The decision requires a change in the current course of action. If the thoughts in her head regarding the headers “change” or “difficult decision” or “compromising information” are historically negative, then these thoughts will largely govern her response, subconsciously in most cases, more so than what is ‘the right thing to do.’ Again, the subjectivity of the context will prevail over the objectivity of the response. Another example is with athletes. If a professional cyclist, for example, has a flat tire in a race, the thoughts regarding both past experiences and consequences of bad mishaps in races will play a major role in how he responds to fixing the tire and getting back in the race. The actual task of repairing a flat tire is relatively easy and done routinely by cyclists but again, it is the historical thoughts that can compromise a fairly routine correct response.
This week, as you get confronted with decisions, especially difficult ones, take inventory of your prevailing thoughts. What are they? Where did they come from? When did they occur? A simple awareness of these thoughts can have a profound detaching impact to the decision at hand and allow you to make the objective decision. As a leader, if you practice this, you will not only see a discernible difference in the quality of your decisions, and therefore results, but you will quickly be able to see how others make decisions and this is the foundational skill of effective leadership.