Engaging Neuroscience to Make Your Best Decisions

What will the new normal look like? I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard this in the last two months, but is it the right question to ask? That question  implies we’re waiting to see what the new normal will be and then reacting to it. By that time, many of the opportunities during this time of significant change will have passed.

Normality Cancelled

I believe the better question to ask is, “What do I want my new normal to be,” or more specifically, “What do I want the new normal to be for my organization?” The key difference is a proactive approach to molding and shaping the future into something you prefer. The answer to these questions provides direction and empowers leadership and engagement.

We all have a shared experience – the COVID-19 experience. It’s common ground. What we do with it is what makes a difference going forward. We have all had to pause, observe, orient, decide, and act on available insight and information. This is the OODA Loop, a highly praised decision-making process in a tactical mode. But what about the future? Not ten years down the road but the rest of this year and into next year.

Have you decided what to keep doing and what to stop doing going forward? Have you thought about how the current remote work environment may impact you and your organization? What’s the best path forward for your organization? The answers to these questions will provide you with important direction and will impact your ability to move forward effectively and efficiently in that direction.

So, what does neuroscience have to do with any of this? Everything!

Underneath our experience, critical thinking, and learned behaviors lie the emotional drivers at the very heart of our ability to make decisions. To give an example, ask yourself if you’ve said to yourself or someone else recently.

  • I can’t seem to think straight.
  • I don’t have enough information.
  • I wish I knew.
  • I feel so drained.
  • I just don’t have the energy.
  • Why does everything have to be a challenge?
  • This is crazy.

I could go on, but I’m sure if you’re like me, at least one of these thoughts has come up recently. There are mountains of “help” being offered with this webinar, that article, or this book. Again, you feel overwhelmed. So, where do you start?

This is where neuroscience comes in. You start from the inside out.

Your best decisions nearly always come from using your brain’s full capacity. Adding your experience and developed expertise gives you a winning formula for decision making.

We could spend hours on this subject, but to be concise, let’s take a shallow dive into some neuroscience. We’re all familiar with the term “fight or flight.” When we’re under increased threat, stress, or pressure (something we all experience at various times in our life), a defense mechanism activates. The limbic system of our brain is designed to override the higher-level cognitive functions of our brain to protect us. If you see a bear in the woods, the amygdala is triggered to send a message to your brain and deploy emergency measures – fight, flight, or freeze. If you think about these three reactions, none of them are very helpful in making good decisions in our normal environment unless that decision involves an oncoming truck!

Brain

When the amygdala is triggered, the surge of neurotransmitters in our brain makes it very difficult to access our “executive brain” where we process information and make coherent decisions. If this keeps up for long periods of time you reach a point of burnout or what we call allostatic load. Allostatic load changes brain chemistry in ways that make it even more difficult to make sound, logical decisions. The end-result is reduced energy to deal with challenges.

So, the answer is to suppress our emotions, right? Not a good idea. Why? Because if you don’t have an emotion about a thought, you can’t decide if the idea is good or bad. This is why gaining a balance between logic and emotion provides the best decision-making outcomes.

The power of neuroscience is accessible to everyone. It can enhance decision making, engagement, energy, agility, and resilience. As noted on our website, “Organizational agility is the ability to take advantage of opportunity with speed and efficiency”. This works for you as an individual as well.

Emotions can become roadblocks or accelerators. The choice is up to you. For more on how to harness the power of neuroscience and emotional intelligence, visit www.6seconds.org or contact us to see how the power of EQ can be utilized to enhance your decisions and those of your team members.

Steve Goodner is the President of GSCFIT, and a Preferred Partner with Six Seconds, the world’s largest emotional intelligence community. GSCFIT is dedicated to equipping and empowering individuals, leaders and organizations through Focus, Insight and Transformation (FIT).