Decisions From the Heart

I listened to a talk recently given by Ruth Chang which was quite engaging and also inspiring. (Ted Talk found HERE) In describing the decision process, Chang (2014)took what felt to be a philosophical approach that was very relatable, used examples and spoke in layman terms. Chang suggests we shouldn’t consider all large choices as being hard and that some small choices can be more difficult than their large counterparts. This concept rings true for me when I think of nightly dinner routines and perplexed looks I receive from my family when offering more than one meal choice. One would think picking between a juicy steak and a fish filet would be a small and simple decision, however I grossly underestimate the significant thought process that may be going on in the minds of my family members. Before providing options to choose between, I may have already determined the implicit favorite, however the ongoing struggle for my family in their response is a hard choice simply because there is no best option, right or wrong, thus leaving them to make an impossible decision.

McShane and Von Glinow (2015) refer to rational choices as being made based on probabilities, applied logic, perceptions, past experiences, and emotions. Further, they describe some decisions as programmed while others are non-programmed. Programmed decisions require human involvement versus non-programmed which are based on historic events. Although there may not always be hardened facts supporting all decisions, we can assert the existence of an imperfect rationality which is significantly influenced by emotions as a key variable in the decision making process.

Chang (2014) states one’s values are different than calculated scientific figures and that something that “is does not necessarily mean it ought”. This statement conveys the mindset that a person’s values are non-quantifiable therefore allowing an additional dimension beyond the three choices of greater, lesser, or equal that exist in decision alternatives. Chang (2014) further goes on to describe a fourth dimension to the decision process to be added which she describes as, “on par”. This fourth option provides a choice which is in the same vein as other options but results in a different overall value.

The decision process is significantly influenced by emotional triggers stemming from earlier or similar experiences, self-identification of our own emotions or “listening in” to help guide us, and even the mood that we’re in at the time a decision is needed (McShane and Von Glinow, 2015). Emotional markers are references which our mind appends to previous events which help us more easily identify preferences, whilst drawing off of conclusions based on our emotions in general and the moods which we experience are methods used in the evaluation of choice alternatives (McShane and Von Glinow, 2015).

The core principal takeaway that we should remember and remain focused on is the power that exists within us to make decisions. Not only do we hold the power internally to drive decisions, but we should remember that those decisions are usually based on a fear of the unknown that drives individuals to make choices based on the least risky option available.

Whether we make decisions based on probabilities, emotions, or simply just go with what’s in our heart, it is important to understand the complexities of the decision process as what may be easier for some may not be for others. Regardless of the decision, big or small, complex or simple, we should remind ourselves that just because something “is does not mean it ought” (Chang 2014).

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” — Roy E. Disney

If you halfway enjoyed this read, I’d appreciate a like and possibly a share, but I would also love to hear from you! It is through the sharing of experience that we as individuals can grow ourselves and would be excited to hear your story!

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Credit where it’s due!

Geralt, (2014). [CC0 Image] Retrieved from URL

McShane, S.L., & Von Glinow, M.A. (2015). Organizational behavior, 7th ed., New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education

TED Talks (2014, June 18). How to make hard choices, Ruth Chang [YouTube Video File]. Retrieved from

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