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                                                         The Decision Process 


People don’t often analyze how or why they make decisions. We have numerous influencers on our decision making. The decision-making process is not only influenced by the frame through which we see life but in cooperation with external influencers. How we see life provides internal influencers. Our decisions also depend on external influencers. Situational dynamics play a critical role in our decision-making process. They often go unnoticed but they provide clues to our beliefs and emotions. They indicate past and future behavior. Are you predictable by understanding situational dynamics? Poker players look for “tells” when they play poker. People provide clues to the cards in their hands due to situational dynamics. Police integrators look for certain responses and body language due to situational dynamics. Business deals are often made or lost based on actions in response to situational dynamics. Our internal influences have established a pattern of our intentions and situational dynamics will often determine if our intention matches our action. Mike Tyson, heavyweight boxing champion, said “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Situational dynamics often go unnoticed and are usually underappreciated. Just because someone decides to do something does not always mean they will do it. Situational dynamics is a tremendous influencer. 

Internal influencers and situational dynamics often go unnoticed. Our socialization into society, our friends, our religious beliefs, our finances, our mood, our health, our desire to fit into society, our need for appreciation, physical distances of others, the physical characteristics of people surrounding us, other peoples’ mannerisms, and numerous other factors will influence every decision in our lives. The ability to recognize their influence is critical to effective decision making.  

Sunken Cost Effect:

The fear of failure or the drive for success can be swayed by unrecognized variables lurking in your thought processes. The lessons learned and the emotions connected to previous experiences impact current decisions. Beliefs that we hold onto because we always have held onto them, can ultimately harm us. Beliefs about people, businesses, education, politics, religion, food, and almost every belief impact our lives. Do we recognize the impact? We often fail to change a belief because we take for granted that our belief system could not be wrong. If we are wrong about one belief it may mean other beliefs are in danger of being wrong. To recognize the fallibility of a belief may harm our self-esteem. To this end, we often experience the sunken cost effect. People continue to pursue a costly belief, monetary investment, fruitless endeavor, or hurtful passion. People will often watch a boring and unentertaining movie until the end because they are already halfway through it. People continue to consume harmful products. People will continue bad habits. People will often continue to take paths they know are harmful because they have already invested time, money, or emotions. The sunken cost effect is the tendency for people to continue a less than fruitful venture because they are already invested. 

Defensive Reasoning:

An example of internal influences can be found in our use of defensive reasoning. Defensive reasoning helps explain the rise of emotional intensity around so many issues today. The belief about ourselves is important to our emotional health. Maintaining our view of ourselves and our world is important to our well-being. But many of our views become less relevant in our changing world. We strive to maintain sameness in a world that is changing. This strive for sameness often inhibits the growth of humankind. Challenging our views will often appear as a threat. We defend even if we hold a view that has been proven wrong. Defending a wrong does not make it right and there is no real safety in being wrong. But people tend to hold onto the illusion of safety in their defense of a wrong. Safety is what people seek. Safety will often become more important to an individual than truth. Where a person finds safety determines much of their life. To maintain stability in a changing world requires a fluidity of beliefs. A person’s emotional and physical well-being can find safety when their internal influencers are factually and truthfully fluid. At one point in my life, my height was 4’2”. It may have limited my accomplishments if I held onto that belief. Static internal influencers in a dynamic world are detrimental to personal development. A person should find safety in changing opinions and find no threat in your internal influencers being challenged. Muhammad Ali reminds us all, in November 1975 “Playboy” interview, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years”. 

A portion of ourselves can be found in every social institution and every person. How you view the world shapes you; how the world views you shape you. Does the world see you as you see yourself, is a question that should concern us all? Which images are correct? Are they easily manipulated by people understanding your internal influencers and the use of situational dynamics? Leon Russell writes “Magic mirror if we only could, Try to see ourselves as others would”. Learn to see yourself from an extended view and know yourself from an internal view. Be mindful of the lies you tell yourself.     

Action step:  

Go to a casino and play a game of poker with real money. Not just a poker game with friends. Casino poker is one of the best methods to learn more about yourself. Your internal influencers and situational dynamics are in full play. Poker forces you to make decisions with incomplete information. 

After the game, be as honest as you can with yourself, write and answer this list of questions:

1) Recall when your heart raced the most and summarize those situations. Why did it race, how long before it calmed down, and similar situations?  

2) Who intimidated you at the table? If you say no one, I suggest you may be fooling yourself. Even the pros become intimidated from time to time. What was the intimidation situation? Summarize the situation and determine the internal influencers triggered and situational dynamics surrounding the event. 

3) What did money at the table represent to you? Was it ego related or a tool to pay bills or something different? 

4) Did you bluff? Summarize the situation

5) Did you fold when you had the best hand? Summarize the situation.

6) Did you attempt to be liked by people at the table? Describe your efforts and to whom you attempted friendship.  

7) How did you feel after the game? This requires an introspective look at oneself that people rarely attempt.   

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