As a business owner you make decisions every day. There are times when you make decisions that lead you down the wrong path--a  bad hire, a troublesome vendor or  unethical business partner that causes unexpected problems. Don't be hard on yourself when things go by the wayside, according to the latest research in neuroscience, you are not fully responsible for these decisions anyway.

Bad decisions are a part of doing business. I made a few big mistakes when I first started the company. I hired the wrong software engineers to help with my website and the cost of that mistake set me back financially. I was riddled with guilt and frustration at myself for making such a poor choice. Of course, you can give yourself the  Oprah quote that "everything happens for a reason," but that does not help the bottom line. I trusted my gut feelings when I made the choice but I now realize that it was not my fault, my brain made me do it!

According to research by the Max Planx Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science, "the brain activity of the decision can be encoded up to 10 seconds prior to your awareness" of making the decision. When you decide which person to hire for a new position, your brain has already made the decision and your conscious thoughts simply justify the decision. Experiments suggest that we are not free to make our decisions, that they are made unconsciously by the neuro-circuitry of our brain.

The researchers gave subjects two buttons, one on the left and one on the right. The brain mapping software would track their choice seconds prior to them actually pressing the button. Something unconscious programed the decision before they consciously made their choice.

So, what impact does this have on your business? Are you ever in control of your decision-making? The answer is mostly no, but you can train your brain to make better decisions that are aligned with your higher goals in your company. You can follow these four steps to train your brain to make genius decisions consistently for greater success using what some call "Self-Directed Neuroplasticity."

Understand your brain.

People often confuse the brain and the mind believing they are the same. Think of the brain as the hardware with all of the neurological connections, and the thinking mind as the software that runs the programs. The brain has collected all of your past decisions so you don't have to overthink them every time a fork shows up in the road. This is well-documented in psychology and called "conditioning."

Unfortunately, the brain's responses follow preconditioned patterns regardless if they are good or bad habits, so not all of its functions are serving you for the maximum growth of your business. The untrained brain is focused survival, not creativity. This means your brain may continue to repeat old patterns of decision-making to keep you in your comfort zone rather than help you reach your full potential.

The good news is that you aren't stuck in old habits. The brain has neuroplasticity and can be changed. You can use your thinking mind to train your brain to change or using "Self-Directed Neuroplasticity." 

Assess your past pattern of choices.

Look at the pattern of poor decisions you have made--without judging yourself. Do you always choose the wrong employee or make deals with vendors that cause problems? See if you can notice a pattern or common result that your decisions give you and use that insight to go to step three.

A good way to track your decision-making patterns is to think of one big decision you made recently that you wish you could go back and do over. You can close your eyes and go back in time in your mind to visualize what was happening during that time. Were you stressed out or were you making the decision because you were rushed or desperate for a solution? Some people notice they make their poorest decisions when under pressure or solely by trusting instincts instead of logic.

Don't worry if the pattern doesn't emerge in one examination. You can keep track of bad and good decisions in a notebook and something will start to click as you see the pattern. Once you slow down and start becoming more aware of your decision-making mental process, the compulsion to jump to rash decisions begin to change. As you bring awareness to it, you can start shifting the automatic response. 

Don't always trust your gut.

The unconscious decision your brain made was based on past decisions. The brain learns and adapts to conform to your decision style, then it runs on auto-pilot based on emotion. If you always make decisions based on your gut feeling, you will be caught up in the old pattern. While some of those gut decisions may have worked out for you, some of them are not helping.

Reverse engineer a pattern of poor decisions and see if you can get back to the moment you made the choice. Identify the emotion you had around that decision. Where was your attention? Were you feeling stressed, worried, overwhelmed, feeling behind, desperate for a solution or too busy to think it all through?

Focus on possibility and remain calm.

Try this with small decisions first because your brain will record the decisions that turn out favorably to you and begin to choose differently. Hold the vision of what you want to create in your business, the feeling of that goal. For example, the feeling of hiring a great team and seeing everyone working together and growing the company, as opposed to focusing on that bad hire and hoping you don't get stuck with someone like Lazy Larry again.

Change won't happen overnight, but as you consciously-direct your mind to focus on what you want rather than repeating past mistakes, you will begin to make better decisions that lead you to great success.

Published on: Feb 1, 2018
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