Tom Brady was heartbroken.

As the winningest quarterback in NFL history, Brady is known best for his ability to lead a team to victory, even when facing what seems to be insurmountable odds. And for a short while in yesterday's divisional playoff between the Rams and the Bucs, it seemed he was poised to do the same, after Brady led the Bucs from a 27-3 deficit to tie the game in the final minute.    

Alas. This time, it was not meant to be.

Now, as Brady stood for the postgame press conference, reporters seemed to ask the same question over and over:    

Are you coming back?

"I haven't put a lot of thought into it," Brady responded. "We'll just take it day by day."

The media pushed back. Surely Brady's given it thought. It would be impossible not to, right?

"Truthfully, guys, I'm thinking about this game," Brady reiterated. "And, I'm not thinking about anything past five minutes from now."

This may seem like a simple case of Brady not wanting to talk about leaving the game that he loves, but it's more:

It's an example of the simple rule of decision-making, and it teaches a major lesson in emotional intelligence.

What is the simple rule of decision-making, and how can you put it to work to help you and your business?

The simple rule of decision-making

The simple rule of decision-making is based on a small bit of wisdom I came across years ago, and it can help when it comes time to make challenging decisions:

Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.   

This rule is founded on principles of emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions, because it leverages what we know about the brain and the way we make decisions. (FYI: If you're interested in learning more rules of emotional intelligence like this one, you can sign up for my free 10-day course here.

For years, neuroscientists and psychologists have studied the biology of the brain and its decision-making processes. In doing so, it became obvious that our way of thinking, reasoning, and deciding is very complex, and utilizes various parts of the brain. 

For example, when it comes to higher level executive functions like planning and organizing, we rely heavily on the frontal lobes, the largest part of our brain. However, in moments where we are threatened or under high stress, another, much smaller part of the brain known as the amygdala kicks into high gear.

This can be a good thing, because the amygdala can help us to make quick decisions that help us deal with threatening situations. In Brady's case, for example, the amygdala may help the quarterback achieve focus and execute actions he's practiced over and over again on the football field.

However, you wouldn't want to rely on the amygdala to make more long-term decisions, like deciding whether or not to leave your job.

That's why Brady's response is so emotionally intelligent. By suggesting that careful thought needs to go into such a decision, Brady refuses to allow reporters to coerce him into saying something he may later regret.

Instead, he simply states now's not the time for such questions. Doing so allows him to wait, allow his emotions to settle down, and use more of his frontal lobe to make that decision, which will allow him to organize his thoughts and give careful consideration to all factors involved.

So, how can you apply the simple rule of decision making?

You can start by remembering the times you shouldn't make major decisions, which include:

  • After a bad day (or even a very good one)
  • After vacation
  • After a fight or argument
  • At night
  • When you're tired or hungry

So, the next time you're faced with a major decision in a difficult moment, take a page out of Tom Brady's playbook and remember the simple rule of decision-making:

Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.

Doing so will help you to make greater use of your brain, avoid saying or doing things you regret, and make decisions you're proud of.