The Secrets to Good Decision-Making: Balancing Logic and Emotion

Dawn Bevier

The truth is you need both of these strong-willed friends to get the life you want

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As a teacher, I am the master of my own little kingdom. It’s a wonderful perk sometimes, but its also a struggle. Why? When you’re in charge, you are the one people look to for direction. And there are so many decisions that need to be made on a daily, weekly, and more long-term level.

What should I teach? How should I teach it? When should I teach it? I taught it, and they don’t “get it,” now what?

In addition, almost seventy children every day come to me with deficiencies in academics and personal problems that impact both their home and school life. The decisions I make on how to handle my classroom and each delicate child that enters it could shape both their education and their personal lives in a profound way. And I am exhausted from the effort of making these decisions.

But, I know I’m not alone in my struggles.

As professionals, as parents, as marriage partners, and as individuals trying to live our best lives, no one is immune to the psychological term known as “decision fatigue.”

As a matter of fact, in Entrepreneur’s article “9 Ways to Combat Decision Fatigue,” it states that “by bedtime, the average person has made 35,000 decisions.”

So, why is decision making so troublesome?

Partly because each decision requires a delicate balance between what we think is right to do and what we want to do.

As a result, every day we are assaulted by those two “wolves in sheep’s clothing” named logic and emotion.

Each one can a valuable part of our existence. But when one wants to be the alpha wolf, a bloody battle can ensue. And that battle can end in the destruction of a dream, a life, or one day, the very universe itself.

And the truth of the matter is, we can’t keep these warring factions separated.

Well, we could, but that would be devastating.

We need them both.

So, the question is how do we get them to live together harmoniously inside of us?

Logic versus emotion: the struggle is real

Maybe you have a problem right now between these two caped crusaders? Maybe you are trying to be rescued by logic? Emotion is rubbing you raw and the unassailable truth of reason is locking you in its fortress for your own good.

Say you want to quit your job because it is no longer fulfilling. Say you want to leave an unhappy relationship. Say you feel burned out and empty and want to spend a large sum of money on a “bucket list” trip that you feel would rejuvenate you?

Logic enters first, that kind but hard-nosed friend. He comes to warn you of all the treachery of which Emotion is capable.

He whispers bittersweet warnings to you as you sit in his midst.

“What if you fail? Are you looking at this choice reasonably,” he says? “After all, you are solid, secure, and reasonably comfortable.”

“A lot of people don’t like their jobs,” he says. “It’s better than struggling to make ends meet.”

“Is your relationship really that bad?” he utters. “You have a person to come home to, a person who is steady, reliable, and even caring. No relationship is perfect,” he says. “You’re just in an emotional slump, a mid-life crisis, being overly dramatic or fantastical in your thinking,” he murmurs as he looks you squarely in the eye.”

You must admit, this rather forceful frenemy is convincing.

But then there’s his rival. Emotion. And she’s weaving a wizard’s spell on him behind his back, putting him to sleep as she stealthily slips the key to your current prison out of his pocket and frees you.

“Come with me,” she says.

She leads you away and locks you away in a different cell, one much more enticing.

It has a widescreen theater with three-dimensional sights. Surround sound. The works.

She turns on a movie, and pats your hand, reassures you that she will stay with you and watch.

She shows you the possibilities that Logic tried to hide from your sight.

First scene.

There you are in your dream job. Maybe you’re in your jammies, with a steaming cup of coffee, writing your heart out with your favorite tunes thrumming in your ears. No nine to five grind. No nagging bosses or gossiping co-workers. The smile on your face jumps off the screen, leaps directly towards you, and grabs you by the heart.

Scene two.

You are having a candlelit dinner. With a new man. His eyes gaze deeply into yours. You feel your insides quiver with an excitement that hasn’t been there in ages. You see walks along the beach, deep intimate talks, and a passion that leaves your current relationship on the cutting room floor, in fragmented ugly pieces. A low-budget movie that cannot compare to this wonderful piece of cinema in front of you.

Scene Three.

You on your trip of a lifetime. Swinging in a hammock as Carribean music plays in the background. Touring the ancient castles of Ireland. Letting loose in Vegas, strobe lights flashing as you dance the night away in a feverish sweat, feeling completely free for the first time in ages.

Credits roll. End of movie.

“Believe in the dream,” she says. “It can be a reality.”

You, overwhelmed, escape, run to a safe place where you can be freed from both these fiery forces.

Once you are alone. You have an epiphany. You realize that each of these messengers tells only its side of the story. They both downplay the benefits of the other. And you need to make a decision. The limbo is killing you.

Here’s what you do.

Balancing logic and emotion to ensure good decisions

Ok, so first, let’s get the basics out of the way.

1. Remove all prejudicial factors that may impact your choices.

What are those factors?

Maybe it’s a family friend. Or a spouse.

Maybe it’s two glasses of Chardonnay or a little something you use to self-medicate not prescribed by your local doctor.

You get the picture, right?

These forces drive you away from the authenticity of your feelings. They alter emotions and logic as well. They keep you from hearing your own “voice.”

You can and should consider the opinions of the people that love and care for you, of course.

But the point is to devote some time to yourself to separate their opinions from yours, because, for one, you are not them. And two, I am sorry to say, sometimes these people can have selfish motives.

2. H.A.L.T. from making decisions when you are in certain states

Many psychologists have embraced an acronym that can help their clients make better decisions. This method, known as H.A.L.T. is not only embraced in areas of mental health, it is also a term frequently used in the business world as well.

H.A.L.T. stands for the idea that you should never make decisions when you are in a state of the following:

  • Hunger
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Tiredness

Each of these forces can wreak havoc on your ability to evaluate possible options for the choice at hand.

And, if we are honest with ourselves, we already know these truths. How many stupid and hideously regrettable things have we done when we are fueled by the fires of anger? How many egregious errors have been made when we were sleep-deprived or emotionally exhausted? Perhaps your indecision has kept you isolated from the world? Loneliness and feelings of alienation can leave us trapped inside our head, unable to separate fact from fiction.

And even hunger can work against good decision making. Good Therapy’s article, for example, entitled “How Are You Feeling? Take a Minute to HALT for Your Health” discusses the impact of things brought on by hunger, such as low blood sugar, which may cause you to “get a headache, become irritable, or find it difficult to concentrate.”

They also state that hunger represents “an imbalanced state that can lead to mood swings, affect our ability to make decisions, and lower our impulse control.”

No joke, right?

Anyone who has gone to the grocery store hungry from a new diet can attest to the truth of these facts.

The truth is we need our physical and emotional reserves to be at their best before we can see clearly the impact that certain decisions may have on our lives.

3. Make a list of pros, cons, and risks. Think about future outcomes.

Sometimes writing down a simple list of all the reasons why you or shouldn’t do something is enough to help put the decision in perspective. Ask yourself the following types of questions:

  • What will you gain of value if you make choice A? Choice B?
  • What are the risks of embarking on choice A? Choice B?
  • If the imagined risks became a reality, are you prepared to deal with the consequences? Even more specifically, what would you do or how would you handle it if said risks came to fruition?

Questions such as these can lead you intuitively to the better choice. A choice in which you understand the risks and are willing to make the sacrifices and suffer the punishments required of whichever course of action you choose to take.

4. Finally, search for a happy medium. Let your reason and emotion work together.

Say you want to quit your job. Maybe you devise ways to relieve some of the stress factors at work. Maybe you continue to work but make a point to job search in a leisurely way. Make you take a new class or other small steps to assure yourself that if you changed jobs, the risk factor would be lowered.

Maybe you actively seek out ways to improve a relationship that has gone stale. A once a week date night? A weekend vacation away from the stresses, strains, or monotonies of everyday life that are creating your doubts about the relationship’s success.

What about taking a vacation away that would not involve large amounts of financial strain? Or simply consulting with a travel agent to make monthly payments on the trip of your dreams so that it does not create a financial burden?

The bottom line

Your life is yours. Yours alone. But independence of thought and action carries both risks and rewards. Revel in the freedom you have to make a choice that feels right for you. But check on those two well-meaning friends — Logic and Emotion — and make sure that they are not overstepping their bounds.

Here’s wishing you just the right amount of each and hoping they will lead you closer to the life you’ve always wanted and imagined.

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Sanford, NC
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