Living / Philosophy

“Decision Making” – The avoidable pitfalls of rational mind

Nowadays the pursuit of success is very much in vogue.  Whether its performance in career or happiness in relationship; the desire to succeed is a constant driver for everyone.  Some of us will excel at it while others will repeatedly fail.  What then are the factors that make the difference between success and failure?  What is the secret key that can open doors of prosperity and happiness?  This article asserts that it is our ability to think rationally which overwhelmingly determines the outcome.  Furthermore it outlines common pitfalls that might be encountered in developing a truly rational mind.

Rational thinking - the key

Rational thinking – the key

Playing devil’s advocate – if rational thought isn’t the key to success then what else could be it?  Is it your ability to work hard or is it how much intelligence you are gifted with? Is it the prosperity of the family you’re born into or is it how attractive and good-looking you are?  Regardless of the assumption, these factors cannot bear fruit unless one masters the art of making correct decisions along the way.  Intelligent people are often seen stagnating low in the office hierarchy chains.  The most hardworking people are the ones who are stuck with two or more jobs.  Inherited fortunes can be lost in a few years by a fledgling heir.  And showbiz with all its glitz and glamour, reveals the fragility of personal relationships behind the scenes.  On the flip side, people from humble beginnings have been known to achieve great results regardless of their initial circumstances.  The truth is that any initial advantage is rendered useless without the ability to think rationally in making decisions.  This ability is vital in our everyday lives and determines the prospects of long term success.

Rational thinking can be seen at work just about anywhere.  It allows us to pursue our career goals and choose between different career paths.  It is rational thinking that allows us to successfully resolve problems in relationships as well as allowing us to prioritize our lives.  It gives us the ability to plan ahead for the future and work around things that might hold us back.  Human are the only animals with the ability to think rationally and this unique gift has given rise to the great human experiment.  So if everyone has this ability, then why do so many of us fail at making correct decisions in life?

Following are some of the common pitfalls that might be encountered along the way to a truly rational mind:

1. Emotional Overload:

Emotional stress hampers rational thinking and leads to more stress from bad decisions

Emotional stress hampers rational thinking and leads to more stress from bad decisions

Our emotional faculties work alongside the rational mind to arrive at decisions.  And although this cooperation is meant to create synergy, our rational mind is often overwhelmed by emotions especially in moments of anxiety.  Emotional mind has a significantly shorter perspective of time.  Whether it is feelings about relationships or peer pressure in social circles, it seeks for quick relief of the emotional tension.  The emotional mind is even more impatient when it comes to avoiding pain.  A few words of comfort and promise can quickly diffuse emotional anxiety, irrespective of how hollow the words might actually be.  As a rule, emotions should be used in deciding where to go in life and the decisions along the way should be left to the rational mind.

2. Data Scarcity:

Missing cogs in a mind wheel?

Missing cogs in a mind wheel?

One important pre-condition to making correct decision is the availability of the relevant information.  While many of us may agree to this in principle, how often is it that we’ve deferred a decision because all the relevant information wasn’t at hand?  We often form premature opinions about people and circumstances without grasping the full picture.  This adds biases in our analysis of the situation, to an extent that any new information to the contrary, doesn’t sway our opinions.  The correct approach is to analyze the situation early on and make a determination whether we have all the relevant information.  In general, in the absence of external influences (like emotional tension), our decisions are as good as the available data.

3. Rational Mind as a Selfless Institution:

Looking at rational thinking holistically, the true potential of a rational mind can be reached if its detached from the ego.  Self preservation need not be an implicit goal of our instincts only – it can be explicitly integrated into a conscious and rational thinking process.  Rational mind can thus take up some of the self-preservation motives of the emotional mind.  It’s similar to having a friendly robot on your side, one that has the ability to think rationally but doesn’t suffer from the biases associated with the human ego.  Contrary to popular belief, a truly rational mind need not be devoid of emotions.  In fact it is one which recognizes the true place of emotions in life and gives them due importance in the decision making process.

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