Making decisions

Much has been written about the bounds of rationality. A colleague at Sunstone has a chart up to remind himself of the most common cognitive biases. Another gave us all a copy of a Kahneman book for Christmas a few years ago. The initial investment decision is a crucial one in our business — you’re going to be working with that company and in that industry for years. It’s not a decision to take lightly.

Founders call me sometimes when they have hard decisions to make. And then I tell them the quip of the three brains (originally taken from Laloux’ Reinventing Organizations): did you know that we actually have three brains? The nervous systems in your heart (intrinsic cardiac) and gut (enteric) are actually quite independent from the one in your head. Discovered by Auerbach in Germany in the 1860s, science kind of forgot about the brain in the gut. Until it was rediscovered in 1990 by Michael Gershon, a US neuroscientist (and others).

We see our entire lives through our modern/rational ideology. It’s almost impossible to take those glasses off. We’ve been taught to treat the world, our selves, other people and our organizations like things.

But thankfully the self isn’t entirely rational. Decisions are complex and we have billions of years of evolutionary history to help us. Hence I ask anyone to do this very simple thing before taking big decisions: get your head, heart and gut to align. That means checking in with your rationality, but also your emotions and your intuition.

If you don’t have alignment, see if you can hold off, or frame the decision differently, or check your premises. Once you have alignment, go deep within yourself to your witness, the grounds of your being. And check there whether what your doing is serving your overall purpose.

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