Decisions, decisions, decisions!!! In our daily life, from the moment we wake up till bedtime, we are constantly making decisions. We perpetually knacker ourselves with the questions, ‘Should I, or should I not?’ What to choose, what not to choose. How to choose and how not to. But how many decisions do you think you make daily? Well, I guess a lot for which we are not even aware of, to say the very least.
“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.” ― Michelle Obama.
I have made quite a lot already today. When I woke up, I decided whether to do my daily workout or skip it today. After all, I’ve been excellent at it and consistent at keeping fit. What to wear, type of cereal I should have for breakfast. While having my breakfast am already thinking of lunch for the kids. Before I continued writing on this article, I also had to decide whether I should read first or write or check my emails and make some calls, and the list goes on and on. Decisions, decisions, decisions, and more decisions!!!
We make a Herculean load of decisions a day. Reading the article, “35,000 Decisions: The Great Choices of Strategic Leaders,” on the Leading Edge section of the Roberts Wesleyan College website2 is a great eye-opener. In one study that he cites, he establishes that “an adult makes on average about 35,000 decisions each day, while a child makes about 3,000 decisions per day.”3 The information from this study is nothing but mind-blowing. In another study he cites, he establishes that “we make 226.7 decisions each day on just what we eat alone, per researchers at Cornell University.”4
The type of decisions we make determines the approach or process that we implement. Depending on the kind of decisions we ought to make—some of which are pretty straightforward and some a bit more complex—the approach we implement can range from simple to deep thought approaches, which will result in either good or bad decisions. Furthermore, the decisions we make vary from personal decisions, career choices, leisure decisions, education decisions, political decisions, faith-based decisions, financial decisions, medical decisions, and so many others.1
While we are busy doing things that we love, the things that matter to us, and the things that stipulate our purpose (i.e., our calling, our why for, etc.), our mind or psyche is busy searching for answers to the questions we always ask ourselves. But how we finally arrive at a particular solution is what we often overlook. As human beings, we have the natural tuning to pick and choose what will work best. Hence, in this article, we will look at some contributing factors to our decision-making process. Let’s dig into them below:
#1. Personal Values
Your values are the core motivating factor in your decision-making process. They are an intrinsic part of our lives and therefore support our thoughts and decisions, and actions. Our values portray who we are, the standard of life we want to live, and how we want to live. If you are a Christian, most of your decisions and actions will be based on your Christian faith, as it is the primary driver of your values and beliefs.
Decision-making requires that you use your value-based system regardless of how it worked for someone else. The way you discipline your child will have a firm footing on your values rather than how your friend disciplines their child; thus, it spawns from a personal attribute. What you highly believe in is what would drive your decisions. Decisions sitting on the foundations of your value system are very likely to be the best decisions you will ever make.
#2. Your Childhood Experiences
There is no denying that our upbringing plays a huge part in our decision-making process because it helps to form and shape our beliefs, and this is due to both actions and words used during the child’s formative years. When growing up, you would remember some words said to you by your family, friends, and even teachers. Some or all of these words have come to impact your life. Some of these words have also helped you in your decision-making process.
Our mind is indeed a processing unit. Whatever experiences that we experience in this life go into the storage units of our compartmentalized minds. Sometimes, it may seem like we have forgotten some of these experiences. However, they lay buried in the depths of our subliminal self. It often replays our childhood experiences to us. These thoughts are often the product of triggers that come from sounds, sights, feelings, taste, and scents.
How then does it help us in making decisions? Let’s use taste as an example here. As an adult, you sometimes remember how sweet your mom or gran’s cake tasted as a kid. Or the taste of your most agreeable dish as a child, and you long to have it again. As they might not be near to make it for you, you decide to give it a try and bake it yourself. Of course, off you went and baked, “Hooray!!!” It may not have turned out with the same childhood taste, but at least, the thought of it prompted you to bake. That is the potent power of your childhood experience in action.
Each of our childhood experiences is different. Some people grew up in homes that are very regimented or disciplined. Others grew up in homes where there were constant disagreements and where you had arguments for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Simultaneously, others come from a home that is open, participative, and welcomes dialogue. Whatever spectrum you find yourself in has a significant influence on our decision-making process and impacts our relationships with ourselves and others.
I want to point out here that children are like sponges. They soak up what they see and hear while growing up. Thus, parents or couples with children must be careful of how they relate with each other because whatever they are saying or doing is sinking into the subconscious of their wards. The Editor-in-Chief of Oaekpost wrote a great piece titled “Let’s Raise Our Children Right.” Let’s do just that, “Let’s raise our children right by acting right.”
Hence, if your childhood upbringing spawns from an environment where you repetitively heard hurtful words, such an experience can also lead to poor decision-making later on in life. Such incidents could cause you to have flashbacks. These are the “recurrent and abnormally vivid recollection of a traumatic experience, as a battle, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations.” These negative thoughts become seared to the minds of children. It scars them and becomes a scab of their undoing when it comes to decision-making as they grow up. Which then takes us to the next point—Memories.
Memories sprout from experiences we have in life, and these are also very personal to us. Because memories are pretty subjective, it allows us to create our moral beliefs through repetition. Its repetitive nature teaches us how to interact with the world around us, which, in turn, aids in our decision-making process. Because memories are an essential factor that influences our decision-making, it supports positive behavior and offers negative consequences. A child who has gone through the consequences of disobedience will have a robust decision-making will to avoid similar life occurrences later on in life. Repetition is the key here—it helps us to consolidate these memories in our minds. The more we do it, the more it is stored in our memory.
I guess the question then is what makes our mind travel back and pull out those memories? Emotions! Yes, emotions are one of the best triggers of our memory and work exceptionally well in taking us on the journey of remembrance down memory lane. The feelings we took out of past experiences, either good or bad, determine how we react when similar situations occur. You probably won’t like banana cake if you don’t like bananas. The reason could be because of its smell, or its munchy nature makes you sick. However, there is something that registers in your memory banks that forms the foundation of why you don’t like it.
Another trigger is the scent. The smell of a particular thing can quickly bring out a vivid experience. If you are like me (I have a good sense of smell), and therefore cannot stand certain smells like the smell of a sheep and goat and so cannot eat anything made from them. Growing up, my parents had a small farm where we reared goats and chickens. I was ok with the chickens, but goats’ smell disgusts me a lot and has stuck with me to date. Of course, sights, sounds, or even touch are also good triggers of our memories. Once one of these triggers sparks off, it takes us down to a specific timeline.
The community we engage in also influences our decisions. Such communities include gyms, churches, social groups, school groups, and even our local community where we live, move, and have our being as people. We sometimes make decisions based on our group interactions. If, for example, you are in a weight loss group where you all encourage each other and share ideas. You would often go with some of the suggestions given to achieve your weight loss goal. Hence, we can establish that the communities that we belong to help in forging our core values, which we have seen also influences our decision-making skillsets.
#5. Higher Authority
This type of decision is out of our control. It is therefore backed by authority or deemed fit by circumstances. For instance, if you do not like taking part in electoral votes, you may be way out of luck should you live in a country where voting is mandatory (e.g., Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, etc.). Hence, higher authority is influencing your decision due to this factor. Therefore, you are under obligation to vote, even if it is against your wishes. In another instance, if your eyesight is failing you and you are required to wear glasses when you have no desire to do so, the condition demands that you need the glasses for clear vision.
Our workplaces are also a higher authority that mandates us to make decisions that we might not want to take. Because of obligation and the need for a paycheck, we become obligated to the higher authority of our jobs. Assuming you are a front-line worker during this current pandemic crisis, your workplace might make it mandatory for all staff to have the COVID-19 vaccine. You don’t have any option but to take it if you want to keep your job in such a situation. Despite all the powers that we are subject to, God’s control over all remains the highest authority.
#6. Others’ Influences
Our family, friends, and colleagues also influence our decisions. Because we spend more time with our loved ones and want to make them happy, we will find that we often decide based on their influence. You will find yourself deciding to go party with friends and colleagues at the hint of such suggestions due to their influence. Their recommendations and impact feed your will to decide and act. We often make these decisions in a bid to maintain these relationships. Call it peer pressure, if you will, because that is what it is, by the way. The factor of influence is just one in many; there could be other influences that impact decision-making.
“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” ― Malcolm Gladwell.
Decisions are inevitable in our lives, and many factors influence our decision-making process. The list we discuss in this piece is not exhaustive. I believe that there are more factors there. I have only mentioned a few here. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below if you know any other factors. As stipulated in the quote above, be deliberate and instinctive in your thinking-it will enhance your decision-making skills.
- Chukwuma, U. (2020). How to unlock the authentic you. Uju Chukwuma.
- Hoomans, J. (2015). Leading the Edge. Retrieved from https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders
- Sahakian, B. J., & Labuzetta, J. N. (2013). Bad moves: How decision-making goes. Oxford University Press.
- Wansink, B., & Sobal, J. (2007). Mindless eating: The 200 daily food decisions we overlook. Environment and Behavior, 39(1), 106-123.