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Every day we make decisions. Big, life-changing decisions.

You know, decisions about when to get out of bed (how many snoozes the alarm will have), what to wear, what to eat, when to eat. 

And then there are the mundane decisions that are made for us by others leaving us to decide whether we will abide by those decisions. Sometimes we may feel like we have no choice about something, but there’s always a choice. It’s not necessarily a good choice: either to face the bear with your back to the cliff, or jump off the cliff, but it’s still a choice.

My question is, why do we sometimes make the right choice and other times we make the wrong choice? Personally, I like to make informed decisions, which means I like to gather all the facts and make my decision based on them. Sometimes that has worked and sometimes it hasn’t. Why?

Because as much as I would like to believe in facts, most sales training as I understand it (which I’ve never really had), basically teaches that sales are far more emotional decisions than decisions based on logic. When you consider that selling is basically the process of persuading someone to make a decision in your favor, not using logic or facts strikes me as counterintuitive, but I’ve heard this for years. Here’s a story that’s just one example of emotions at work in decision-making.

Guy Kawasaki tells of how he met Richard Branson in Russia. They met in a green room before a speaking engagement. When Branson asked Kawasaki what airline he used, he learned that Kawasaki was loyal to United because he had the highest status there. Branson didn’t use logic to persuade Kawasaki to become a customer; he simply picked up his leg and started to polish his shoes with his jacket. Kawasaki switched to Virgin America in a heartbeat.

It’s also said salespeople do better if they are likable.

I’m living proof of that. I’ve bought all my cars in the past ten years from the same guy because I like him and trust him. I simply call him up and ask him what good deals are coming up. We agree on numbers, specs, colors and I go sign the papers and drive off with my new car. It’s an emotional decision because I like and trust him and he’s never let me down.

Of course, we could like (or love) people who don’t really have our best interests at heart or may just be crazy or evil. Do we make decisions based on what they say? I’d love to have logic be the final arbiter here, but does it happen that way? And what about those life and death decisions that may involve “pulling the plug” on a parent, child or spouse? We want them around, but do we want them around in some vegetative state where everyone’s quality of life is miserable?

I imagine we like to think we have the facts on our side because we don’t trust ourselves not to “slant” the emotions our way. Following your “gut” or instinct can be just as hard a choice, especially if “logic” is strongly tilted away from the instinctual choice. I wonder if Deepak Chopra, who has attained numerous degrees in western medicine but is also a worldwide leader in alternative medicine, is schizophrenic in some of his decisions? Certainly, some of his critics don’t cut him any slack for his views.

And then there are the charlatans like Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana and David Koresh in Waco, Texas, just two from recent memory, who exercise such mind control that followers either committed suicide or were murdered because of their belief in these two men. Whatever the cause, whether their followers were persuaded to act due to overwhelming feelings, overwhelming logic or both, in many minds, they made very poor decisions. Sometimes we make poor decisions for good reasons and the converse is also true.

How about those decisions made through mob psychology?

Wouldn’t you just love to be a part of that (he said, sarcastically)? Or surely, we can trust what we see to help in our decision-making process, right? NOT! A number of recent studies show:

… many controlled studies showing that eyewitnesses are prone to memory errors, including highly confident but demonstrably false memories.

So, what do we do? What can we rely on to make the best decisions possible?

Hey. If I knew the answer to that, I’d be counting my money from selling the answer.

Yet, I’m still in favor of making informed decisions but delving into this subject in a little more depth has allowed me to see care must be taken as to what sources we chose to believe. And yes, we do choose to believe what we believe.

I admire the “scientific method” and know it has brought mankind a long way. I’m also a Christian and see no incompatibility between the two. But most of all, as a pragmatist, I’ll make my decisions based on whatever works — for me. And that may not always be just one set of determiners.  

I believe in a holistic approach to medicine and that the body can heal a great deal more than many of us imagine. This can really only happen if the body is cared for properly and allowed to follow its natural path. But if medical science can accomplish the same thing a holistic approach would do, yet take less time, I’d do that and let the holistic approach take care of the rest. That’s why I see myself as a pragmatist.

Whatever you decide, do what’s right for you. Because no one should get to decide but you. So choose wisely Grasshopper. (If you don’t know what that means, check here.)