Did you ever find your self in a mess and wonder how you got there? There’s no guarantee your decisions are always going to be good ones. Too much is unpredictable.
However, many of us have had the experience of looking back on a situation and thinking “I should have known better. The warning signs were all there.”
Here are 8 reasons smart people make dumb decisions. As you think about a time you ignored the signals, was it for any of these reasons?
Understanding why you ignored the warning signs can help you avoid repeating mistakes.
A major cause of poor decisions comes from making them a vacuum without having important information. Sometimes people don’t solicit input because they are over-confident and don’t believe others have anything worthwhile to add. Other times it’s because they believe they are supposed to be strong and have all the answers and think soliciting input makes them look weak. People in leadership roles are particularly vulnerable to finding themselves isolated from a huge source of important information – the people in their organization.
2. Lack of feedback
You don’t know what you don’t know. You need feedback to understand the impact of your actions. Just like it’s a good idea to take a look in a mirror occasionally to make sure the back of your hair is combed and you don’t have spinach on your teeth, you need to find out what you cannot see on your own. Feedback is the mirror that reflects your actions. Consider it a gift or you may find people avoid giving it to you.
3. External pressures
External pressure from others can cause people to make a decision to please someone and ignore their own best interest – for example the person who wanted to be an artist but who became a doctor to please her parents. Time pressure can also cause people to make a quick decision without thinking through the long-term consequences.
Self-doubt creates an over-reliance on other’s opinions and prevents you from trusting your own judgment. It can immobilize you from making a decision. Fear can cause you to make a decision that you know deep inside is not the best decision for you.
5. Irrational beliefs
Sometimes people move ahead with a decision they desperately want even though the warning signs are telling them not to. Sometimes they ignore the warning signs because they believe they can make it work through sheer willpower. Sometimes it’s a matter of magical thinking – “it will work out because I want it to work out.”
6. Lack of self-awareness
Lack of reflection can lead to random action. Remember the adage, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.” Take time for reflection and introspection to identify your core values. Knowing where you stand and what’s most important to you allows you to make decisions that consciously support what you hold most dearly.
7. Acting out
It’s important to acknowledge your feelings. Burying them is not healthy and can actually make you physically ill. However, recognizing how you feel does not mean you need to take action. Humans have a highly developed brain with a prefrontal cortex that allows us to override our animal instincts and keep from acting out our reactivity. Next time you get an email that annoys you, pause before you reply and give your prefrontal cortex an opportunity to kick into gear.
8. Selective perception
Human relations expert Ken Macher says we often miss the signals because we filter them out. He explains selective perception as a tendency that once you have made a decision, to focus only on information that confirms what what you believe and to discount information that sheds new light. The effect of selective perception can be observed right now in the United States in the polarization around the current presidential election.
Jesse Lyn Stoner, founder of Seapoint Center, works closely with leaders helping them create collaborative, engaged organizations that make a powerful and positive impact on the world. A business consultant, coach, former executive, and bestselling author, Jesse has worked in a wide range of industries including Fortune 500s, small startups, government agencies, and nonprofits. Her clients include Edelman, Marriott, SAP, Stanley, Skanska, The Hartford, and Yale University, to name a few.
Jesse is coauthor, with Ken Blanchard, of the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision which has been translated into 21 language. She is also coauthor of Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard et.al. And as a senior consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies, she helped create many of the programs and materials in the areas of vision, teams, and organization excellence.
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