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The Zone
The Zone : The Decision Zone

The Zone

The Decision Zone

By Tom Evans

« The Time Zone

Entrepreneurs, artists and performers who reach the pinnacle all did so by making good decisions, at just the right time.

Some may well have had decisions made for them. An agent might well have got them a deal or a gig that shot them into the spotlight. Many an entrepreneur finds their niche after being made redundant. We know that the decisions we make today influence all our tomorrows.

Now our senses are bombarded by billions of bits of information every second, while the normal human conscious mind is only capable of holding one thought at a time.

Thankfully many life dependent processes work autonomously. Most of the time our body decides our heart and breathing rates for us. Our blood chemistry is a fantastically complex, self-regulating system.

Our unconscious mind too is continually scanning for nuggets of information that may be of use to us. If you are talking to someone in a crowded, noisy room and if someone else mentions your name in an adjacent conversation, you will often pick it out.

So with this huge difference in data rates between our unconscious and conscious processes, how do we ever hope make any decisions?

Some people seem to consistently make the wrong choices. They can be unlucky in love and life. Others seem to never put a foot wrong and land on their feet all the time. Is there perhaps a lucky ‘decision’ gene that some are blessed with?

Let's take a simple choice between two options as an example.

Let's say you are in a new town and out looking for somewhere good to eat. You come to a T-junction and don't know whether to turn left or right. There seems to be lights and activity both ways. Unbeknown to you, to the left lies a group of muggers and to the right there is a restaurant with fabulous food and a special offer of a free starter.

Incidentally, when I ‘chose’ this example out of all the millions of possible illustrations, I had no idea if it was strong enough, or even relevant, as an example to support the brief explanations below. I just worked on trust.

Nowadays of course, we can look up information ahead of time and check out restaurant reviews on the Internet. We could always ask a passer-by. This glut of terabytes of daily increasing information can also lead to overload and indecision. Often though we have to rely on our intuition and gut instinct. Only after the event will we pick up enough 20:20 hindsight to know if we made the right call.

Fortunately when it comes to making a decision we have not one but three cognitive processing centres. The secret to getting them in alignment leads us to the place where we rarely put a foot wrong and good fortune comes into our world as a result.

The obvious decision making centre we possess is our brain. Our brains are bilateral in function, with the two hemispheres processing information slightly differently. As mentioned, for most people our right outer cortex sees the whole vision. In our example above, it will see there are two choices to be made. The left outer cortex will be checking for details. It will process smells wafting on the breeze. It will decipher sounds that could indicate a lurking group of aggressive youths, or plates clanking and cutlery clinking.

Classically and obviously the signals feeding our main organ of awareness are our main senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

At a lower more subtle level, two other mind centres operate silently on our behalf. Our heart centre informs us if it likes or even loves the ‘look’ of one direction over an other. Our gut mind informs us about the safety of one course of action over another. Remember that these two mind centres also operate a few seconds ahead of our conscious mind.

These centres are what the animal kingdom use and rely on constantly for survival. They are still active in humans but quite often overridden by the loudness of the chatter in our conscious mind. If you ever hear yourself say, “I wish I’d trusted my gut or followed my heart”, then you have witnessed that override in operation. So it pays dividends to reconnect and strengthen these connections if they have atrophied somewhat.

Now I hope you are not more confused about making decisions at the end of this article than at the beginning. Let me leave you with two notions for now that might at first sound paradoxical.

First, one model of our world is that we live our lives backwards but experience them forwards.

Second, it is a paradox of our existence that everything is preordained while we still have free will to change absolutely anything.

You can now of course make a decision to ignore both statements and dismiss them as bunkum. If you take this latter view, you may also decide to read no further.

You may also decide to find out why these statements might not be as paradoxical as they first seem. If you need a carrot to help you read on, it is simply this.

Each of us has one simple decision to make.

We can choose to live a life that is hard and to continually push water uphill. Alternatively, we can walk in grace and ease and go with the flow. •

Next: The Negative Zone »

Tom Evans Renaissance Man and Imagineer Tom Evans is the author of four books and counting about creativity. More »

Updated 1/18/15