Coach's Corner

Deceptive Perceptions

Perception – a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something.

Have you ever regretted a decision or used hindsight to realize that you could have done something better? We all have. Quick decisions are usually made because we’ve gotten used to believing the patterns our mind puts together. We create perceived facts from our notions and turn them into decisions as quickly as possible because we’re so focused on needing to quickly step forward. This speedy decision-making process often doesn’t bridge us to better outcomes but instead causes us to progress at a much slower pace. So what’s one of the best ways to improve your decision-making? Disempower deceptive perceptions!

What is decision making?

Decision-making falls into the idea that you have recognized and selected a course of action that you believe will lead to a specific result. For example, you decide to thaw frozen food because it will improve the cooking process. In the workplace you might choose to call a client instead of e-mailing them because it will build a stronger relationship. The result you believe you will achieve is what drives the process of moving into action.

It might feel like common sense, but you actively decide to move forward with a particular process because you’ve preemptively chosen your motivation and desired outcomes. This happens continuously in your brain both quickly (impulse) and after consideration (decisions).

What is perception?

Perception is the result of taking information in and drawing a conclusion. Perception plays a vital role in the decision-making process because it (often deceptively) fortifies the decisions you are making as you make them. For example, you might perceive a conversation with a coworker as not going well because their facial expressions seem negative. This, in turn, gets you to end the conversation quickly. Alternatively, you might perceive a food you are about to try is not going to taste good because it looks gray and mushy. This makes you push your plate away and deny the new experience. These perceptions cause you to draw conclusions that inevitably get you to act. The conclusions drawn generally stem from patterns you’ve learned or ideas that have been somehow repeated in your lifetime.

How can perception alter my decision making?

Logically, if you have a predisposition to a topic or believe in already having essential information, you’ll want to take action automatically. After all, if perception is derived from repetition or pattern, your brain will crave fitting the pieces of a puzzle to a narrative the perception has created.

There are three drivers for perception:

  1. Motivational State – what factors are influencing me?
  2. Emotional State – what emotions are affecting your mindset in the moment?
  3. Experience – how does this correlate to things you have learned?

These three factors will alter the momentary perception of how you handle a current situation.

Think about a time at work when you were presented with a new project (or case). Did your mindset affect how you wanted to tackle the issue? Was it the end of the day, and you felt rushed? Was it around lunchtime, and you needed energy? Was it something you’ve handled before? All the responses to these questions likely affected how, and at what speed, you took action. The perception you built surrounding the project (case) directly affected your actions (decisions) toward resolution.

How do I fortify my decision-making process?

It all starts with gathering information. Perception contains bias, so your goal is to discover what data you have and what other information you could collect. Once you have gone through your discovery period, you’ll want to consider your options and pick the most effective one. Weigh that strategy and feel out if the expected outcome delivers the original goal to the decision. What you’re trying to achieve should directly reflect the approach you take. If it doesn’t, or if you are acting on impulse, perception is likely getting in the way of a fortified decision-making process.

To create a strong decision, consider the following questions in order:

  1. What is your goal in one, easy-to-understand sentence?
  2. What information do you clearly have?
  3. What information are you assuming you have?
  4. What actions can you take to gather additional information you might be missing?
  5. What strategy can you develop that aligns with your goal from question number one?
  6. What are other strategies you can develop that also align with your goal?
  7. What potential outcomes can come from your top strategy?
  8. What actions will help you achieve your goal?

Once these questions have been thoroughly examined, you will have a clearer picture of a decision that removes perception and follows a more profound decision-making process.

Analysis Paralysis

Overthinking happens to all of us sometimes. This leads to an inability to act. Although some might jump to anxiety as the source of this problem, the true culprit is likely fear. Being scared of making an incorrect decision causes you to replay a situation repeatedly. You’ll want to make sure to recognize the moments you are fearful of making a move by building the following self-imposed boundaries:

  • Give yourself a deadline to decide. You can’t just sit in the discovery period or allow yourself to sit inside the decision-fortifying questions. Set a deadline to have a firm decision for direction.
  • Get rid of any decision that doesn’t help you. Narrow down what you’re doing to help yourself. If you are leaning towards a decision that does not support your overall goal, get rid of the thought. It’s just building more barricades you don’t need.
  • Follow the process. The reminder that you explored the above questions should give you additional confidence that you thought through deeper solutions. This should automatically translate into releasing you from some of the fear because you can clearly explain why your plan of action follows logic.

Regretting impulsive decisions can lead to constant paralysis, particularly in the workplace. Improving your decision-making can improve overall confidence, mood, ability to achieve, and ability to strengthen relationships. It leads to communicating with a deeper level of explanation that helps to find more substantial avenues for growth internally and with everyone around you. Consider whether impulsivity from perception is occurring or if you could take the proper time to think through your next steps. When in doubt, explore the decision-making process by asking yourself what you know compared to what you perceive. Once you see the difference between the two, decisions will become more robust, and you’ll notice a stronger balance in your day.

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