One Surprising Influence That Can Derail Your Decisions

Patrick McDaniel is the founder of WiseInsights.net, which combines practical research and timeless wisdom to help you keep moving forward despite the challenges of life. Want to learn about 49 other decision making distortions? Download the infographic: 50 Hidden Influences That Can Wreck Your Decisions.

Why do you aspire to be a leader?

Let’s be honest. We want to be leaders because we like leading and influencing people and organizations toward better things. We like impacting lives.

But impacting lives can also be risky.

If you are a leader (in any context like work, family, ministries/organizations), one thing that is unavoidable—

Your decisions WILL impact the lives of others. For good…or for bad.

That is a sobering reality.

 

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” –Roy Disney.

 

Making Decisions as a Leader – An Unseen Danger

Here’s where it gets downright scary: There are factors at play in any decision you make that are often hidden and frequently mess up your best intentions.

These factors are like little gremlins that hijack your ability to make an unbiased decision. That can mess up not only your life but also those you lead.

Let me show you how just one of these distortion factors (technically known as “cognitive biases”) can screw up even your best efforts to make sound decisions…and how to combat it.

 

“We all make choices, but in the end our choices make us.” –Ken Levine

 

One Common Corrupting Influence You Can’t See

One common decision making influencer is called priming. Just like the proverbial “priming the pump,” we are influenced in certain directions when we are first “primed” by another variable.

Here are some bizarre-but-true examples of the priming effect. You can find these discussed in detail in the brilliant book Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

 

“It’s in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” –Tony Robbins

 

The Surprising Results of One Research Study

In a test performed by Psychology Professor John Bargh, participants were asked to do a word puzzle. One group received random words to work on while the second group got random words that were sprinkled with words associated with the elderly.

The words sprinkled in did NOT contain any explicit words like “old” or “elderly.” Instead, they were things like: Florida, forgetful, bald, gray, wrinkle.

When each group was done, they were asked to go down the hall to participate in a second experiment. In truth, the whole point of the experiment was found in that hallway.

What did the researchers discover?

  • The group that had the elderly related words walked down the hallway “significantly more slowly” than the other group.
  • This test group was subconsciously conditioned (primed!) to increase their awareness of the state of being elderly. Unknown to them, they were sort of identifying with this topic.
  • None of the participants were even aware of the elderly related words or of their slower walk. Instead, they insisted the earlier word puzzle had no effect on their subsequent behavior.

This is very common with these hidden influencers–you insist you are not influenced by them. This is one reason they are such a problem for us…they pull us off course while we insist that they haven’t.

Were the results of the above experiment a fluke? Read on.

 

“Not to decide is to decide.” -Harvey Cox

 

More Revealing Results from a Second Research Study

In another experiment with two different groups of study participants, one group was unknowingly primed with rude words and concepts while the other group was primed with politeness-type stimuli. They then recorded how participants in each group interacted with a neutral party on an unrelated topic.

You don’t need me to tell you how this turned out.

Researchers found that the individuals who had been primed with rude stimuli interrupted the experimenter and their peers three times more frequently than the participants who had been primed with polite stimuli.

 

This unseen influence can impact your behavior positively or negatively by a magnitude of 3X.

 

Hmmm… another coincidence?

Keep reading.

Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

Refire!

Most of us are looking forward to retirement. When that day finally arrives, what’s next?

Do you know someone who has recently retired and is struggling with lack of purpose?

How do you make the rest of your life meaningful and impactful?

Bestselling author Ken Blanchard of The One Minute Manager and psychologist Dr. Morton Shaevitz don’t believe in chance meetings. When they met on a flight from San Diego to New York, the two discussed the issues of aging.  Instead of the “best years are behind us” approach they decided to write a book about making life in your later years more meaningful than ever.

 

“Retiring suggests shutting down. Refiring means engaging in life.” -@DrMHShaevitz

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Morton Shaevitz about the new book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.

Reframing Retirement

Many people think “retirement” is the happy destination. Your new bookRefire! Don’t Retire gives different advice.  What does it mean to refire?

Refiring is a process where the primary focus is not on career advancement, financial gain, or specific types of achievements, but rather, healthy living, warm and significant relationships, continued learning and cognitive growth, vitality and meaningful involvement, and the development of a personal sense of spirituality. Retiring suggests shutting down. Refiring means engaging in life.

 

Refire Emotionally

  1. You start with “refiring emotionally.” Why is that first?

There isn’t any particular reason this was first, but being socially isolated has been shown to contribute to emotional and physical decline. So that makes it a good jumping off point. Identifying those people who are meaningful in our lives, building stronger connections, reaching out to new people, opening up, and getting close can also sometimes help to establish a good foundational support system for your refiring process.

 

Fact: Being socially isolated contributes to emotional and physical decline.