State of Mind and Decision Making

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“Greed is good.”  – Gordon Gekko

When assessing a situation that involves personal gain, we tend to overestimate the positives and underestimate the fallout from failure. Our greed for the upside or the win blinds us to the consequences of losing.

Think about the following situation: “That job listing is perfect for me. I will get that job no matter what it takes.”

The problem is not an emotional one, but a physical one. When we are happy or excited, our body releases a chemical called dopamine into our bloodstream. Dopamine doesn’t calm us down, instead, it reinforces these feelings of excitement and enthusiasm. 

Your brain on dopamine

AI image created by author

What’s the big deal with being happy or excited about something? Unfortunately, it clouds our judgment – in a big way. As the dopamine courses through your body, sometimes the sensation can be overwhelming and almost euphoric. In addition to our interest in the job listing, things like sugar, social media, and other stimuli cause the body to release dopamine.

We do not want to make important decisions when we are in this state of mind and body. In one sense, we can’t help it, the dopamine release is a natural part of our biology. On the other hand, look up Dopamine Detox and you will find suggestions like “stay off your phone for a while.”

With any big decision, (I call them Tectonic Decisions), we must go slowly and deliberately. Tectonic Decisions can affect the trajectory of your life, so no snap judgements here, please.

How do we avoid happiness getting in the way of our decisions? I suggest a simple checklist.

Before getting near that job listing, make a list of the things that you must know and be satisfied with in order to take that job. For example:

  • Is travel required?

  • What is the reputation of the owner?

  • What are former employees saying about the company?

  • Is the average employee tenure short or long?

  • Have you personally tested the company’s product or service?

I think you get the idea. Create the list well in advance of looking at any job listing, so the list remains objective and not twisted by your bias for wanting a certain job.

These are simple steps that will prevent you from Being Blinded by the Upside, which is one of the Seven Deadly Stupidities.

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