I find myself rushing to conclusions more often these days. Sometimes I worry that I’m missing important considerations, sometimes I don’t.
Fortunately, like the vast majority of us, I’m right more often than I’m wrong. If humans were wrong more often than right, the universe would move at a snail’s pace. If we had to think about routine tasks every time we had to perform them, our conscious minds would be totally overloaded. So we find shortcuts, and that’s not new to human beings.
Part of our eagerness to “just make a decision!” comes from our ancient survival instincts. The faster we can sum up a situation, the more likely we are to make the best of it, and maybe come out the other side alive. When our ancestors first started to truly reason and contemplate potential consequences, they had already been using some form of verbal language/sounds for a long time. But soon enough, they needed a new phrase, a new concept altogether: “what if?”
This stuff fascinates me. Our ability to consider complex consequences in a somewhat uncertain future with partial information is perhaps one of the most important human developments of all time. We plan, at some level, almost constantly, but most of it is subconscious.
Interestingly, another absolutely critical human intelligence milestone was the ability to draw, or to “depict” as scientists like to say. But this is important, because combined with the ability to plan and anticipate consequences was when influence really took hold as a leadership method. Before that we could only threaten, now we could persuade.
Influence in leadership is like chocolate in a Hershey bar. Incredibly, some leaders still rely on fear and intimidation to get results through other people. That’s not just outdated, it’s primitive. Sometimes it helps to remember that when you’re up against a leader whose style is all bluster and threats.
Back to my our propensity to rush to conclusions. My brain is lazy. But wait, so is yours, according to David Eagleman in “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain”. It simply takes more time and energy to imagine and deliberate potential solutions and courses of action. Both hemispheres of our brains need to engage, and one wins.
So, when energy and time are limited and finite, our brains learn shortcuts which get reinforced quickly. We develop successful habits this way. While faster decisions can enable faster action and improve our odds of success against a physical threat, often times it pays to think through a situation when the stakes are high. Some of us have to fight against this more diligently than others.
As the Car Talk guys say, sometimes we’re “unencumbered by the thought process”. Who hasn’t been every now and then?