Managing Emotions in the Decision Making Process



Part of being mindful and learning how to be in the now also requires managing emotions in the decision making process.  There is a lot of interesting research on this and today I will share with you some perspective on the topic.

Expected Emotions

Not sure what to order?  How are your emotions influencing you?

More often than not, many of our decisions are based on the emotions that we anticipate will happen.  For example, being unsure of what to order at a restaurant because you expect to be disappointed with the choice.  This particular example is one that I have struggled with in the past myself, do I get what I know I will like again or do I try something new?

Why don’t we delve into my personal experience with this a little more to help shine some light on the situation.

“I don’t get to go out to nice restaurants all to often as it is just not in our financial budget to do so.  So when we do go out to eat at a nice place, I have been conflicted with what to order.  I know there are things I like, but I also know I would probably like some of the other things on the menu too.

When I am sitting at the table looking at the menu there are all kinds of emotions that are influencing my decision on what to eat.  There is the fear of getting something that I won’t like and losing out on this opportunity to eat out.  There is the eager anticipation of finding a new and great tasting food.  So I have both positive and negative emotions pulling me in different directions!

Do I try that special?  Will I like it?

As you can see here making my decision is a lot like weighing out the pros and cons of something.  Will the fear of disappointment overrule my anticipation of tasting something new and good or visa versa?  What happened the last time I went out to eat can influence that as well.  What choice did I make that time and how did I feel about it?

This type of emotion is basically used by you in the process of rationalizing your decision.  We go back and forth with ourselves, weighing out the various emotions that we feel about the subject and then make a decision based off what we feel most comfortable with.

Actual Emotions

A fear of water can be a strong emotion to overcome.

These differ from immediate emotions as they not always related to the anticipated decision and can often be irrational.  For example, someone that has a fear of water may choose another way around having to take a boat.  Even if the probability of danger is less via the boat, the outright fear that they have can cause them to make a decision to take the more dangerous path.

Here is another personal situation I would like to share to help provide some more perspective:

“My wife having some bad experiences with water at a young age now has a healthy fear of going into various water sources.  She is always very adamant about not wanting to go kayaking with me despite the various safety measures that we take.

I got to talking with a friend of ours that has done some weekend kayaking camping trips that sounded really cool.  My wife and I love to go camping, but I knew she did not like the water.  My friend assured me though that the next place he was looking at going to was very tame water, so I agreed to at least ask my wife.

Needless to say that as soon as she understood that there was water travel involved I got an immediate “No!”  There was no discussion, as it was over.”

Finding a healthy balance can help eliminate fear from decisions

In this example the actual emotion of fear was so intense that it immediately overrode any expected emotions that may have been used to rationalize the decision.  Instead this strong feeling of fear plays the trump card right off the bat.  My wife didn’t even want to hear about how mild the river was that we would kayak down.

Finding a Healthy Balance

Now that you have a better perspective on the types of emotions that affect our decisions, you are already on your way to managing your decisions better.  Let’s take a look at a few more ways that you can use to help yourself create the life that you really want to.

The next thing that you need to understand is that emotions can play double roles, easily bouncing back and forth from positive to negative.  It is not the emotion itself that actually prescribes to positive or negative, but rather the end result.  For example Love can bring both joy and pain.

A great movie to watch the realization of overcoming fear with courage.

You also need some emotions in order to have other ones.  I learned a great example of this the other year when watching the movie Green Lantern.  In this movie the character that becomes the Green Lantern learns that in order to have courage he must first be afraid and willing to stand up to that fear.

Patience can also play a very keen role in helping you to find and maintain a healthy balance of your emotions.  All to often we are ready to jump to a conclusion without really thinking about all of the important factors.  Learning how to slow things down for yourself and allowing your expected emotions to help you rationalize your decision is a big step.

The following here is an example from my life showing at various points how I learned to better manage my emotions in my decision making process:

“When I was a young child I was a very picky eater and that was because I had an active emotion of fear that kept me on a very narrow path.  I would fight tooth and nail over trying new things, to the extent that I would actually make myself sick when I did try the new item.

It wasn’t until I was a few years older, maybe around my very early teens, that I was in a position where I had to try a food that I had always hated before and that was Brussel sprouts.  However, this time I stood up to my fear right off the bat before I could get myself all worked up and guess what?  I loved them!

When faced with having to try them again I just did and found out I love them!

Fast forward a few decades and now my youngest son Alex is just like I was when I was young.  He let’s his emotions cloud his judgements when it comes to food too.

Alex has a extreme dislike of meatloaf after coming down with the flu right after eating it one time.  Now one day I made burgers using my same recipe and he loved the burger, said it was one of the best he ever ate.  Next time I made meatloaf I tried telling him that it was the same as that burger, but he was unmoved as he was still stuck on his active emotional fear.”

I am sure that you can see now with my various examples of how I have made a transition in my life.  When I was younger I let my active emotions rule over my judgements despite the fact that they were not rational.  As I got older though I learned how to be patient and allow my expected emotions to help balance out how I decide on things.

More Content

The following links are to other articles that I have written here that play hand in hand with this discussion.  I would highly recommend taking a look at these as well:

Article: Mindfulness - Why it is Important
Article: Mindfulness – Why it is Important

Other sites from around the Web:

In Closing…

I hope that I was able to shed some light and perspective on how emotions play a role in our decision making process for you.  I would love to hear about examples from your life and how emotions have played a role in your decisions.  Please share them with us in the comment section below, remember maybe your example will be the eye opener that someone else needs!

James W D

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6 Replies to “Managing Emotions in the Decision Making Process”

  1. What a great topic for a discussion! When I think about my 20s, the most destructive emotion that led me to many wrong decisions was insecurity. It affected how I spent money, how I behaved and even the career choices I made. It is until I started to learn about who I really am and the purpose of my life, I continuously let my emotions control my decisions.
    Couple years ago, I happened to hear a lesson about ‘Free Will’. The instructor said that ‘Free Will’ is not about deciding whether we want to eat salad or pizza. It is an ability to choose the salad when we want to eat pizza. That simple sentence touched my heart deeply. Ever since that lesson, I’ve been trying to practice my ‘Free Will’, not letting my emotions make decisions rather my true will/desire to make decisions.
    To me, the biggest reason that I want to practice this is because freedom and enjoyment that I’ve experienced. I didn’t realize that I was living like a prisoner with a lot of emotional chains. I still have many of those that I continue to work on 🙂 but I am grateful for the awareness.
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this!

    • Young, first off thank you for sharing your story with us. I can certainly understand how that statement on Free Will impacted your life. With such a complex subject drilled down into such a simple statement I can see how it did! I would definitely keep working on practicing it (I would also replace the word trying with working on it as it makes a big difference to our subconscious). Also, being grateful is an excellent tool to continue to help your efforts to make these changes in your life, so keep it up!

  2. Hi James, great article, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely an eye opener about letting our emotions cloud our judgement. Your restaurant example was interesting, and one I could definitely relate to, although I had never thought of it in terms of a fear, or even anything approaching an “issue.” I don’t eat out very often either, although for different reasons, but when I do, especially if it’s a place I’ve been to before, I tend to order the same thing because I know it’s good, and the new thing might not be. If I go someplace new then it’s all up for grabs.

    • Thank you for your kind words Hindy, I really appreciate it. While I also don’t consider it an “issue” for myself, it still illustrates how are emotions are helping to determine our decisions. Yes though, I am just like you I get the same thing all the time when I am familiar with the place, lol. Maybe you are right and I just need to start going to new places to help!

  3. Hi James! I loved all of your real life examples and as I was reading along, I could identify with every one of them in some form. I am constantly led by my emotions, usually fear of the unknown, and it has caused so much turmoil in my life. I am not, normally, a risk taker (that fear thing); however, recently I have actively forced myself to face the fear and take some risks that I never would have just a few years ago. One technique I’ve used to help conquer the fear and take some risks, is thru meditation. Living in the present, not the future “what ifs”. Now, that’s not always appropriate, but in my case it turned out for the best! Thanks, again, for another great post!

    • Barb, I am glad that my examples helped you to identify with the point I was looking to get across here. Fear of the unknown is probably mankind’s biggest issue when it comes to emotions and decisions. Being in the now definitely helps to ease that burden, and if you keep working it I bet you will overcome it! Thanks for sharing you experience as well!

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