How To Make Decisions In Business And Life at 11 Million Bits a Second

How To Make Decisions In Business And Life at 11 Million Bits a Second

Kimi Werner spun around and saw a great white shark staring back at her. See Kimi was a free diver and was used to diving huge lengths into the ocean and holding her breath for a cool 4 or so minutes, but she had never seen a huge beast lurking behind her.

Her mind told her to panic and escape, but instead she decided to do something most wouldn’t.

She followed her feelings.

She slowed down her heart rate and swam slowly towards the shark.

This is what happened next.

kimi werner shark
(Image courtesy of

Kimi and the shark basically hung out in the ocean swimming together hand in fin like best buddies.

Now 99.9% of people in the ocean who had a few gulps of air left in their lungs may not have reacted the same way. They would have likely followed their thoughts and would have tried to swim away from the great white shark losing breath. And we can all guess how that would end.

So what’s my point? Thinking can be detrimental to our decision-making when it’s coming from a place of fear.

How to use Feelings Instead of Thoughts in Decision Making

So what do great white sharks and business have to do with each other, I hear you cry?

Well, we are all facing metaphorical great white sharks in our lives all the time.

For example, if you own a small business you will come up against a myriad of difficult decisions such as:

  • Should I hire Joe or Bob?
  • Should I take that crazy business deal or work independently?
  • Should I spend $1,000 on Google Adwords or spend it on R&D?
  • Should I buy a Nespresso coffee machine because George Clooney has one?

Here’s an amazing secret to decision making.

There’s a way to make decisions in a way that gives you an instant answer without having to flip flop back and forth in pain looking for an answer.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Use the non-verbal part of your brain to make your decision.

The non-verbal part of your brain processes information at 11 million bits per second instead of only 44 bits per second as per your “thinking” verbal brain.

The non-verbal part of your brain is the part that clicks in when you don’t think or don’t have time to think. For example it’s the part that helps mothers jump through burning buildings to save their children, or the part that tells you to stay away from someone even though rationally you have no reason to fear them and later on you were glad you did.

The cool thing about making decisions with this part of your brain is that it produces decisions from a place of calmness instead of fight or flight and in a way that aligns with what you deeply want, not what you think you want. It’s basically a hec of a lot more accurate and efficient than your verbal brain.

So here’s an exercise by the fabulous writer Martha Beck to hone in on your non-verbal decision making skills.

  1. Think of someone that you love, that is generally honest, and you feel comfortable around. (No one is perfect, but pick the person who is the closest to this description. Or you could pick a dog, or failing that, a tree). Now think about how you feel in your body. Write it down. This feeling is a signal of what is true for you. (For me it feels like a clearness and lightness in my upper body.)
  2. Now think of something you once believed but later found out wasn’t true. (Perhaps you thought someone was great, but then realized they were deeply flawed. Or you may have believed rules you were told as a child, but then realized they weren’t true.) While holding this belief, even if you believed it, you might have felt uneasy in your body. Describe these feelings. This is a signal of something that is false for you. (For me it feels like major tightness and constriction in my upper body, like I am being strangled from inside.)

Now go back and forth between these two feelings of true and false. Feel the difference?

Congratulations. You now know how to make decisions based on the non-verbal part of your brain.

You are basically now the equivalent of Neo from The Matrix.

If you are faced with a difficult decision, visualize the different solutions you have in mind and see which give you the feelings of truth and lies. And bingo, you have your solution.

I just suggest you don’t try it on a shark first, and try it on something smaller, like when deciding to buy an office Chihuahua or Nespresso machine. Then move up to bigger fish (pardon the pun.)

Now go forth. Try this out this week and send me a tweet or pigeon post to tell me how it goes @bdgllp.

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