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Shifting Into Mindfulness Reduces Stress, Improves Decision Making

Neuroscience has revealed that as humans we rely on a pair of hardwired processes for decision making. Using pattern recognition our brains assess what appears to be going on. We then react to this information, or ignore it, due to the emotional tags stored in our memories. While normally highly reliable, these two processes can and do let us down, particularly in times of stress or tiredness.

In a process that scientists call pattern recognition, our brains try to reflexively counter decision-making anxieties by narrowing and simplifying our options. This attempt to find certainty in uncertain situations leads to premature conclusions that are often based on previous successful approaches and which prevents more and better options to surface or be considered.

In a similar way, emotional tagging in our memories sends us signals as to whether or not to pay attention to something or someone and what sort of action we should be considering. Interestingly, neurological research now shows that when the parts of our brain controlling emotions are damaged we become slow and incompetent decision makers even though we retain the capacity for objective analysis. We all know how it feels to make poor decisions when we are being “emotionally hijacked.” Work Stress | Being Stressed at Work

Usually, the more stressful the circumstances being faced are, the more a leader needs to explore a wide range of options and potential solutions. Unfortunately, while relying on past experiences may create a false sense of comfort and confidence, limiting one’s options is more often than not a recipe for disaster and poor decision making.

Additionally, many poor decisions are made as a result of leaders feeling insecure about their positions, their career trajectories, their own confidence, and even what others may be thinking about them. Using mindfulness techniques and practices helps leaders remain mentally strong and capable of overcoming such insecurities.

Mindfulness has been proven to be a skillful method for stress reduction and all of the many associated ills and problems that result from accumulated stress. Additionally, stress reduction through mindfulness practices is a proven leadership performance advantage that comes with the side benefits of greater happiness, health, and well being.

Another decision-making peril caused by stress is the tendency for leaders, particularly new supervisors and mid-level leaders to start (or increase) micromanaging. If this happens frequently it can have significant long-term negative consequences for their teams, as micromanaging is cited as one of the most common reasons employees quit. No one likes to be micromanaged by their leader.

To read more on this important leadership topic, please download our free article Better Decision Making: From a Mind Full to a Mindful Leader

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