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tonya mead

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Deciding with Deliberation and without Desperation
By tonya mead   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, January 17, 2009
Posted: Wednesday, January 07, 2009

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This article provides helpful advice for making solid, sound decisions in the midst of uncertainty, stress and confusion.

 By: Tonya Foust Mead

President-elect Obama described the US economy as “very sick.” After discussing the severity of the situation with his economic team, he further elaborated, “The situation is getting worse. We have to act and act now to break the momentum of this recession.”

 While the ‘act now’ phrase may send a resounding message to legislative policy makers and corporate decision makers—caution is required to avoid making decisions in desperation. Decisions, which we may regret later. Please see the examples below for the consequences of hasty decisions.

 Consumers Poor Decision Making

  • A recent survey of 52 national chain stores by the Retail Industry Leaders Association showed that 84% have experienced an increase in petty theft in recent months. Loss prevention experts indicate that the increase is due in part to average people making faulty decisions as a result of a poor economy. Approximately 80% reported an increase in organized crime activities conducted by professional crime rings. 
  • ABC News reported yesterday, five-month old  La’Damian Barton’s mother almost died this week from ingesting watered-down bay formula his mother gave him to cut the household expenses.

Political Leaders and CEOs Poor Decisions

  • Bank of America, PNC financial Services Group, US Bancorp to name a few have used their allotment of the $700 TARP initiative to re-capitalize and finance mergers and acquisitions of other banks. These buyout deals have done relatively little to increase lending to consumers and to spur spending; the purported purpose of TARP.

Unmanaged Stress and Negative Emotions

According to sixteen years of research undertaken by the Institute of HeartMath, ‘our emotions are much more important in the decision-making process than previously thought.’ The poor choices we make in haste are often the byproduct of unmanaged emotions and stress. When we are calm, our decisions are less biased and influenced by emotion-laden worries and fears. Stress is one of the barriers to sound decision making: 

An estimated 75-90% of visits to primary-care physicians are for stress-related problems. According to the Institute, confusion, irritability, frustration, anxiety, anger severely impacts effective decision making.

Further, the organization,  ThinkQuest  reports that decision-makers, when under stress, lose concentration, and hinder their ability to learn (perceive new information).  In fact, chronic stress may damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

How to Lessen Negative Effects of Stress and Minimize Negative Emotions

1. Changed Attitudes. Think to yourself, “ No, its not the worst of times, but the best of times.” The Real Estate Network encouraged its readers that recessionary times provide ample opportunities to buy inventory and supplies at a discount. Interest rates and financing terms, it reports are lower too. Also it adds that construction work is considerably cheaper to include real estate properties.

The lyrics to the song, ‘I Got a New Attitude,’ by Patti Labelle serves as a perfect mantra for constant repetition during these times is very effective as it destroys the root cause of the ‘stress.’ New ways of perceiving the situation provides a calmer environment prevents panic and eases the mind.

 2. Develop Conditioned Responses. When confronted with a stressor or stressful situation, kids are taught to stop and slowly count to five. Adults may visualize something calming (picture the beach, mountainside, waterfall, etc). Or taking a deep breath and exhale slowly might do the trick. The key, each person should develop a conditioned response unique to individual tastes and temperament.

3. Get Physical. Jogging, taking a walk around the block.  Rising from the executive chair to stretch are all proven ways of reducing the negative effects of stress. Hitting a punching bag, intimacy with your partner, regular exercise and twirling stress balls (for the sedentary) are also helpful.

 4. Step Away. Walk away temporarily from the person and/or situation causing you stress. Step away from the decision at hand. Think through the issue or problem. Can a decision wait until tomorrow? After thinking though the situation and analyzing all possible choices, determine what would be the consequences of leaving things as they are for now and returning to it again after the crisis simmers down. You’ll be surprised.

The purpose of this article isn’t to tout indecision and procrastination. Rather, it is to offer pause, to encourage reflection, and a new way of looking at things.  Maybe the current problem isn’t so life threatening after all. Suppose we are repeatedly presented with certain troubles to help us face that which we fail to learn?  It could be that the larger question is not for us to manage the symptoms or the condition occurring externally, but to work on changing the patient (ourselves) instead.

Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at:






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