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The Collected Papers of Joseph Riggio

How to Overcome the Social Influences That Affect a Person's Ability to Decide


This is a copyright free article. You may publish this article on your own website as content, provided you retain the author credit, bio and link back to www.generativenlp.com contained at the bottom of the article.  

Effective decision-making is the key to an effective life. If we can't overcome the forces of inertia that set in prior to some decisions, then we'll either end up on a path of avoidance, repeating similar life struggles over and over and never getting anywhere, or we'll lack the resolution we need to deal with the thousand practical consequences of any decision, whether it's for or against what we really want.

The result of the process of growing up is the legacy of social influence. Many of us, having felt pain as a result of people reacting poorly to our decisions, have a high degree of sensitivity to others' reactions well into our adult life. And so, when we're faced with tough decisions, we still think in terms of how our friends, family, or other significant adults and peers in our past will think about them. We might have an opportunity to invest in a promising start-up business, but turn it down because we're worried about what our parents will say. We might want to explore a new skill, hobby, or creative outlet, but decide against it because a former teacher told us we were no good. Or we might be interested in beginning a new relationship, but ultimately avoid pursuing it because we don't want to "test" the other person's feelings.

We have a choice in how we respond to this legacy of influence. We can tell ourselves that we're victims of our pasts, that it's really not our fault that we can't make a decision about our lives, or that no one can really expect anything better out of us. Or - more effectively - we can ignore the past and overcome the legacy of influence, overcome the social influences that affect our ability to decide.

But that's easier said than done, right? Wrong. One of the biggest obstacles people face when trying to learn to decide independently - without relying on negative social influences - is the tendency to over think their decisions. Once we start thinking too much about a decision - or, in other words, once we start saying rather than just doing - our minds begin to slip back into old reaction patterns, the very socially-influenced patterns of thought that we ultimately want to escape. If we try to think our way out of every possible risk we might face, one of two things will happen: either we'll decide on the "safe" outcome - which may not be the best outcome for us - or we'll refrain from deciding at all - which is never the best outcome.

Avoidant patterns of thinking also play into the other major obstacle we face when trying to decide independently: negatively formed outcomes. According to the theory of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), all of our intentions are ultimately positive intentions. This isn't normally a problem, but problems can result if we avoid thinking of our intentions as positive, and instead couch them in negative terms. For example, we may ultimately desire a stable relationship, but we say to ourselves: "I don't want to be hurt by relationships again." NLP's account of the mind asserts that we have a difficult time processing negative statements like this: instead of processing them as a single negative goal, we focus our attention on the one positive term in the statement, which is the thing we're trying to avoid. When we think that we don't want to be hurt by relationships, we're really only thinking of being hurt by relationships: we're focusing on where we don't want to be, instead of where we're going.

How do we get out of this negative trap? By making sure that all of our intentions are well-formed, positive intentions. Instead of thinking that we don't want to be hurt, we need to think about what kind of relationship we want instead. Instead of wishing to avoid unhappiness, we need to think about what'll make us happy. When we work out a maze in a puzzle book, we might start from the center of the maze - the outcome - and work our way back to the starting point. Similarly, when we think of positive goals, we know where we want to be, and we can start thinking - but not for too long - about what kinds of decisions will lead us there.

Ultimately, all of this boils down to one idea: we need to think of our decisions as actions that lead us to results, not as markers of our personality, our failings, or anything else about us. When we think about decisions as markers of personality - and we'll start to think that, if we hesitate too much in our decisions - we start to think about social influences, and we're drawn back into our old quicksand patterns of thought. Instead, think quickly, think positively, and think about decisions as actions. If we do this, then we're well on our way to overcoming the social influences that stand in the path of our decision-making.

Generative NLP are a refreshingly plain spoken resource and training centre for the MythoSelf® Process that is based in South West London and was founded in 2001 by Charles Moore who is one of only a handful of people who has the privilege of being in a close mentoring relationship with the models creator, Joseph Riggio Ph.D. from the beginning. 

For more articles or information visit
www.generativenlp.com
info@generativenlp.com

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