If you don’t control your mind, someone else will.

— John Allston

How do you make decisions?

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Are the decisions you are making strictly your own, or are they influenced by someone else?  Do you think you have control over your mind or that your mind has control over you?  Is junk food really what you want, or did someone else put that idea in your head?

I made some bad decisions in the past that yielded bad results.  These decisions were based on my experiences, knowledge, beliefs and feelings.

Went things went wrong, I used to blame it on everything and everyone.  I thought I was born with destructive desires and that there was nothing I could do to fix it.

First step: admitting blame

My negative desires were so powerful that I enjoyed them and I didn’t want to do anything about them because they gave me immediate pleasure.  Thinking about the future results of my negative behaviors was not one of my strong points.

There came a time when I admitted I was making wrong decisions and wanted to change.  I became hungry for knowledge.  This was the first time I challenged myself with questions that challenged societal norms.

The truth is that soon everything started to make sense to me.  I understood why people were different and why cultures have different beliefs.

For some people it is very difficult to ask questions that go against their beliefs because their life has been guided by those beliefs.  It would be like building a house, living a comfortable life there and suddenly demolishing it.

Overcome negative influences from the environment

I started studying why I’d been making bad decisions.  It was partly because of the information I got from friends, teachers, my parents, TV and my surroundings.  This is what we call environment: everything that surrounds us and affects us.

A social environment is usually designed by the beliefs of the majority.  For example, if most people say that the earth is flat, then most people believe it.  Or if most people say that diseases are genetic, most people believe it.  And when someone goes against these norms, they are seen as being out of touch.

So my research led me to understand that my brain was programmed according to the environment and that no one taught me how to control my feelings.  I had no control over my mind.

The difference between a computer and a human being is that we have feelings upon which we base our decisions.  Machines make decisions according to their programming only.

Even if I don’t want it to, environment does affect my brain.  The reality is that I can’t control my outside environment, but I can control how I respond to it.

environment diet factors_2

Negative influences within your environment

For instance, if there are commercials on TV that make a particular food sound very delicious and cheap, I can choose not to watch TV at all.  I can’t control the commercials, but I can control what I can do about it.

This is why I would avoid TV: I’ve learned that food commercials are designed to touch us in a deeper level.  They may play upon a feeling, such as happiness, boredom, depression and so on.  Remember that more than 85 percent of our actions are unconscious, so these commercials affect our unconscious decisions leading us to choose these specific foods.

Friends

My friends can also affect my decisions. Sometimes we choose what our friends choose simply because we want to be accepted by them.  By choosing the same foods, even though we know these foods are not good, we feel accepted.  However, if I want to control what I eat, I need to control my decisions, but I can’t control my friend’s decisions, including their rejection.  I might want to find new friends.

Common wisdom

So-called common wisdom is another way environment affects me.  I used to trust authority, but now I question everything, and I make sure I find real research that backs up any statement. I use common sense as well.  I noticed that believing without questioning put me on the wrong path. Therefore I don’t take action without doing my own research.  (Well, I can still be foolish once in a while but not that often and soon I get back in track).

Environment will always affect the decisions I’ll make in the future.  However, I can also affect my environment by choosing what to watch, what to read and who to be with, and by actively searching for knowledge.

“It is virtually impossible to understand how biology works outside the context of environment.”

–Dr. Robert Sapolsky

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