When we develop and cultivate self-awareness, the backbone of Emotional Intelligence, we train ourselves to read the cues our body sends and avoid risky decisions.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard from different sources that emotions hinder our ability to make sound decisions because they make us weak, ineffective, and interfere with our discernment.
I have been researching Emotional Intelligence for years. It took some time to see that these limiting beliefs are nothing more than erroneous ideas about emotions. The relationship between emotion, decision-making, and cognitive functions is not always understood, and we must change our misconception of the role emotions play in decision making.
I incorporate my research with my practice, and every time I make decisions in concert with my purpose and values, I have a gut feeling that tells me what option feels good or makes me dubious and uncomfortable. This connection with my body is my inner compass that cues the best path to take.
Emotions, according to Dr. Candace Pert, neuroscientist, are electrochemical signals that transmit emotional information. Emotions affect our biology, chemistry, physiology, and nervous, digestive, immune systems, etc. We perceive emotions in our body as tightness, muscle tension, dry mouth, palpitations, sweating, etc. Emotions or electrochemical signals are the language of our body, as thoughts are the language of our mind.
Emotional Intelligence is a skill that helps us recognize and identify emotions, feelings, and thoughts as they are happening in ourselves and others. When we develop and cultivate self-awareness, the backbone of Emotional Intelligence, we train ourselves to read the cues our body sends and avoid risky decisions.
In essence, effective decision making depends on the degree of self-awareness we develop and cultivate every day. As we adopt a daily practice to increase our ability to become attuned to our emotions, purpose, and values, we become more prone to make sound decisions that align with what makes sense to our life vision.
To some people, relying on bodily cues to make sound decisions might sound like idle thinking. I suggest that those people should review their beliefs, habits, and thought patterns because the mental models they have built might be getting in the way instead of helping.
As I mentioned, when we make decisions there are cognitive and emotional processes that take place. Our brain’s subcortical circuits register information from the environment that we are not accurately aware of; in other words, this information gathering happens beyond our awareness. According to Daniel Goleman, the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex gives us visceral bodily feedback. A gut feeling, which is the feedback we feel in our body, might sound trivial, but there’s a scientific term for it: “somatic marker.” Dr. Antonio Damasio uses this term to signify what feels good or right in our bodies and what does not.
According to their studies, Cornell University researchers indicate that people with high Emotional Intelligence make better decisions because they are self-aware and recognize bodily signals. In comparison, those with low Emotional Intelligence cannot recognize visceral signs or often misinterpret them.
There are different ways to practice self-awareness. One of them is the tool I developed based on Emotional Intelligence, mindfulness, neuroscience, and meditation. I call it 1 Minute of Self- Reflection.
The goal is to create and cultivate the habit of self-reflection. Other ways to do so are mindfulness and reflective writing. There are many options, but the most critical question I suggest you ask yourself is, am I willing to invest my time and energy to do the work that is required in order to be self-aware?
According to my research, most of us live on autopilot; we do not even realize we have limiting beliefs, habits, patterns, which are the programs we store in our subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is the habitual mind which influences our behaviors, decisions, and attitudes 95% of the time. This means that most of the time, we are simply recreating our experiences. We wonder why we keep repeating the same mistakes or falling into the same repetitive conduct resulting from our decision-making models.
While developing the habit of connecting with your body’s signals or creating self-awareness might sound irrelevant or absurd, building Emotional Intelligence makes it an intelligent choice that creates a general sense of wellbeing and strong decision making.