5 Factors that Affect & Influence Our Decisions

soaked in sparks

Making decisions is something we’re inundated with every single day, big and small. So I wanted to understand how we make our choices, what affects them and how exactly does the cognitive process work? Turns out, there are several subtle ways our decision making is affected that I never would’ve guessed. But the best part is that once we understand how it exactly works, it becomes so easy to change our thought patterns and have a massive impact on the quality of our lives.

But before we talk about what influences our decisions I want to talk about what happens after we make one.

Decisions are a tool that can change our lives. The minute we make a new decision, we set in motion a chain of events/reactions and it gives you back the result. It’s like throwing a boomerang out but it comes back. This is the law of cause and effect or The Law of Laws as Ralph Waldo Emerson called it. Every decision we make, regardless how small, has the potential of changing the course of the entire world forever. This phenomenon is known as “The Butterfly Effect” in Chaos Theory. We may discuss that in detail some other time…

Now I think I should clarify that this Law is not the same as the Law of attraction. The law of cause and effect is the law of attraction in action. So, please don’t confuse yourself.

Decisions determine our destiny, not the circumstances

Remember, if there’s no action then you haven’t really decided. The quality of our lives is based on what decisions we make. So let’s dive into what influences them.

The 5 Common factors are:

  1. Beliefs
  2. Rules
  3. Values
  4. References
  5. Emotional States

Let’s talk about these step by step.

Beliefs of events shape our lives, not the events themselves

Beliefs are a feeling of certainty about something. If I get a dream job, it’s my belief about it that will bring happiness in my life, not the job itself. A dream job means nothing without the belief that enables me to make a living by doing something I love. Most of our beliefs are assumptions we hold to be true. They stem from real life experiences that get so deeply embedded in our subconscious, based on our interpretations of pain and pleasure.

Our beliefs and values affect the quality of our experiences, in every aspect of life, our work, our finances, relationships and our dreams. Every belief we hold is a critical part of ourselves and reflects who we are. We tend to think that our beliefs are based on reality, what we don’t realize is that most of them are formed on the basis of our emotional reactions to related events/situations. As Charles Swindoll once said, “10% is what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it” it’s as stoic as it can get. So, in fact, it is our beliefs that dictate our experiences not the other way around. – Think!….

Our Minds are SO POWERFUL at twisting things, and viewing things from limiting, negative perspectives.

So once you identify what belief you want to change simply link pain to old one and pleasure to the one you want to form. The more experiences you have the more potential there is for changing beliefs. So, how do you gain those experiences in the first place? I advise you read, and learn from the experiences of mentors, although your own experiences will have a bigger impact on shaping them, so break through that wall and don’t hold back 😉


Create Rules that keep you in control of your Emotions


A rule is a type of belief that describes what has to happen in order for us to feel happy. We all have rules, for example I have a rule that I would only feel productive on a day If I’ve read a book, engaged in a helpful conversation with like-minded entrepreneurs, or listened to a podcast/blink that gives me the information I would’ve never known, so I can become a better version of myself. We can have vicarious experiences, which allow us to have more experiences than we would have in our own restricted lives. All it takes is just one idea that can set your life on a whole different trajectory.

Now that we know what rules are, we can start taking advantage of them. So, visualize a future that drives a passion to create, gives you focus, direction and a sense of purpose. Why do we need to do that? Because, If we don’t know where we’re going, how will we get there? The key is to create rules for ourselves that aligns with the future that we have imagined, and aren’t affected by the events outside of our control. Having rules that are reliant on being fulfilled by external influences, will set you up for disappointment every time. In my opinion, a bad rule is to expect appreciation that allows you to feel good every time you help someone. The reality is that not everyone will thank you for your efforts. A much more empowering rule is to expect to feel good by knowing that you have helped someone out, even if they don’t thank you. Do not focus on being acknowledged but be more excited about doing the right thing, just know that you’ve made a small change in a deterministic nonlinear complex system which will have a larger effect, later on, it’s a much more fulfilling rule.

Nothing really has to happen for you to feel happy. You can feel happy right at this minute for absolutely no reason (forget about everything and feel happy that you’re reading my post :D). Think about it, if you make a million dollars today, the million dollars will not give you any pleasure, it’s your rule that says when I make a million dollars, I will then allow myself to feel good.

The moment we decide to feel good, we send a message to our brain to change the responses in the muscles of our body, to change our breathing, change the biochemistry and to activate neurotransmission that causes us to feel the sensation known to us as “pleasure”. This rule doesn’t rely on any external factors, just change your own thoughts which makes it a rule where it is easy to feel pleasure and hard to feel pain. Create more of these rules and I can guarantee, you will make massive improvements in your life.


Your Values determine the quality of your decisions


The direction of our lives is controlled by our values. For long-term happiness, we must live by our highest ideals but we can’t do this if we don’t know what our values are. Could we? Every decision is guided by our value system. So if you haven’t figured it out yet, prepare for pain. Anytime you have difficulty making an important life decision, it’s because you’re not clear on what your values are.

Let’s take a look at how my values affected my decision to pursue my own dreams. I was working at a big software house in Karachi. For a few years I was thrilled to be working at that place, my schedule, however, was extremely demanding, I would be working 12 hours a day and most of the times I wouldn’t take a day off. So, that became tiring, exhausting, and prevented me from doing anything else other than just coming home, going to sleep waking up and living that same life with no purpose or direction again. Needless to say, I was a real-life zombie 😀

One day, as I was conversing with myself, I asked me; what my values were, and the answer was:

  1. Freedom
  2. Health
  3. Growth
  4. Accomplishment

As it’s all too obvious that I wasn’t feeling healthy, accomplished, free and didn’t feel like I was growing anymore. So then I asked “What If I quit my job?”, I immediately brightened up, I could travel, I could hit the gym and get my body back in shape, I’d find other ways to grow and achieve. I’d be so happy.

After I quit my job, I immediately started fulfilling all my top values. This is a common experience and I’m sure a lot of you reading can relate to this. We all have to realize that we must fulfill our top values first.

So, to identify your values ask yourself, “What’s most important to you?”

Write down 5 values and order them by their importance to you. Also, write down 5 values you want to avoid, they could be emotions like Humiliation, Frustration, Depression, and Anger. List these or others in order of which ones you’d like to avoid the most. For an ultimate sense of fulfillment make sure you live by your values every single day no matter what.


Expand your references to expand your life


References are experiences that enable us for more effective evaluation of what things mean and what we could do. They include everything we ever see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Experiences expand our consciousness, imagine we have a golf-ball sized consciousness, when we read a book, we’ll have golf-ball sized understanding; when we look out at the world and our lives through the lens of our perception, a golf-ball sized awareness. The more references and experiences you have, the more opportunities you will have, and once you expand that consciousness through experience and references, you read a book you’ll have more understanding, you look out you will be more aware and awake.

If you’re at a point where you feel you have no direction and don’t know how to find that purpose. I suggest you gain more references, go traveling, try something new. My friend Alejandra, one of the few people who’ve had a positive impact on me. We met on a small island in SE Asia. She had recently escaped from her 9 – 5 life and started doing yoga, and she loved it. Now she teaches it full time and travels around the globe because of that. She would’ve never had that reference of teaching yoga or spirituality if she hadn’t tried it.

References are linked closely with beliefs, we have talked about it earlier in this post. More references can help support a belief that you want to have. If your dream is to become something or do something and you’re struggling to believe that you can do it, then try to embed that belief with references. Model your life and habits around people that are at least 20 years ahead of you. Talk to industry leaders and world-class performers and ask about their experiences that got them there. But why would a high achiever talk to me? That is a good question. I guarantee you there are books written by these high achievers that you can go out and find. If books aren’t your thing, I’m sure you could find plenty of interviews on youtube.


Make important decisions, only in resourceful emotional states


We often evaluate situations and react to them based on our emotional states which affect our relationships, and our life in general. When we make decisions about what things mean and what to do, we must be in a resourceful state of mind. Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning you give it. So do not get upset with people or situations because none of it matters without your reaction. I realize this is a very simple concept. However, we often forget to be aware of the emotional state we’re in when making decisions. So make an effort to become aware of it in your everyday life. Don’t let a bad emotional state influence a decision that you wouldn’t take otherwise. Here’s an example of what I am talking about.

  1. Don’t promise when you’re happy
  2. Don’t reply when you’re angry
  3. Don’t decide anything when you’re sad

Emotional states are temporary but the decisions you make based on them might stick with you for the rest of your life.


I hope this piece will be helpful and could be life-changing to some of you. Comment down below if you have any questions 😉

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