A Self-Awareness Formula

Last week, I wrote about the role of emotions in decision-making. This post will further elaborate how to increase your emotional intelligence. This involves becoming more aware of your emotions and moods, your physical state, as well as surrounding social systems and group dynamics.

  1. Emotions and Moods

Avoid repressing your emotions, no matter how “right” or “wrong” they appear to be. Instead, become more aware of them—and learn to manage them so you can make smarter choices.

Even if you’re unaware of your underlying emotions, your decisions reflect their inherent influence. Increasing your emotional awareness helps you achieve greater balance and form more reasoned decisions.

Emotional awareness functions as a mood-management system, granting full access to logic and feelings. Just as your home thermostat keeps temperatures within sensible limits, turning on your emotional thermostat allows you to monitor your internal climate.

Become more emotionally fluent by actively soliciting feedback. Ask yourself how you feel, and become mindful of your moods.

You can also try practicing mindful meditation. Buddhist monks practice “mindfulness,” continuously noting—but not judging—their emotions. When confronted with negative emotions, they immediately note them and recalibrate their responses. They effectively balance their emotions when making decisions.

A 2011 Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging study revealed that even novice meditators enjoy an increase in the brain’s grey matter, which regulates emotions.

Learn to spot, label and understand your emotions by becoming more mindful (with or without meditation). Practice detaching from your feelings and observing them without judgment. You’ll eventually learn to separate biases and distortions from the decision-making process.

  1. Physical State

Your physical state has a profound impact on decision-making. A compromised state can drive you to be impulsive and impatient. Before making any decisions, take a physical inventory. Are you:

  • Functioning on adequate sleep?
  • Hungry or thirsty?
  • Stressed?
  • Experiencing fear?
  • Physically fatigued?

Conduct regular self-audits. Note how you feel before making a decision.

  1. Social Systems and Group Dynamics

Group dynamics and social systems influence the quality of our decisions.

If your social network is limited, the information flow may be too narrow. Your perception of a “majority opinion” will be skewed by insufficient data.

Smarter decision-making requires exposure to diversity. If you want to develop new ideas and solve problems, break away from conventional thinking, and seek out alternative views.

Don’t dismiss contrarian attitudes. Conformity can be a major trap when you’re trying to make a sound decision.


Research shows we make around 10,000 decisions a day, most of them trivial and unconscious. Better decisions—the ones that really count—rely on awareness of our moods, emotions and social influences.

Take some time to assess the impact of your emotions, physical well-being and social influences on your decision-making process.


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