In business and in life, our decisions define us. The choices we make every minute of every day add up to who we are and what impact we have on the world. We all hope to make the right decisions—yet who among us has not felt unsure of ourselves when facing a difficult decision?

Why are we challenged by decision-making? And more important, what can we do to ensure we make the right decisions for ourselves, our businesses and our lives?

Apple or Banana

We make approximately 70 conscious decisions a day. Apple or banana? Car or subway? Stay late or leave early? These are the decisions we are aware of.

But there is another type of decision we make each day: How we approach situations. These are unconscious decisions, decisions that transform our relationships, our businesses, and our experience of life. These decisions can take us to our next level of success and fulfillment. And these decisions are the focus of this article.

Why are we so challenged in these types of decisions?

One challenge is that many unconscious factors play into our ability to make these choices. Our cognitive patterns—our decision-making processes—are largely unconscious phenomena. Understanding this is critical to our success. The way we think shapes our reactions and decisions. When we gain awareness of our thinking patterns, we can influence our perspectives and the way we perceive and interpret the world around us. In turn, this enables us to make decisions more confidently and with less stress. To build anything, we need tools. What tools are you using to become aware of your thinking, your unconscious biases (usually about yourself)? None? Well…no wonder you’re not getting where you want to go.

Understanding your Machinery

When we reach our edge—the limit of what we know—we have two options: Repeat what we have done before, or do something new. Do something new, especially when the stakes feel high, can stop us in our tracks. This is where leadership comes into play. We need to know how to lead ourselves forward. In order to do this we need to become aware of, and understand, our thinking.

Different centers in our brain house different types of thinking. Our frontal cortex helps us imagine and make decisions. Our amygdala hosts our primary emotions such as fear and anger. To make good decisions, we need these two centers to work together. Not unlike any relationship, if we get into a power play, with one side wanting to control instead of connecting and collaborating, we quickly find ourselves in trouble. We need our emotions to inform our decision making, and we need our logic to help us process our emotions.

When we begin to examine and analyze the way we think about the world (this is precisely what we developed our StillPoint Experience to do), we begin to make the unconscious conscious. We begin to understand the machinery that is helping us make decisions, find success, and also potentially holding us back.

3 Steps to Better Decision-Making

What holds us back from transformative decision-making? Leaving our comfort zones. Ask yourself if you are willing to leave yours. If you toss out the well-worn excuses, you are not ready to go to your next level. It’s better to admit that to yourself than to serve yourself an excuse. But if you are ready to leave it all on the table and get to your next level, to take a chance on yourself, then grab the reins of mastering the art of decision-making by recognizing that the next level of success and fulfillment is all in your mindset.

Here are the three steps I’ve seen work for folks grappling with these issues.

1. Become aware of your thinking. Admit and recognize your current biases, which until this point have been unconscious. Bring them to light. Admit them, examine them, own them. We created the StillPoint Experience to help you do this.

2. Allow yourself—give yourself the freedom—to change your approach and behavior. Science shows us how unwilling most people are to accept new ways of thinking. Even blatant contradictory facts aren’t enough to make us change our points of view. Release this. Changing your point of view is the best thing you can do for yourself. There is no shame in changing your mind or your mindset—in fact, it’s brave and it’s liberating. Make space for it.

3. Understand that the inner workings of your thinking create your worldview, which may be an outdated mindset or an inaccurate reality. This is big: Are you open enough to let it go? Can you let yourself believe in a new reality? You’ll have to believe in one to live in one.

Challenging our own biases is a decision we can make that can transform our lives and the lives of others. It’s not easy, but it will pay off. The art of decision-making will serve you for your entire life, and in every facet of your life. Open yourself to new ways of thinking. Become your mind’s own master. It may be challenging, but it is always worth it.