Science Reveals Why You Procrastinate and Make Other Bad Decisions

“Make today better than yesterday”

Is that what you want too?

That’s what I tell myself in the morning when I’m fresh and rested. I’m pumped up to knock down every item on my to-do list… like the expert bowler who knocks out 10 items with a single throw. STRIKE!

But by the end of the day, too often, I find myself dead-tired, beat-up and disappointed.

Why didn’t I get more done?

I’ve worked hard, pushed myself, yet I didn’t make the kind of progress I wanted, expected or desired.

Have you ever felt that way?

Why does it happen?

Well, today you get an answer from science, brain science.

The answer you get today might also tell you why you suffer from procrastination, frustration and even lack of motivation.

How could a single answer address so many problems? Well, it’s because today’s topic reveals a secret hidden in the very root of decision making. As you know, if there’s a problem at the root, then everything that grows out of it will suffer. Unfortunately, we don’t even realize the problem exists.

Science uncovered this hard to believe fact:.

You do NOT know how you make decisions.

If I asked why you decided to procrastinate or pursue a goal you’d fail to give the right answer…much of the time. Of course, you’d give me rational reasons and possibly a list of ‘pros and cons’ you used to make your decision. But guess what? You’d be WRONG and you get proof of it in this article.

Before revealing exactly how scientists discovered the secret process your brain uses to make decisions, let’s cover why this is important.

The problems that delay or derail your progress are often the result of your decision-making process.  It’s funny because many folks feel like procrastination just happens to them. The truth is that procrastination is the result of your decision-making process. It’s just that (as you’ll discover by the end of this article) we haven’t known what caused us to decide to procrastinate.

If you don’t know the true cause of procrastination or lack of motivation then you end up like the drunk guy in that old joke.

One night a drunk man is frantically searching for his lost car keys under a street lamp. A bystander asks him if he lost the keys in that area. The drunk man replies “No, but this is where the light is good.”

Science is showing you where you ‘really’ lost your keys; where you got lost in the decision-making process.

How Scientists Revealed the Real Decision Making Process:
It’s been said that if you really want to see what’s important to people, then look at where they spend their money. Well, that’s what scientists did. They looked at how people decide to buy and why. But they didn’t get their answers by asking people questions. Nope. That would have brought on the same old WRONG answers.

These doctors hooked students to brain scan machines. Then, while students were making buying decisions, doctors scanned their brains in real time. And what they saw was amazing.

Here’s what happened.

Doctors Brian Knutson and George Loewenstein actually focused on two parts of the student’s brain. Just by scanning those 2 parts doctors were able to predict if the student would buy or not.

What Two Parts of the Brain Reveal What Decision You’ll Make?

Doctors scanned the insula which is a part of the brain associated with disgust and dislike. If you become disgusted, then your insula is activated.

The second part of the brain they focused on is fascinating. I call it the p-spot because it’s activated any time you experience pleasure or reward. Officially, it’s called the nucleus accumbens but calling it the p-spot(for pleasure-spot) makes it easy to remember. Right?

NOTE: The P-spot is NOT related to the G-Spot. That’s a completely different article (and as past girlfriends will tell you I’m not an authority in that area). Now back to our story.

When you experience something rewarding or pleasurable the p-spot is activated. So by monitoring the P-spot doctors were able to see when students liked a potential purchase.

In a sense, doctors tracked the brain’s buying brakes (insula) and its accelerator (p-spot). If doctors saw that the insula was activated, the brakes were put on buying. But if the p-spot was activated, then students would buy.

If both the insula and the p-spot were activated then whichever one had a stronger response determined the buying decision. So if the insula’s negativity exceeded the positive feelings generated by the p-spot, then the subject always chose not to buy the item.

Do you get how shocking this is?

The student could have been asked if they would buy, and before they had an answer, the doctors knew what they would do… simply by reading brain scans.

Here’s another important finding.

Doctors discovered that during the decision-making process, there wasn’t a weighing of pros and cons.  As Jonah Lehrer said in his book How We Decide, “This directly contradicts the rational models of microeconomics; consumers aren’t always driven by careful considerations of price and expected utility.”

To nail this point down consider this.

Doctors noticed that the rational “thinking part of the brain” (prefrontal cortex) was mostly watching and NOT actively participating. Now do you see why I said we’re missing how decisions are made?

This sheds light on why we procrastinate. Think about it. The decision is NOT based on logic but instead on what you like (find rewarding) and dislike (find disgusting).

All too often, we procrastinate because the task we ‘should’ do is not perceived as instantly rewarding. On the other hand, the task we want to do (Facebook, eating candy or watching TV) is very rewarding (at least in that moment).

Look, let’s be honest. In order to achieve your grandest goals, you need to do things that you find painfully boring, difficult or even repulsive (like getting OUT of your comfort zone). And, tough work triggers your insula. On the other hand, checking Facebook, watching Netflix or surfing YouTube videos all activate your p-spot – the rewarding part of your brain. No wonder why procrastination wins so many times.

So, what’s the answer?

Here are three strategies to win with these new decision making insights:

Decision Making Strategy #1: Make your productive tasks as pleasurable and rewarding as so-called guilty pleasures. Look, I firmly believe that in the same way we season our food, we should season (spice up) our productive activities. And it can be done. It’s how I lost a hundred pounds and read over 277 books. It’s why I created the productive pleasure software. Click here to use it for free.

Decision Making Strategy #2: Emotion Evoking Questions

We know based on these tests that your conscious mind, your rational brain, is overruled by your emotional mind. So, focus on the emotional reasons why you want to achieve your productive task.

Here are questions that evoke an emotional response.

What will achieving your desired goal really mean to you (and your family)? How good will it feel to achieve your goal? What will achieving this goal it say about how strong you are? What kind of person achieves tough goals like the ones you tackle?

Decision Making Strategy #3: Emotional Breakthrough
Lastly, if you want a step-by-step example of how to use emotion to go from bad to brilliant, then check out How A Master Teacher Motivated and Elevated Her ‘Unteachable’ Students because it’ll give you the exact steps  proven to ignite action using emotion.

Thanks for reading. Wishing you habitual success,

 

Mark Flournoy