Advance Performance | “It is okay to change your mind” by Darcenia Teasdale
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“It is okay to change your mind” by Darcenia Teasdale

“It is okay to change your mind” by Darcenia Teasdale

Among the thousands of decisions we make every day, sometimes we are compelled to go ahead with one that will affect our own lives and the lives of other individuals. This week, I made one of those life-changing decisions.

It felt like a huge burden until I said it aloud to the other individual it would affect the most when I said to my husband I had decided to back out of the sale of our “old” house, and I will not sign to exchange.
In 2015, I agreed to buy a new home before we sold the old house for many personal reasons. We bought a new house (round the corner) and moved in early 2016. However, as the months disappeared, I did not settle and had actually not even moved kitchen items from our old house. I wanted to go back to my old home.

My inner voice – my Self Talk – maintained an attitude that I was making the wrong decision. As time went on, I felt more negative towards the new house but tried to act positive because of the money and time  involved in moving house. I was experiencing “sunk-cost bias” –  the tendency to continue down a path once we have already made some sort of investment of time, money, or effort.

As the house sale was progressing, the date to sign loomed near. I realised that I needed to put a halt on this wrong path, and change it.

I’m sure everyone has experienced this in life – in a long term relationship that isn’t working, staying in a job where you no longer share the values and goals of the company, pursuing a house move, or getting married as everyone expects.

We can easily fall into the “sunk-cost bias” in decision making because of that investment of time, effort and money, and also, the knowledge of how it will affect other individuals if we “change our minds” or changing the decision we have already made.

As I said to my husband, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to sign the papers,” this has completely diverted our future plans for our home.  The crucial point was vocalising my decision so that it became real. In his book The Brain, David Eagleman explains his research on the physical activity of neural pathways when we make a decision.  He explains that when analysing the neurons with electrodes, you can actually hear a “pop!” as the brain consciously makes the briefest of decisions. The electrodes also show the synchronisation of the pattern of neurons – desynchronised pattern depending on your decision. A decision can be physically heard and seen – we consciously and physically create a new dendrite which will strengthen every time we think about that decision.

So changing your decision about something from the type of fruit you are going to buy, or what you want to eat for lunch, to taking a different route to your destination will all form that new dendrite and change your neural pathways.  Eagleman compares each individual’s brain to a snowflake, with the slightest change of experience enhancing its individuality. With every direction taken, every person we encounter, how we face an event, our brains are constantly adapting and are unique.

Within a couple of hours of vocalising my decision not to sign, my husband and I had discussed where we planned to live (to move back to the old house). We cancelled the sale and pursued the plans of how to improve the old house so that we wouldn’t “need” to move for more space. Within four hours, we were already looking at kitchens online.

The day before we had been emptying the old loft. Now, we need to move everything back that we want to keep!

After I vocalised the decision not to sign the papers and “made the decision”, I experienced that physical calm and relief. I felt that flood of dopamine and serotonin so that I genuinely felt calm and happy because I had made that definite decision. The anxiety, which had been building over the feeling I was trapped in having made the wrong decision last year, was gone in that moment.

I had delayed making the decision to say I want to move back to my old house because of “sunk-cost bias”, and with every discussion on how to improve the “new” house, my anxiety built because I was heading further down the wrong path.

Even though it has cost me a lot of money and time and energy, I can reflect on the experience of the wrong decision to accept what we do need to change with our “old” house to improve our living space. It was not the case we needed “more” space, but we needed to improve the space we had, and we are already positively planning those improvements.

This week, I made a life-changing decision which has irrevocably altered my neural connections. Certain dendrites are strengthened and those which went along a path of a discarded plan have weakened. Not only is my life taking a different route, but my brain has also altered to take me on that different route.

However big the decision in your life, you can always change your mind. As research shows with electrodes that decision is a “pop!” of the connected neurons changing pathway, and you can start building a new more positive powerful dendrite with the decision that is the best for you.