Why We Keep Making Bad Decisions and How to Stop

Available for Interviews: Roger Hall.

Dr. Roger Hall has a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, is an Executive Coach to entrepreneurs and leaders, and is an in-demand public speaker throughout North America.


Talking Points from Roger Hall on
Why We Keep Making Bad Decisions and How to Stop

The issue with “go with your gut” depends on
how you define “gut feeling.”

Many people, who are experts in their fields, go with their gut and rarely go wrong. Here’s the reason. It is the difference between procedural memory and declarative memory.

Example: Declarative memory is an instruction booklet on how to ride a bike. Procedural memory is the memory people actually use when they ride a bike. If you learned how to ride a bike and rode a bike for hundreds or thousands of hours in your lifetime, you’ve created tons of procedural memory for riding a bike. You may not be able to write a booklet to teach others how to ride a bike, but you are very good at bike riding.  

When people become experts in an area, it is because they have practiced the activity over and over again.

At that point, they have so much experience, that they have procedural memory for success at that activity. When Malcom Gladwell described the kind of gut feelings that people have in his book Blink, he was describing procedural knowledge. People know before they know. But in every case, the person is an expert in the area.  

When Bad Decisions Arise

Here’s where people run into trouble. They forget how much they know about the activity and think they are “going with their gut,” when in actuality, the product of their good decisions is the result of thousands of hours of practice. They tell themselves that they are “good gut decision makers.” With that false belief, they then start to make decisions outside of their area of expertise, and “go with their gut.”  When they operate outside of their expertise, they aren’t “going with their gut” but are just guessing.  

This is why we see CEO’s (who are successful in one area of business) fail miserably when they make decisions in other areas of their lives. They go from expert knowledge to guessing—calling both “gut feeling.”

For some people, their confidence in their “gut” is so misguided, that they tend to make bad decisions over and over again. Then they lie to themselves about the quality of their gut decisions and double down on their bad decisions. Confused about why they aren’t successful, they blame the world, luck, or the Gods for their “bad luck.”

So, “gut feeling” works remarkably well when it is the product of expertise. It is simply a guess when it is not based on thousands of hours of experience.


Interview: Roger Hall.

Roger Hall a business psychologist, executive coach, national speaker and author of Staying Happy Being Productive: The Big 10 Things Successful People Do. He trains entrepreneurs, professionals, and business leaders to monitor and manage their thinking for peak performance.

Jo Allison
PR Managing Editor
Success In Media, Inc.

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