Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Decision Making

Written by: on January 18, 2015

David Brooks, in his book The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, states, “We are primarily the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness.”[1] Who we are comes from our subconscious rather than the conscious part of our minds. According to Brooks, the subconscious mind is where we make most of our decisions as well as where the greatest level of thinking takes place. Our subconscious is who we really are, and if we could bring it to the forefront we would be much closer in understanding how we make decisions and why we do the things we do. The way we perceive things in our subconscious mind helps us ultimately in our relationships with others. Brook’s book looks at how we interact with others and build relationships from business to marriage.


Brooks explores many ways in which society, upbringing, and experience have shaped who we are and how we react in every instance with our lives. The lens through which his opinion is shaped is through that of modern society and its effect the current generation. For me, this book highlighted the insecurities within my life and how they have negatively affected my relationships with others. Just like many people, I tend to minimize areas of my life that I am ashamed of. We all have skeletons in our closet, some more than others. However, we each must face the ugliness that we house within, and look towards God for help in becoming the person we wish to be and should be.


The author touches on several different areas from decision-making, self-control, morality, etc. I found myself gravitating to certain chapters as it shed light into my own life. The story of Erica, and her incident on the tennis court, reminded me of many occasions in which I have blamed someone else for my own problems. We often hurt others when we become defensive against being hurt ourselves. This cycle of anger and then remorse is something that I have experienced over and over in my life. Just like Erica, I constantly looked outside of myself to explain and justify my actions and behaviors. What I was experiencing is the, “so-called fight-or-flight response”[2]
to a stressful situation. As a child, my parents didn’t teach me how to handle stress in a healthy way. I grew up in a family where you had to protect yourself at all times, and attacking each other was the constant norm. We didn’t sit down and discuss issues or problems. Looking back at my family and upbringing, I now call this, “it’s not my fault” style of parenting. Unfortunately, I have carried this baggage with me and have had to diligently and continually strive not to be this type of husband or father.


The chapter on decision-making was the most impactful to me. Brooks states, “Human decision making has three basic steps. First, we perceive a situation. Second, we use the power of reason to calculate whether taking this or that action is in our long-term interest. Third, we use the power of will to execute our decision.”[3]Understanding these three basic steps and implementing themin an appropriate way can either make or break an individual’s life. Everything in our life is about choice and making decisions. I can choose to follow Christ or not. I can choose to follow the rules that society has deemed appropriate for all individuals. To me, relationships are built on making the right choices that positively influence others around you. If you are leading and no one is following, then you must evaluate yourself. “People with self-control and self-discipline develop habits and strategies that trigger the unconscious processes that enable them to perceive the world in productive

[1] Brooks, David (2011-03-08). The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement . Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid p. 121

[3] Ibid p. 125

About the Author

Richard Volzke

8 responses to “Decision Making”

  1. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Richard
    I really like your blog. You touch on some interesting points that affect us all. Thank you for sharing such honest reflections. I think we all struggle with this, blaming others for our reactions when we should be doing a little more self-examination. Like yourself, I was brought up in a family with similar dynamics.
    Were there any books / resources that you’ve found helpful in overcoming such influences?

    • Richard Volzke says:

      I have read some books that have helped me. Two that come to mind are How To Win Friends And Influence People & Habits Of Highly Effective People. I also liked Marry-Kate’s books on leadership that we read last spring. The biggest help in my life has been my relationship with Christ. He has changed me over the years. I continually work to build relationships with others, and to understand how I can best connect with them.

  2. Julie Dodge says:

    This was a lovely post, Richard. I appreciate your reflection, vulnerability and application. It is interesting how some of these books can prompt insight into our own lives. It takes courage to say these things out loud.

    I also liked the chapter on decision making. I agreed with Brooks’ argument that perception is key to decision making. As you so rightly note, we strive to make decisions and choices that honor God. But in order to do so, we must first perceive … Correctly. Which is hard because our perceptions are influenced by our personal histories, our beliefs, our biases. For me, I hope that by asking God for insight, asking for His wisdom and clarity, I can first understand the situation through His eyes and not just mine.

  3. Richard Volzke says:

    I strive to seek God each day, first, before I make any decisions. I also seek counsel from my wife and close friends when making decisions. Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” When I was in the business world, I learned early on that a wise leader understands that he or she does not know everything. I try to surround myself with individuals who are smarter than I, especially in the areas where I am weak.

  4. Stefania Tarasut says:

    This is great Richard! It’s not until we acknowledge the past, bring it into the present and work through it that we can actually make the changes that we need to make. But that’s so hard to do, especially since we’re too busy to deal with it.

  5. Richard …
    Your words and the way you have expressed your reflection and gleaning from Brooks provides insight for us as we continue to learn from and with one another.

    I am finding more and more that our focus in the Church on Christ redeeming us from our “guilt” has hindered us from seeing that Christ may have first and foremost addressed in his life, death and resurrection our shame. Guilt is about what we did, whereas shame takes aim on our identity. Christ calls us back within his accepting love and it is within that where we experience grace.

    Thank you for your good work and helping me (and us)…

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