Good decision making habits begin with an understanding of the situation at hand and having a calculated template to follow to ensure success. In fact, decisions determine our destiny. Consequently, a single day never goes by that we don’t have to make decisions, big and small. Therefore, we want to ensure that we are making good decisions.
The decisions we make affect every aspect of life. Our decisions affect everyone else in our life, too. Your kids, our coworkers, our friends — everyone is reliant on your good decision making! Consequently, making effective decisions is one of the most important things we can do.
Good decision making looks easy when some people do it. What is it that they do? Next time you need to make an important decision, use some of these tools to take a better course of action.
1. Isolate the dilemma.
Effective decision-makers understand what they are deciding. Clarify the issues, define the solution, and isolate the core problem. There are countless types of decisions. In essence, the goal is for you to learn to begin making better decisions effortlessly. We identify issues and challenges as dilemmas; when resolved, our choices get us to where we want to go.
Firstly, in becoming a better decision-maker prioritize sorting all of the alternatives. Namely, ensure that you aren’t clouding your mind with too many variables. Sometimes we tend to be vague on what the real issue is. So ask yourself, “What am I deciding on?” “Am I practicing the 7 good decision making habits that I have learned?” Define the core situation at hand, and have it clearly in your mind. Is it whether to take the job offer, buy a new home, home-school your kids, or use public or private schools? No matter the dilemma, the faster you identify the core problem, the easier it will be to make a rational decision.
2. Understand and list your options.
When faced with a tough decision, it’s helpful to write down a list of the pros and cons of each dilemma. Once you have your issues written down, narrow them down to the most critical situations. Write one option at the top of a page. Divide the paper in half, and write the pros on one side and the cons on the other. Ask a friend to assist if you feel overwhelmed by your biases and scenarios. Being prepared for every outcome will reduce the need to stress. This decision-making process can serve as a balance scale, helping to weigh your final decision and improve the probability that good decision making habits have been implemented. Ask others for their experiences.
Talk with your inner circles, such as your spouse, kids, and friends. If you cannot find a resolution, consult a professional business coach with experience solving the same or similar problems. Use big-picture thinking. Neil Armstrong, the world-renowned astronaut made famous by walking on the moon, said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The key is to keep an eye on the big picture. Don’t step over a dollar to pick up a dime. Base your decisions and actions on how they relate to the big picture. One example of big-picture thinking is treating your customers like royalty. After all, you want them to refer others and become customers for life.
The next time you need to make a decision: “How will this decision affect my life one, five, or ten years from now?” thinking in the short-term will typically result in a poor decision. Imagine a game of pool. Once you have racked the balls and sent the cue ball down the table, you cannot simply focus on the next shot. You need to be gathering information shot by shot to see every possible outcome. If you aren’t considering every possible solution after every shot, you will never beat your opponent.
“If I had to live my life over again, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” – Nadine Stair.
3. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them.
If you expect to get it right the first time, every time, then you’re in for a rude awakening. The key to the decision-making process is turning poor decisions into great decisions, ultimately turning your mistakes into magic! Keep in mind, the only real mistake is repeating the same bad choices over and over. An error is a learning opportunity. Most of the population is unwilling to make decisions, resulting in fewer successes and weak leadership skills. Learn and adapt from your so-called “mistakes.” Perhaps that is why Abraham Lincoln uttered, “Along the way, you learn not just what to do, but also what not to do.” Your personal development is dependent on your ability to learn. Think about it; humankind has always had to learn the hard way.
Every entrepreneur out there will be the first to admit that they have made mistakes along the way. Whether it was a pricing blunder or mistrusting a stakeholder, there will always be areas where the business decisions we make today would not be the choices we would make tomorrow. That’s okay! The decision made at the time seemed like the best option at the time. Move on, and take that experience with you.
4. Do your research.
Weigh the facts. You’ve heard the phrase: analysis paralysis. Indecision is caused by the fear of making a wrong choice. Knowledge is power over the unknown. Since we are not alone on this earth, and many people have lived here for thousands of years, why not make use of the experiences of others?
Do your research by reading the perspectives of people who have already trotted down the path you are currently on. Hit the bookstore or click your way through the web, gathering the information that pertains to your decision. Talk to people with similar experiences. The more you know about a subject, the more confident you feel and the more likely you will make the right choice. Take control of your fear and destiny by acquiring the necessary knowledge. Gather all the information and facts you can on the subject, review them, and then decide.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
5. Have a time frame for your decision-making process.
If it helps, choose a specific time frame in which you will render your decision. Most of us are much more likely to make a decision under a deadline than when left to our own devices. Once you make your choice be firm with your decision and follow through, don’t second-guess yourself into new insecurity. This leadership skill is crucial. Be prepared to defend your decision if and when your team members ever question you. The more research you have done throughout the decision process, the better. Promptly deciding will significantly enhance your ability to take on larger tasks and be trusted with even larger project management in the future. When you are revered as the person that finds a solution, is good at decision-making, and stands behind it, you will be a vital part of any company or community.
6. Trust your gut.
Science tells us that the brain has the most nerve cells in any area in the entire body. The second most centralized cluster of nerve cells resides in the mid-section of the body — the gut! In conjunction with doing your research, listen to your intuition. Intuition signals our body to answer in terms of a feeling. If the answer from our intellect is neutral, then we must rely on our intuition or gut feeling to provide insight to help make better decisions.
When was the last time you ignored your gut feeling? What happened? Driving a car requires you to trust your gut almost constantly. Have you ever seen a vehicle enter the freeway, and you just got a vibe to pull back from them? That is your intuition. When you are making the decision to protect yourself from harm, it is instinctual. Next time you are in this scenario, take note as to what cued in your senses. Was it the lack of a turn signal? Perhaps you have already witnessed them make a bad decision by entering the roadway too dramatically. Those small moments in which you choose to make the right decision are essential to be aware of your ability to trust your gut.
7. Have an alternate plan.
A backup plan can save your life, career, mental health, and even your sense of self. Big decisions always come with multiple outcomes. F. Scott Fitzgerald said it best, “Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist but in the ability to start over.” It demonstrates a willingness to persist if your original plan falls short. It shows you are persistent, flexible, and grounded. Brainstorm and draft several viable plans that could potentially lead you to an effective decision.
Choose what you believe to be the best plan. If, for some reason, it doesn’t work, learn from your experience and move on to Plan B. The home renovation market is a prime example. How on earth did anyone decide to tile an entire kitchen with mustard yellow tile, backsplash, and countertops? Looking at this appalling disaster, we immediately know that someone had previously chosen some of the most costly and time-consuming options. In ten or twenty years, those final decisions will have been the worst decision anyone on the planet could have ever made. The best part is that those decisions were magical for the smallest fraction of time.
Good decision-making is a skill you must master if you want to be successful. Work with some of these tools. Test them the next time you need to make an important decision.
Best of success to you!