Making decisions is simple, right? Lift your hand, nod your head, shake your foot, they’re all choices you can make on the go without a second thought. If only all decisions were that easy. Some people will tell you they are, but the reality is, decision making is a skill, and it’s one that often goes unappreciated and overlooked.
Now this is strange, because when you think about it, knowing how to take a course of action that leads to preferable consequences is easier said than done. There are plenty of examples across multiple industries of corporations and individuals making terrible decisions and suffering as a result.
While there’s no doubt most people set out to make the best choices in life, based on what they know at the time and what they feel their options are, the results of their decisions can often differ from expectation. In fact, these decisions often determine an individual’s quality of life and can make all the difference between happiness and disappointment – that’s how important they are!
So, with an appreciation of the power of decision making in your life, let’s take a look at how you can improve the choices you make. We’re going to look at this from 2 perspectives:
What you know
This is exactly what it says on the tin, the more you know, the better educated your decisions will be. It may be cliché, but knowledge really is power. Of course, I’m not just talking about information taken from books and education, but experiences too, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, all information is useful at informing the decision-making process. And beyond that, it’s not always what you know, but who you know, does someone possess the information you’re lacking? If so, ask and fill in the knowledge gaps so you can make the best decision.
With this approach in mind, let’s apply it to a real-life example, take financial education, most people save or invest into a basic savings account because they don’t know anything else, their options are limited. However, those with a little more financial knowledge typically look into ISAs and bonds, leading the way for new choices to open themselves up as they learn more. Going one step further, they may know someone who is heavily involved with financial matters and so they reach out and get advice around property, shares or indices. This continues to unlock new perspectives and opportunities. Regardless of whether the advice is bad or good, having access to this information allows for a greater variety of choices through direct and indirect education. From here, decisions can be made and experience gained, this helps knowledge snowball and accumulate, improving future opportunities and decision-making.
So that’s knowledge, experience and people, these 3 areas all help you to access the information you need to take the right course of action.
How you feel
The other side of the coin in the decision-making process is that of feeling – how you feel makes a big difference to the outcomes you pursue. In fact, in some instances, feelings can directly contrast with the option your knowledge recommends (often referred to as head vs heart).
Everything from your personal energy, gut feeling and mindset at the time, to your personal beliefs about the consequences and your level of confidence in the outcome will play a role in determining the action you take.
When we’re tasked with making a decision, good or bad, there are thousands of little variables in play that influence the final outcome that we just don’t see. Most are subconscious, we have limited visibility of their power, but we know they’re there. With so much going on, it’s no wonder people regularly make bad choices, in many instances it can be hard to identify the cause. Is it a lack of knowledge, or a misplaced feeling perhaps? The first step towards recognising the cause is to understand the underlying influences, and so it makes sense to get to grips with whether you know enough to make such decisions in the future, and the role of emotion in your decision-making process.
Just think back to those times where you’ve suddenly felt unstoppable and you can take on the world or when its felt like the world is against you, but that’s just pushed you on even further. Then there’s those times where you’re stuck in a rut and your energy is low for no good reason, making you feel helpless. These positions contrast significantly and at times rear their head for no logical reason. While circumstances will always vary, a large influencer on the decisions you make and the actions you take will come down to how you feel, your inner energy, state and sentiment really can make all the difference.
When it comes to consciously improving your decision making, it makes sense to adopt a more methodical approach, so here, we’re taking a look at a 5-step process that can help you make the tough decisions.
Step 1: Determine your desired outcome
Understanding what you want to achieve from a decision is critical to making it happen. If you’re unsure what it is you really want, it can be difficult to make the best decision to bring that reality to life.
Step 2: Give yourself more choices
“One option is no choice, two options is a dilemma and 3 options is a choice.”
Few decisions are black and white, there’s often a 3rd, probably a 4th and maybe even a 5th option at your disposal. It’s important to be able to stand back and recognize all the opportunities in front of you before making a decision. This is often where education plays a critical role in the process, those backed by knowledge can often find more options.
Step 3: Identify the risks
Evaluating risk is a natural part of decision making and should play a key role in how you make your make your final choice. Risk is all about probability and severity of consequence. If consequences are high, then you’ll be aiming for a low probability and vice versa. On top of that, you’ll also be looking to see if they can be reduced or avoided altogether, sometimes all it takes is a little preparation.
Step 4: Prepare yourself to make the best possible decision
In some situations, a positive mindset can help achieve the clarity necessary to make the best decisions. If you’ve got other stuff going on in the background, it can distort your thought process and lead you in the wrong direction.
Step 5: Decide and act
Choice is a wonderful power to have, but it can also be paralysing, sometimes you just have to make a conviction and go with it, right or wrong, making a decision is better than making no choice at all.