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10 Steps to Better Decisions
A quick guide to decision making
“You can't make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”
― Michelle Obama
10 Steps to Better Decisions
We are making choices and decisions all of the time.
Some of the decisions we find ourselves needing to make may appear to be inconsequential; some can be life-changing.
The first thing you need to know about your decision-making process is that it is emotional.
No matter how much information you have acquired before making any decision, in the end, it comes down to what you are feeling. Carefully researching and pondering choices does have an effect of course, but at the end of the day, you will be making a decision based on your emotions.
It’s also true that most of our bad decisions are not a result of faulty processing but of faulty perception. We simply have not looked at the options we have from different perspectives.
When faced with a decision about work, for example, we often focus on one aspect of the choices we have. However, any choice related to work will have consequences in so many other areas of our lives.
We need to look at options through different lenses to fully evaluate the consequences of choosing one or the other.
Edward de Bono, with whom I have been fortunate enough to train, has written widely on thinking and decision-making. I urge you to look at some of his books, particularly his writings on Six Thinking Hats.
This article outlines a 10 Step guide to making better decisions.
How well do you know yourself in terms of your goals, ambitions and aspirations?
If you know where you want to be, it’s a little easier to look at the choices you can make to get you there.
Another important aspect of “knowing yourself” is in understanding any limiting self-beliefs you may have about your ability to reach your goals.
Do you self-sabotage?
Do resist making decisions that could move you forward because you don’t really want what you say you want?
Knowing yourself is as much about understanding your strengths, weaknesses and blocks as it is about accepting your potential; the fact that you deserve the future you want to create.
2. Consider all your options
Are you making a decision or resolving a dilemma?
A choice of “either”-“or” is not a choice.
If you are facing a dilemma, consider the possibility that you have not fully examined all of the options available to you. Being creative in this situation and adding some “crazy”, “far out” or seemingly “impossible” options can help you shift perspective and focus you on what underpins your need to make a decision right now.
In terms of perspective, consider options in terms of short, medium and long-term effects/consequences.
Consider them from the perspective of different levels of impact they have.
Remember your emotional self often wants to be cautious, but your adventurous self is often willing to play the “anything goes” game.
3. Weigh the pros, cons and alternatives
We all know about creating lists of pros and cons when thinking about the choices we have. However, many of us do this kind of list building badly.
We flip-flop from positive to negative thinking and rarely give ourselves time to complete this exercise fully. At worst, all this exercise does us to reinforce the emotional decisions we have already made.
We need to give this technique the time it deserves.
Focus on one line of thinking at a time, and say all of the cons.
Make a list of the cons of a particular choice and stay focused on them before shifting your attention to the pros.
As you consider the pros and the cons, be open to any alternative options that present themselves. Note them so as not to disrupt your current line of thinking. Then, at the end of your deliberations, return to any alternatives and run them through the same process.
4. Make a decision
At some point, you will make the decision.
When you are clear about the decision, write it down.
Use the following frame.
“I have decided to (write your decision here)”
5. Check out how YOU feel about that decision
Read your decision to yourself.
Pay attention to any feelings prompted by your inner statement.
Then read your decision out loud.
Pay close attention to how that feels.
6. Commit to the decision
Well done, you’ve made your decision.
Now, however, it’s about acting upon that decision.
Turn your decision into an affirmation.
“I have decided to…. “ becomes “I will ….”
WRITE IT DOWN IN FULL
7. Create an action plan
This can be the most exciting step. It’s about making plans that will move you from where you are now to where you will be.
You must create a series of mini-steps towards your goal and a time scale.
Sit down with a calendar or planner and create a step-by-step action plan.
8. Take action
Writing the action plan is great, but now you must take action.
Recognise that your action plan will remain a “some-day-never” thing unless you turn thoughts and plans into physical actions.
Plans don’t dig trenches, but they tell the bulldozers where to start.
You need to become the bulldozer.
9. Learn from your mistakes
Once you start on your action plan, you may realise that you’ve misplaced or mistime a step.
You may be in bulldozer mode, but you are driving it. So be aware of the steps that are working and those that aren’t.
Decision Making and Decision Creating are part of the same journey, and we need to learn from each.
10. Be flexible
There are some great examples of where decisions to do something has led to something else entirely.
Listerine was designed to be a floor cleaner.
Post-It note glue was supposed to be super strong.
Be open to the fact that as you make progress, things will and do change.
You can always re-align your plan and even your goal as you learn more about yourself and your potential.
The secret is to be committed to the journey forward and open to changes.
“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.
The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.
If this sounds too mystical, refer again to the body. Every significant vital sign- body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on- alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.”
― Deepak Chopra,
Thanks for reading