Why has it become so difficult to make better decisions? Better decision making These days is almost a super power only reserved for the CEO’s and top businessman.
Although better decision making is difficult, it is a skill that can be improved so we can think smarter, think faster and make wiser decisions.
Learn how to think better, make tough decisions and the power of thinking without thinking.
Decision making – the act or process of deciding something
Why is it important to make better decisions and how you can benefit!
From the moment you wake up in the morning, you are making decisions. In fact, you likely make thousands of decisions every day.
Most of them are simple, but others can be stressful, complex, or both. Life is full of twists and turns and starts and stops, and making decisions along the way is a part of life.
Some of the bigger decisions can potentially impact both your personal and professional life, so how you make decisions is incredibly important.
Have you mastered the art of decision making, or do you dread having to think about making changes and decisions?
For some people, making good decisions is easy. They have confidence and clarity when it comes to their choices, and they rarely feel regret over bad decisions made in the past.
They may even feel excited at the prospect of choice resulting in significant change. For others, however, they become paralysed at the thought of having to make an important decision, no matter how small.
Which description sounds more like you? Perhaps you fall somewhere in between. You can easily make smaller decisions, but when it comes to big choices, you waver between options or avoid making any choice at all.
Why do some people excel at decision-making while others struggle?
There are a number of reasons like:
– Having a temperament or disposition that makes you fear change and mistakes and find comfort in familiarity.
– Being haunted like past poor decisions that cause you to be afraid of making additional bad choices.
– Others, like parents or partners, have always made the important decisions for you, so you’ve never learned how to make decisions for yourself.
Regardless of why you struggle with making decisions, the important part is that you realise your decision making needs work.
The good news is that regret-free and confident decision making is something that can be learned; it just takes some practice.
When you finally learn how to make decisions more effectively, you’ll also find that you make better decisions, and you’ll be able to make those decisions quicker.
This article will equip you with tools that will help you improve your decision making skills, allowing you to move forward in life making confident and wise decisions.
Think Smarter: Critical & Creative Thinking for Decision Making
What type of decision maker are you?
Do you research your options and weigh the pros and cons before settling on a choice? Or, do you make decisions based on gut feelings and instincts?
While trusting your intuition should come into consideration, sometimes decisions need to be made after thinking critically or thinking creatively.
– Critical Thinking & Decision Making
Critical thinking is the skill of gathering, analysing, and evaluating information in a methodical way.
It is the practice of taking control of your thinking process by bringing your subconscious reasoning to conscious recognition and understanding how your subconscious influences your thinking and decision making.
By utilising critical thinking, you can better understand what you do not know about the subject at hand, and make a better decision as a result.
As a vital part of the decision-making process, critical thinking allows you to clearly unbiasedly think through your options to get to a sound final choice.
Another way to think about it is this: if making a decision is the car that gets you to your goals, critical thinking is the gas that powers the car.
Humans have been critically thinking since the first stone tool created, and it has now become a skill synonymous with business and leadership.
Still, many people don’t understand how to utilise critical thinking as an effective process.
Critical thinking in decision making is based on four key elements:
- Logic: Your ability to see the direct relationship between cause and effect.
Logic is essential for decision making, as it gives you a precise and accurate prediction of the kind of impact your potential choice will have.
- Truth: Truth refers to unbiased data. When it comes to making decisions utilising critical thinking, there is no room for bias and emotions.
Good critical thinkers can remain unbiased and unemotional and instead rely on documented data to support their decisions.
- Context: You’ll need to take into consideration extenuating factors and pressures that could be impacted by your final decision.
When critical thinking, you need to consider stressors on you, the decision maker, and the assumptions of others involved.
Taking outside elements into consideration is critical for the decision-making process.
- Alternatives: Critical thinking considers other potential choices not currently in use.
You should think about new ways of approaching your decisions based on unbiased and accurate data.
When you follow these four principles of critical thinking for decision making, you will become aware of biases you might not have been aware of.
Additionally, critical thinking can help you come to decisions faster and with more confidence.
That’s not all…
Many people struggle with critical thinking, because it requires you to accept that your opinions may be wrong, and you must accept true statements, even if they don’t agree with your point of view.
Let’s take a look at a critical thinking decision example in human resources.
A sexual harassment accusation in the workplace is brought to the attention of human relations.
The person in charge of the investigation considers the accused a friend.
However, she must use critical thinking to set aside her personal bias and look solely at the facts, using interviews and statements to determine an outcome.
In this case, critical thinking is necessary to come to a fair and accurate decision.
– Creative Thinking & Decision Making
While thinking critically depends on a lot of facts and data, it still leaves room for creativity when it comes to finding alternative and useful solutions and ideas.
With creativity, you can come up with options that haven’t been used before but are still applicable to the decision at hand.
Creative thinking allows you, the decision maker, to identify all of the viable alternatives you can choose.
You might argue that you aren’t naturally a creative person.
However, we all have creative potential; we just get stuck in a pattern of making decisions the same way.
Creative thinking requires you to get out of that rut and think about your decisions differently.
When you think about creativity, you likely go to extreme examples like the Mozarts, Picassos, and Einsteins of the world.
Of course, they were creative, but they are examples of exceptional creativity, which is rare.
A study of creativity in 461 men and women found that fewer than one percent were exceptionally creative, 10% were highly creative, and 60% were somewhat creative.
What do those findings tell us?
Most of us have the potential to think creatively, in at least a moderate capacity.
Creative thinking is much more successful if you have expertise in the field of your decision.
With a deeper understanding, you can expand your ability to come up with creative options and make a solid decision.
Analogies are often key in coming up with creative decisions.
Take Alexander Graham Bell, for example. He took the concept of the inner ear and its way of operating and wondered if, on a larger scale, they would work outside of the ear.
Thus, the telephone was conceived. This way of thinking makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange.
For both critical and creative thinking and decision making, researching the facts is essential to making a decision.
By fully understanding the unbiased facts, using logic to understand the effects of your decision, and thinking creatively to come up with alternative solutions, you can make decisions confidently, quickly, and you may even come up with innovative solutions in the process.
The good news is, critical and creative thinking are skills that can be practised and honed.
The next time you have a decision to make, apply the four-step critical thinking process, and tap your inner creativity to come up with innovative solutions.
Tough Decision Making Made Easy
Making decisions is never an easy process, but it is especially hard when the decisions are bigger than just what you will eat for lunch.
When it comes to tough decisions like buying a house, quitting your job, or moving to a new city, you’re likely to lose sleep in the process.
If you are struggling with making a tough decision, you may feel like the process is draining your energy and willpower.
You may worry that you’ll make an unwise choice, and you might start to question your rationale.
Instead, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you make tough decisions a little easier.
Will I regret it if I don’t do it?
When you are analysing a big decision, you likely consider any long-term implications it may lead to, as you don’t want to do something that will cause you regret in the future.
However, it is just as important to consider what will happen if you don’t do something.
It may be easier to avoid any future inconveniences by letting an opportunity pass you by, but it is important to ask yourself what you will gain or lose, and if you can live with that.
What Fear is Driving Me?
Are you stalling on making a decision because you are scared of what will happen once you decide?
Maybe it is failure, or maybe it is success. You need to find out what fear is driving you, and if you are going to allow fear to make the decision, or if you will take control.
What is My Gut Instinct?
Despite what convention, advice from others, and judgement says, does your decision resonate with you?
Your gut instincts are typically right, and you need to ask yourself if the decision is something you really want.
Why am I Doing This?
You should always keep your end goal in mind when making tough decisions.
For example, if you want to travel the world, then buying a house might not be the right decision. But, if you want to start having kids, a house purchase could be a step closer to that goal.
Who am I Making This Decision For?
You may need to keep people like your partner or children’s interests in mind when making a decision, but it’s important to not consistently sacrifice your needs to please others.
Instead, take a balanced look at how your decision will benefit you as well as others.
How Will I Feel About Myself?
You may think you are making the right decision, but did you take into account how you will feel about yourself when it is all said and done?
A decision that is callous may make you not like yourself very much after.
A decision that is unassertive might affect your self-esteem. Think about your feelings when making tough decisions.
Can I Handle the Consequences?
One big decision often leads to other situations to occur, which you will have to face.
Quitting your job can affect your finances, moving to a new city can affect your friendships, and taking time off of work to travel could affect your career.
Think the potential ramifications through, and decide if you will be able to deal with them before you make a tough decision.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Tough decisions will always be tough; it is their nature.” quote=”Tough decisions will always be tough; it is their nature.”]
However, if you ask yourself these seven questions, you are may be able to make them a little more confidently, and the decision may come a little easier.
Think Fast: How to Become More Decisive in Work
Making decisions is a balancing act of carefully considering your options and being quickly decisive.
Often, the amount of time spent considering your options is based on the importance and gravity of the decision.
When it comes to more basic decisions, appearing indecisive can make other doubt you, question your knowledge, or think that you are unable to deal with consequences.
This can be especially problematic in your professional life.
Additionally, indecisiveness wastes time, energy, and resources by prolonging a quick decision.
A 2014 Ketchum survey of over 6500 workers listed decisive action as one of the top three credibility-building skills for leaders and up-and-comers.
How do you become a more confidently decisive person?
Practice these three mind shifts to help get you started.
- Accept the Imperfect Information
Often in your work environment, you do not have 100% of the relevant information before you are required to make a decision.
Rather than ponder, or spend too much time trying to gather more information, you need to make a quick decision.
Try to think through the possible outcomes and make the best decision with the information you have.
If you take a risk that doesn’t work out, you can still learn from it, which will better inform your next decision.
- Do Your Research
Yes, you may not get all of the information you need, but the information you do get should support your decision.
Specifically, use facts, data, and other tangible information that backs up your choice.
- Use Your Gut
You’ve gathered information, done some research, and are ready to execute your decision.
Since a quick decision often doesn’t allow you to get all of the information you’d like, you may need to rely on your gut instinct.
However, much of what you think is instincts is actually experience you’ve built up over time. This experience allows you to make quick decisions that are sound.
You can improve your instincts by exposing yourself to a range of experiences, and your quick gut decisions will often be good.
Quick decisions are often made with less-than-perfect information, your research and knowledge, and your instincts.
Decisiveness requires thinking through the possible outcomes and trusting yourself to make the right decision.
Unglued: Should Emotions Play a Role in Decisions?
Emotions often affect the decisions you make, and whether or not you make a good decision is based on how you interpret and use your emotions.
Many of your decisions are informed by your emotions because that’s what emotions are meant to do: alert to you appraise a situation and inform your actions.
But, how much weight should you give triggered emotions when it comes to decision making?
Let’s take a look at two different scenarios.
– Unrelated Emotions
Emotions can cloud our judgement, and they may negatively affect your decisions, especially if they spill over from a separate, unrelated situation.
For example, on your drive to work, you hit heavy traffic. Someone cuts you off, and you nearly get in an accident.
By the time you get to work, you are an hour late and filled with anger.
In the next hour, you have a meeting with a client who is interested in your company’s services.
You think that you can push off the anger before the meeting, but when the client asks you a question you already answered, you end up snapping at them and jeopardising the sale.
As you can see, irrelevant emotions that were caused by a completely separate event can throw you off track, and this applies to decision making, as well.
The next time you have a negative emotion from a previous event, stop to think about how those lingering emotions could affect the decision you are about to make.
– Emotions Triggered by Decisions
Our Emotions have evolved to be a type of information system for you to capitalise on.
Some Emotions may tell you something about the decision you are trying to make that you may not have perceived in another way.
Rather than trying to control them, you can use your emotions to help you make better decisions.
For example, if you are negotiating a contract and start to feel anxiety, or “off,” it may be your emotions telling you to look deeper into the situation.
Rather than push aside your emotions, you can listen to them.
Does the other party remind you of someone who took advantage of you in the past? Is the same thing happening, or is it just a particular similarity that triggered the emotion?
Are your emotions trying to tell you to protect yourself? Or, are you just feeling anxious over potential failure?
In this instance, your emotions may be alerting you to a situation that is not optimal or aligned with your goals, and they allow you to approach it differently and make a better decision.
Emotions can serve a purpose and inform you of what to do. Before you rely on them, it is important to stop and think if the emotions are arising from the decision at hand, or if they are spilling over from an unrelated experience.
Decisions by Algorithm: The Computer Science of Human Decisions
When you use a computer, you are asking it to do innumerable complex things at lightning speed.
However, computers have limited processing power, so they have to make decisions.
Specifically, the computers decide whether to deliver fast results or ultra-accurate results.
When should it stop searching for the perfect solution, and when should it deliver the ready solution?
These decisions that computers make are similar to your challenge of decision making.
When do you stop searching for a better job, home, partner, career path, or even restaurant?
You want to make the best decision possible, but in your data-gathering process, you may never settle for anything.
The algorithm to use depends on the situation.
If you are facing a fork in the road, the algorithm would be to make the decision with the highest “upper confidence bound.”
That means, you choose the option that could possibly perform best in the future, even if it could also perform the worst.
Another algorithm is “constraint relaxation.”
This is simply asking yourself, “What would I do if money wasn’t an issue?” or “What would I choose if I wasn’t afraid of the outcome?”
Examine your options and remove one of your constraints like money, judgement, or time, and ask yourself what you’d choose.
The answer may help guide your actual decision.
Just like computers, making decisions requires demands on limited processing power.
Make your wishes clear and don’t overtax yourself when it comes to decision making.
I hope that you found something to take away from this. A decision is one of the greatest powers we have and improving decision making should be a something we all strive for.