It’s hard to think of a challenging area of your life that didn’t become challenging due to poor decision-making. Wiser decisions lead to a more successful and lower-stress life.
Yet many of us struggle with decision making. It is an area I know well. Once, I went to my local library to check out a book on decision making. I told the librarian, “I just can’t decide if I want this book or not.”
Yet, when you make effective decisions, your life is more enjoyable and satisfying. You can master the art of decision-making and enhance the quality of your life by following this process:
1. Decide what you’re trying to accomplish. What is the end result that you’re hoping for? To maximize your income? Strengthen your relationship? Minimize the financial or emotional cost? Advance your career? Be clear on the desired outcome of your decision.
2. Make a list of your resources. Imagine you had to make a home repair. You’d determine which tools you had available for the job and then make a plan based upon those available tools. You might also purchase new tools.
• What resources do you possess that are applicable to following through on your possible options?
3. Brainstorm possible choices. Avoid judging your options too quickly. Make a long list without editing your thoughts. You can evaluate them later.
4. Consider the odds of success. Discard any solution with a poor chance of success.
5. Consider the time and money involved. For example, an above-ground pool costs much less than an in-ground pool. A pet parrot requires more time and attention than a cat.
6. What are the risks? What can go wrong and what are the ramifications? A pet bird is harder to get rid of and can live five times longer than a cat. Birds can also be much more expensive, so more money is at risk.
7. Is the upside worth the risk? Some options are riskier than others, but the greater potential rewards are often worth the extra risk. How much do you stand to gain?
8. What are the long-term implications? Who will be affected by your decision? What does your decision mean 10 years from now? What will you gain and sacrifice in the long-term?
9. Can you trust yourself to follow through? A good decision that you can’t complete is no better than a poor decision or no decision at all. Sometimes the solution with the best likely outcome is too challenging to implement. Do you have the skills and the stamina to follow through?
10. Keep your values in mind. Many options are unacceptable due to your values. Keep your values in mind and you’ll be less likely to regret your decision later. What’s important to you?
11. Avoid taking too much time to make a solution. There are have been several studies on the differences between “satisficers” and “maximizers”. A satisficer looks for the quickest, easiest solution that meets their criteria. That doesn’t mean they settle. It means that they accept the first solution that satisfies their needs and run with it.
• A maximizer continues searching until the best possible solution is found.
• Studies consistently show that satisficers are more successful and happier than maximizers.
Avoid spending more time than necessary searching for a solution. Making good decisions is important. Most challenges in life could have been avoided with wiser decisions. Most people take too much time to make decisions and they make decisions poorly. And, even worse, the surest way to ensure that you never make any progress is to never make any decisions. The most successful people make wise decisions, decide quickly, and follow through. Improving the quality and speed of your decisions may be the fastest path to a more satisfying life.