I spent about 45 mins the other day in a session with one of my clients helping them with improving their decision making abilities. It is definitely a teachable skill.
It is pretty obvious to me – and I suspect you will agree – that the choices we make, based on our decision-making process (or lack of one ;-)) have an enormous impact on the quality of our lives. It impacts the amount of joy we experience, and the amount of unproductive or negative stress in our daily lives.
Let’s get started (and these are not necessarily in priority order).
Decision Making Tip 1: begin with the end in mind
I borrowed the line above from the late, great Steven Covey, who wrote ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘. Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.
Get clear about the outcome you most desire.
Not just a little bit clear but REALLY REALLY clear.
Here is a practical tip how to do that, and yes it is simple, and yes it is effective. 😉
Ask this question:
“What is the outcome I most desire, which is best for me, best for others, and best for the greater good?”
This elevates the quality of result you are likely to get. In depth, in quality and in meaningfulness. Ask a powerful question and you will get a more powerful answer.
And finally, the clearer you are about what you really want, the easier it will be to disgard some of the potential choices open to you.
Decision Making Tip 2: are you sure?
Let’s talk about F-A-C-T-S.
So often we make decisions based on ASSUMPTIONS. Hands up if you are guilty of that one. And yes I have my hands up in the air (which put a pause on the typing momentarily, but now I am back ;-)).
Before you make a decision, about something that is really important, convert as many assumptions as possible to facts. If you make a decision based on assumptions, you may as well be making a decision based on a completely different scenario.
And if the facts change, then be prepared to reconsider your decision. Don’t be a bonehead and just stick with your first decision if the facts change, in the hope it will still be ok. Be flexible.
F-A-C-T-S not ASS-UMPTIONS.
(As has been said before, to assume, is to make an ass out of u and me)
Decision Making Tip 3: values matter
When we make decisions that compromise our primary values one result can be assured. You are very likely to be UNHAPPY.
In The Guidebook to Happiness, I had a bonus chapter called Values-Based Decision Making.
The basics are about getting very clear about what your values are, and what is their priority order. It is really useful to know your top 3 values.
When you are making a decision, if the decision is likely to sabotage your top value, I feel I can say with a high degree of certainty that you will be unhappy with the end result. For instance, my number 1 value is my health and vitality. If I make a decision that makes me money (a lower value), but sacrifices my health, I am very likely to be unhappy.
If a lower value is met, at the expense of a higher value, you are likely to be unhappy.
Establish your values and then consider them when you are making decisions. Do not make a decision that impacts your higher values.
Decision Making Tip 4: slow down
Yes, it is one of my favourite phrases for me and for others.
The majority of us, the majority of time, do not have to make fast or impulsive decisions. We are rarely in a life or death situation, where time is immensely critical.
Slow down. Breathe. Get more oxygen into your brain.
Drink some water to hydrate your brain. Have a healthy snack to fuel your brain.
Breathe. Relax your body. Increase the blood flow to your brain.
Breathe. Tap into your frontal cortex: the powerhouse of your brain.
Set yourself up for success. Create the environment that is most conducive to your brain being optimized, so it can be used to make the best decisions.
Slow down and breathe wisdom into your choices.
Decision Making Tip 5: use your whole body
We have been gifted amazing internal resources that have evolved over millions of years and been imprinted into our DNA. So let’s capitalise on them.
I recommend 3 primary parts in the decision making process:
- Your Head: this includes your brain and your consciousness to focus on facts, strategy and visualisation of potential consequences.
- Your Heart: this allows you to connect to your values, and deeper meaning. “What does your heart say?”, is a valid question for me to ask and to expect a feeling response.
- Your Gut: this is about instincts (what I also call millions of years of evolution). Sometimes we just have a bad feeling, but our brain has not caught up with why. Plus our gut has a significant amount of neurons that communicate directly with the brain, and is sometimes referred to as our second brain.
The idea is to use all parts at your disposal. Do not discount your gut instincts because something looks great on paper. Try an understand what your gut is telling you. Believe me, when I have rejected my gut instincts I have made atrociously bad decisions.
The process might go like this:
- What does my head say?
- What does my heart say?
- What does my gut say?
Then pay close attention to the responses. Use all your amazing resources. Don’t try and outsmart or discard your gut instincts. And make sure your decisions are aligned with your heart.
Decision Making Tip 6: play in the land of meaningful
Making decisions is hard work. It actually uses a lot of energy within the brain. This is mentally and physically tiring for us.
When it comes to decision making, I only want to be dealing with the stuff that really matters. The MEANINGFUL and ESSENTIAL stuff. So one of my first questions when something comes up in my life is: Is this thing (opportunity or request) that someone has asked of me, or I have thought up, ESSENTIAL or DESIRABLE? I want to spend my time on the meaningful essentials, and disregard the majority of desirable’s, unless I have more time.
I also want to say ‘no’ to as many things (also known as distractions) in my life.
When I am checking emails, my first question I ask is “Do I DELETE this email?”. I want to reduce the things that take my attention, my time, and my brain power.
Next I will ask: “Is this my responsibility?” If “no” then DELETE.
Next I will ask: “Do I need to use my brainpower and time and therefore form a response?” If “no” then DELETE (or file).
We all have to make a number of decisions each and every day. Big and small. They all take energy and time. So my aim is to reduce the amount of decisions I need to make.
I have a whole bunch more tips I could write on decision making and when I write the chapter for The Guidebook to Authentic Success, I will actually look at a specific step-by-step strategy that is simple, effective and requires the least amount of energy and time.
When I look at my poor decisions, and my clients less than stellar decisions, I find the biggest mistakes are:
- rushing the process,
- not getting clear of the facts
- listening to poor external advice
- not tapping into all our external resources
- not listening to our hearts and/or guts
- being too reactive, as opposed to (consciously) responsive
- being too influenced by others close to us
- trying to get a ‘perfect’ outcome
- not having the skills required to execute the course of action
- making decisions based on what you think other people will think of you
So there you go. I hope that helps you to become more aware and more effective in your own decision making. Better choices = better results (the majority of the time ;-)).
Happy decision making!
And have a fabulous day.
As always, please ask questions of me, or share your thoughts in a response email or by putting a post on Facebook.