Menanteau Serfontein – 25 March 2021
Are you someone who tends to struggle making decisions, because you have a tendency to lack confidence in your ability to make the “right” decisions? If so, does this tendency result in you agonizing about the decision to be made and therefore keep postponing making the decision?
Do you make up your mind quickly and find it easy to make quick decisions? If so, do you often realise afterwards in hindsight that some of your decisions were inappropriate/”wrong” and if you could turn back the clock, you would have taken a different decision?
We all make several decisions every day ranging from simple choices such as whether to have cereal or eggs for breakfast to huge decisions such as changing jobs. In view of this, one of our key life skills should be the ability to make the “right” (most appropriate) decisions most of the time and to minimise making inappropriate/”wrong” decisions. In addition, we need to be able to make decisions timeously and to minimize dithering and stressing about decisions that we are required to make.
Some people come to conclusions quickly and have no problem making fast decisions. The advantage is that they are decisive and don’t spend much time agonising about their decisions. This could be a huge advantage, provided that you are one of those exceptional people who are able to make the “right” decision most of the time. The substantial risk for a large percentage of those who make quick decisions (on the spur of the moment) is that they often make poor decisions with significant negative consequences and a strong possibility of having regrets afterwards, when they realise that they should have made a different decision.
Nobody makes the “right” decisions all of the time. Some people are inherently better decision-makers than others. There are also people who are known to often make inappropriate choices/decisions.
The good news is that wherever we are on the spectrum, all of us can always improve our decision-making ability. How to go about making decisions is a skill that all of us should learn. This entails the effective application of a method (a step-by-step process). By following appropriate decision-making processes in a disciplined way, will invariably result in you making better decisions (even if you are already a good decision-maker). If the time-tested decision-making process outlined below is diligently applied, you will substantially increase your probability of making appropriate decisions and enjoy the advantages associated with it.
The same process can be used for any decision, but obviously the more important and complex the decision is and the more severe the possible implications of decisions are, the more rigorous the process should be followed (and vice versa).
Remember, decision-making is a task. It is therefore essential to set quality time aside to apply the decision-making process which will assist you to get to a good decision quicker and will minimize agonizing/worrying about decisions still to be taken.
Proposed Decision-making Process
- Clarify what the decision is all about (the nature of the decision), i.e. “define” the decision – identify the purpose of your decision and the problem (if any) that needs to be solved. This includes the identification of the people, things or aspects of your daily life that might be affected.
- Obtain all the relevant facts about the issue in respect of which a decision is to be made.
- Ensure that you understand the magnitude and importance of the decision to be made. Some decisions are relatively unimportant and the implications of a “wrong” decision would be minimal, e.g. should I wear a blue or a green shirt. Invariably, super-quick decisions should be made in such cases. Some decisions are of the utmost importance, with the consequences of a wrong decision having lifelong implications, e.g. deciding to marry or divorce someone, or using your life’s savings to buy a business. There are countless examples of decisions in-between these two extremes at the opposite sides of the spectrum.
- List all the possible decision-options that are available. You may have to “brainstorm” creative options and consider alternatives and possible compromises, especially in respect of complex issues. Avoid limiting yourself to “yes”/”no” options. Sometimes you might find that you don’t actually have to make a decision and can just let the issue go by.
- List the pros and cons of each of the options.
- List the possible implications (positive as well as negative) of each of the options.
- After having weighed up everything, decide what decision to make and how and when to communicate and implement it.
General factors to take into account:
- It is recommended that in the case of complex decisions with significant consequences, you should write your thoughts down as you go through the process.
- Talking it through with someone who is a sounding board, may help you to clarify things in your own mind. Sometimes you need more than just a sounding board, i.e. you might need an opinion or advice from an appropriate trusted person or to obtain a fresh/different perspective. Wise counsel could help you reach an appropriate decision faster. At the same time, guard against blindly accepting advice. A choice that may make sense to someone else might not be right for you.
- Important decisions should not be rushed unnecessarily, but one should also guard against indecision, because it could result in valuable days, weeks or even months being wasted as a result of doubt, or a lack of courage or self-confidence. Periods of indecision are usually accompanied by uncertainty, confusion, anxiety, stress and debilitating emotional energy being expended.
- Consider the values and principles that are important to you and that you live by, as well as the goals that you are pursuing. If a given option is going to violate the values and principles that you hold dear, or go against the goals that you are pursuing, it would help you to realize that the option concerned should probably be discarded.
- Another key factor to take into account in your decisions is Stephen R. Covey’s Habit 2 “Begin with the End in Mind” that is contained in his Book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. This Habit means that “the end of your life” is used as your frame of reference or criterion by which everything else is examined. This enables an evaluation of what really matters the most to you.
- All the way during the process, pray for guidance.
This process, coupled with the general factors to take into account, will help you to make rational decisions based on facts, logic and common sense, instead of your emotions. Having said this, from time to time there could be instances where you just instinctively know that a given decision would be right or wrong, in which event you should take that “prompting” into account seriously before making your final choice.
There is no doubt that the probability of making wise decisions faster, will increase substantially if these processes and guidelines are applied properly. You will also spend less time agonizing and stressing about decisions to be made.
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